Simple Flies – Soft Hackle Streamer

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

What is known as the Soft Hackle Streamer is a Jack Gartside creation of some 25 years ago.  A prominent fly tyer and innovator, Gartside created the traditional Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer as a simple concoction of marabou and mallard flank feathers.  The original uses a solid colored marabou with a few turns of barred mallard flank to add some mottling to the front of the fly.  A few strands of tinsel were added for some flash.  Of course it is the seductive nature of soft hackle type feathers that make this style of fly a productive streamer.  Even using the Gartside formula, it can be tied with just about any color combination you want.  What’s different today are some newer materials that adapt brilliantly to the Soft Hackle Streamer design.

Whenever it was introduced, Barred Marabou created opportunities to add more realistic contrasts to streamer type flies.  It is now a common addition to Woolly Bugger tails and a variety of saltwater patterns.  The introduction of finely barred marabou by Hareline and Montana Fly has provided a material perfectly suited for the Soft Hackle Streamer design.  Add on Fish Masks and eyes by Flymen Fishing and you have the perfect combination for a simple to tie but upgraded Soft Hackle Streamer.

My adaption of the pattern includes the use of hen hackle and Polarflash for a body and mini-barred marabou for the wing.  The hen hackle and flash add a sharp contrast to the body underneath the marabou wing while the barred marabou replaces the need to add a mottled flank feather.

Continue reading → Simple Flies – Soft Hackle Streamer

Simple Flies – The Bi-Visible

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

The Bi-Visible pattern was conceived and named sometime in the 1920s. It is most commonly referred to as the Brown Bi-Visible, but as a pattern, brown is just one iteration of the versatile pattern. For the fly tier, the Bi-Visible is indeed simple. For the angler, the Bi-Visible is both “Visible” on the water and if tied with quality dry fly hackle is a high floater that retains its flotation properties well.

The Bi-Visible was popularized by angler and author Edward Ringwood Hewitt in his 1926 work Telling on the Trout. Fishing in waters where trout preferred darker dry flies was problematic in low light or conditions with shadows and glare on the surface. Seeing a small dark colored fly during an evening rise can be frustrating. Hewitt wrote that the addition of a bright white or cream hackle to the front of an otherwise dark colored fly improved its visibility to the angler immensely. But the Bi-Visible as we know it today has its roots in flies many centuries old, the Palmer. First documented in the 1600s, the Palmer Worm introduced the tying technique of wrapping a hackle from the hook bend forward to the hook eye. The technique eventually became known as Palmering and is used today in a wide variety of wet and dry flies. Probably the most contemporary use of palmering hackle on dry flies are the Elk Hair Caddis and Stimulator. The densely wrapped dry fly hackle for the body on these flies makes them high floaters. From a simplicity standpoint, the Bi-Visible couldn’t be easier to tie. Rube Cross in The Complete Fly Tier (1936) dedicates an entire chapter to the style.

RECIPE:

To tie a Bi-Visible start a thread base and tie-in a typical dry fly tail if desired. Deer or Moose Hair can also be used for tailing. With the thread at the hook bend, tie in the body hackle. If you use hackle from a cape, tie in the feather at the tip. If using a saddle hackle, you can tie in at the butt. Apply dubbing to the thread and wrap a thin body 2/3rds the way up the hook shank. Dubbing is optional but does provide a soft base for the hackle and can add another level of contrast to the fly. Wrap the hackle forward in tight turns over the dubbed body, tie off and clip. Tie in the front hackle at the butt and wrap forward in tight wraps. Bi-Visibles should be heavily hackled. Finish the fly with a whip finish or half-hitches.

Color variations and combinations are a matter of choice, but an over-arching principle should be a bright, lightly colored front hackle that contrasts with the body hackle. White, cream or silver badger hackles make excellent Bi-Visibles. One technique uses two contrasting hackles for the body with the lighter hackle extended to the front of the fly. An “Adams” variation can be tied using a dark brown hackle and light grizzly hackle over a gray dubbing. Both hackles are wound forward to the 2/3rds point but only the brown hackle is trimmed. The grizzly hackle is wrapped all the way to the hook eye to create the light colored front hackle. Some authors also tout adding a couple of turns of bright hackle to the front of more traditional flies to create flies like the Royal Coachman Bi-Visible.

The Bi-Visible is not only easy to tie, but it floats well and is unbiased when it comes to “matching the hatch”. On the Big Hole River not too long ago, there was an early morning Brown Drake hatch along with some caddis and small stone flies. Fish were steadily feeding in tight seams along a grass bank. It was difficult to see what they were actually feeding on. The morning sun was at my back and the glare on the water made seeing a dry fly let alone getting a good drift at 40’ somewhat difficult. I tied on a size 16 Bi-Visible and had no problems seeing the fly or getting the drift I needed. It is a good pattern—a simple, but effective fly—to have in your fly box.

Dynamic Dubbin Loops – Part 2

J.Stockard Pro Tyer: John Satkowski, Toledo, OH, fly tying demonstrator and instructor, you can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/johnsatkowski/

You can’t really talk about composite and complex dubbing loops without discussing some trout swing flies. If you know anything about me, you know I am not much of a steelhead fisherman. I have caught most of my steelhead accidentally fishing for other species. I do, however, enjoy tying steelhead intruder flies, brook and brown trout streamers, and swing flies. I love going to northern Michigan and fishing the beautiful rivers for feisty brookies. Whether you enjoy swinging flies for chromers or throwing streamers for browns or brookies, a dynamic loop fly can change the odds in your favor.


Although you can make any fly you can think of with a complex dubbing loop, the most popular style nowadays is the complex loop intruder. Intruder flies have what are called stations. You can have one station or up to four or five stations depending on what you are tying. Most flies have two stations, a front and a rear with some sort of flat, flashy material in between. You will hear terms like Hoh Bo spey flies, and most of these patterns have a single station. I know that there is a lot more to these style of flies, but I am keeping it fairly basic in terms of description. The intruder style fly uses a ball of dubbing or some other kind of support to spread out the station. The same is usually done on the front station as well. Your prop materials can be anything from mylar piping unraveled, chenille, or you can make a small composite loop with materials like feather barbs, Ice Dub, Amherst pheasant fibers, Ringneck pheasant, or even turkey tail fibers. A softer and suppler material is then tied in over the top. You can use a myriad of materials for this, but I really like arctic fox, marabou, opossum, flashabou, and various furs mixed with Angel Hair. If you stick to the basic design and construction of an intruder you can make really nice flies. Tiny versions of streamers with composite loops are becoming very popular as well so you can alter the size and shape of your fly by changing and trimming materials down to fit your needs.

In some of the flies pictured, the dubbing loop also offers some support for palmered marabou on top of it. You can get some really natural looking results with this method of streamer construction. Nymph flies can even be constructed with dynamic loops and the results are often great for creating a really “buggy” looking nymph with a small bit of flash to get the fish’s attention. I know brook trout especially love an area of flash or a hotspot on a nymph drifting by. Since my local rivers have an abundance of the almighty hex, a slightly flashy hex nymph can also get some attention from the resident smallmouth during the pivotal times of the season. You can experiment with lots of different materials with different colors and textures to see what the fish like. I find that a dynamic loop with mostly natural materials and sparse amounts of flash is best for tying small nymphs or even dries. You can really ramp up your stone or steelhead nymph patterns with some Senyo Shaggy and ice dub to create the effect of more movement and a glint of flash to help the fish key in on your fly. In murky and rough conditions, this may be your savior from going home with the skunk.

Continue reading → Dynamic Dubbin Loops – Part 2