Flies these days are only getting bigger and better; unfortunately, along with this augmentation comes increased complexity. The number of materials being put on new-age streamer patterns is absurd, and in all honesty, I find it rarely increases catch rate. These flies are beefy, cast like wet socks, and cost a fortune to tie.
Sure, there is a reason these flies have exploded into popularity: they really do work. But is it time we take a step back from this evolution of flies and return to a simpler time of fly tying?
The Partridge Soft Hackle Streamer is an exceedingly vanilla fly, but its effectiveness comes from just that. The pattern has only two real ingredients: partridge feathers and peacock herl. Despite the unelaborate combination of materials, there is plenty of contrast and variation among the streamer’s body. Multiple colors of partridge feathers are used, all coming from a single partridge skin, and all with the characteristic black mottling. These feathers breathe beautifully in the water, pulsating as the fly is stripped through both current and still water.
The techniques used in tying this fly are also quite elementary. Simply tie in the feathers as you would any other soft hackle, and wrap them forward to create a slowly tapering body.
Although the fly tied in this demonstration is tied on a basic streamer hook with a brass bead, it can also be tied weightless, as a jig streamer, as a balanced leech, and even in a much smaller nymph version. With these different versions of the fly, you can imitate a wide range of aquatic prey, including crayfish, baitfish, sculpins, dragonfly nymphs, hexagenia nymphs, hellgrammites, and even juvenile gamefish.
Ready to try this ultra-effective, generalist fly for yourself? Here’s how:
- 4x long, 1x strong down eye streamer hook, sizes 14-6
- Gold brass bead to match hook size
- Dark brown 8/0 thread
- Lead-free wire (0.010 for sizes 14-12, 0.015 for sizes 10-8, 0.020 for size 6)
- Various shades of feathers from a Hungarian partridge skin
- Peacock herl
1. Start by mashing the barb of the hook (here a size 10) and sliding the bead, small-hole first, onto the hook. Secure the combination in the jaws of your tying vise.
2. Take about 15-20 wraps of lead-free wire around the hook shank. After pinching off the excess, snug the wraps up inside the bead. Attach your thread and take wraps to cover up the wire and form a small, tapered ramp down to the hook shank. End with your thread about 1/3 of the way back from the bend (this distance will be greater on smaller hooks and shorter on larger hooks).
3. Select a marabou-like feather from the upper-back of the partridge skin. You should look for a tan feather with long, wispy fibers, ideally with a tiny bit of normal feather fibers at the tip for added support when tying in. Strip off the fibers from the bottom third of the plume, then isolate just the tip of the feather and brush the remaining fibers downward.
4. Tie in the feather by the tip with the stem facing backwards, and the concave part of the feather facing downwards. Cut off the excess tip of the feather and wind your thread forward a few wraps.
5. Stroke the fibers backward and begin wrapping the feather forward. Continue stroking the fibers backward as you wrap, and when you reach bare stem, tie off the feather and trip the excess stem. Throw in a half-hitch here if you’d like.
6. Holding the feathers backward in your non-dominant hand, begin wrapping over the fibers until you reach the bend. Ensure that the fibers remain spread evenly around all sides of the hook shank. Wrap your thread forward to just in front of the point.
7. Select a well-marked light gray feather from the lower part of the front of the skin. Strip off the webby fibers and isolate the tip of the feather, brushing the remaining fibers downward. Clip off most of the fibers at the tip, leaving just a small, triangular-shaped tie-in anchor.
8. Tie in the feather in the same manner as before and wrap your thread forward a few turns. Wind the feather forward, stroking back the fibers as you wrap. Again, once you reach bare stem, tie the feather off and trim out the excess. Wrap backward over the fibers just enough to get them all oriented backward, but not so much as to mat them down, such as with the previous feather. Wrap the thread a little further forward
9. Select a feather with a little more brown in it from the middle-lower part of the central part of the skin. Prepare, tie in, and wrap the feather in the same manner as the previous one, and once again advance your tying thread slightly more. It should now rest at or slightly in front of the base of the wire wraps.
10. Repeat step 8 with a feather further up the central strip of the skin, which should be slightly darker in color. Advance your thread forward again, but not so far as in the previous steps (we’re trying to build bulk by the head).
11. Repeat step 8 with a fully-brown feather from the middle of the sides of the skin. Again, bring your thread forward just a touch.
12. Repeat step 8 with a dark brown feather found around the same area as the feather from the previous step. These feathers tend to be large, so strip off enough fibers so that you reach bare stem after one full turn. This time, after ensuring all the fibers are oriented backwards, do not advance your thread.
13. Tie in a single peacock herl with the fuller, more opalescent flues pointing down. Fold the herl sideways and begin wrapping. Make sure the side of the herl that was previously pointing down is now on the top, creating a more voluminous collar. Tie down the herl once you have reached the bead.
14. Whip finish and cut your thread. Apply a drop of head cement. Your fly is now complete!