Monday, June 20, 2011

Soft-Hackle Flies For Carp - 2011 Big C Trip MFV (Most Valuable Fly)


What is now my biggest fish  of any species (23lb) on a soft hackle! 
John setting the hook on one of many (60ish?) he seduced with the soft-hackle
John from Carp on the Fly is a big fan of soft-hackles for carp and this was by far and away the most valuable fly last week on the Columbia.  The Primordial Carp-Stew caught me a couple.  The Leather Worm,  Backstabber and Rubber-Legged Hairs-Ear coaxed a few more.  In comparison John caught dozens on various soft-hackle color/bead combinations.  Heck, I caught twelve carp on one single soft-hackle fly that John showed me how to tie up in the hotel room after day 1.  That fly was a mess by the end of the trip!    

I have been a little confused for quite some time about the soft-hackles the Columbia River carpers (I.E. Mr P's Carp CarrotJohn Montana's Green Fly) espouse.  I was confused about what feathers from a pheasant to use and what the point was.  I have tied and fished a couple of what I thought were carp carrot-ish flies with hen-back or kneck and had success, but they did not bring anything new to the table in terms of presentation or action when compared to a Backstabber.  With the proper hackle in place these flies are very sparse yet have an incredibly subtle and seductive action in the water that is totally unique.  And deadly.

In terms of presentation, given the conditions we were mostly using it to coax passive cruising or sleeping carp by dropping it into or very slowly sweeping it through the field of vision mid-column.  John uses it for tailing fish too when conditions permit, but because of the ever-present heavy flooded vegetation you really needed a fly that would work above bottom and this one sure did the trick.  Several even rose up, followed and then gently sipped the fly as I slowly planed it upward past their head.  "On the rise" represents a totally new presentation for me.  I think John was probably surprised and slightly embarrassed when I started screaming like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Beiber concert the first time it happened.

This fly kicked so much butt on this trip that the first impulse was for it to go straight onto the favorites flies page, but I wanted to at least get one tight line in CO before I did.  Mission accomplished.  On Sunday morning I had three clear takes and hooked one - on the rise!  I lost it, but who cares, it was on the stinkin rise!

Materials:  Bear with me, but John varies the bead-size, body material and hackle color to match different situations. 

Hook:  Gamakatsu Size 6 Octapus
Weight:  Varies.  5/32 to 3/16" brass or tungsten in black, silver or copper colors.
Body:  Cactus Chenille or dubbed body in all the typical colors (olive, black, orange, rust etc).  In the pictures I show a dubbing loop body with orange-ish dubbing to make it interesting, to mess with John who loves simplicity, and because that is what the one fly I caught 12 on had. 
Hackle:  Pheasant rump in all the typical colors (black, olive, yellow, rust, natural etc.).  This can be hard to find, at least in CO fly shops.  I had to order some and will just use natural (which seemed to work Sunday) until it gets in.


1)  You want these feathers.  Just one!

2)  Feathers Prior To Prep.

3)  Prepped Feathers.

4)  Add bead, wrap hook.

5)  Fill a dubbing loop. 
I have over-filled this one to
make it easier to see

6)  Spin dubbing loop.

7)  Wind dubbing loop forward.

8)  Brush dubbing out and back. 
This fly came out a little bulkier than I wanted.

9)  Add pheasant hackle.

10)  Fold hackle.

11)  Wind hackle and finish fly.


  1. Good stuff. I think a guy could fill a box with this basic pattern in a variety of colors and weights and be good to go.

  2. I am going to try out this fly for sure. I have been using your leather worm and taking largemouth bass while trying to get some carp. I have yet to land my first carp, but I have had a few takes and lots of casts to them. Thanks for the tips you post. It helps.

    Congrats on your 23lber!

  3. Thank you so much for showing the tie. Much appreciated. I'm glad you guys got into carp. John is a legend.

  4. @Justin - LM? Really? I figured SM would be all over it but LM surprises me. Then again they pretty much eat anything. Good luck on that first carp, let us know when it goes down.

    @Kev - John knows his stuff, that is for sure! That is a size 6, but the Gamakatsu octopus is a pretty short shank / wide gape.

  5. Thanks for posting this McTage. Great info.

  6. OK...I'm going to tie up some crude variations with orange estaz and give em a go...I might just break into the steelhead box and try the lightly weighted orange estaz egg...Good stuff McT...My trip to CO has now been pushed out to September...

  7. @Ty - I bet that unweighted or lightly weighted would be a possible alternative to the PT's for your super-spooky skinny water carp.
    @Miles - I was wondering. We will be able to fish the river in September for sure though.

  8. Awesome site you've got here , just found it while searching for a few new carp patterns to tie. Those are some amazing pics and stories from the Colombia , that had to be unreal...carp heaven.

  9. Thanks HPFF, welcome to the site. It was unreal. The Columbia trip was defenitely one of the funnest travel trips I have ever taken.

  10. After watching your posts my interest in carp fishing has enhanced tremendously. I am fond of carp fishing since my childhood but I get bore after watching posts in different sites but after watching your post I started taking more interest in carp fishing and it has enhanced my confidence and my spirit.


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