Best 11 Soft Hackle Flies For Swinging And Nymphing Rigs


Soft hackle flies are a little known secret to a select few in the fly fishing community. But once you know exactly how to fish them and when, they become a staple fly in your fly box.

There are have been countless times where I would’ve have gone home without a single catch under my belt. It is on these particular nights that trout are responding to extremely specific insect behaviors that aren’t easily represented with a simple dry fly cast or drifting a nymph. These trout were exploding at the surface chasing down caddis pupae and not taking dry flies. More often than not, trout only key in on flies that imitate the exact upward movement pattern of caddis pupae racing to the surface, which is rather easy to replicate by swinging a soft hackle wet fly.

The basic way to fish a soft hackle fly is to swing it across the currents to give it that upward movement trout love, which you can read more about here. On the other hand, you can include these incredibly buggy flies within your multi-fly nymphing rigs or cast to upstream trout like you would as a dry fly.

Here are 11 of the best soft hackle wet flies for fly fishing that we depend on.

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Nick’s Soft Hackle Emerger

Nick Nicklas produced this excellent blue wing olive emerger with soft hackles for a pulsating movement. On cloudy days with warm weather, we notice a surge of blue-winged olive activity and trout become more comfortable coming out of their usual pockets for easy pickings. We’ll target the ends of slow-moving pools or riffles for the trout that sip up the cripples or struggling emergers.

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Bead Head Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear

This is a variation of the classic Hare’s Ear nymph pattern you commonly know. Tied as a soft hackle, the Partridge Hare’s Ear fly pulsates and moves just like how emerging nymphs wiggle and squirm on their way up to the surface. On the other hand, you can also add a non-beaded version of the Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle into the top of your nymphing rigs or off the back of a dry fly.

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Caddis Soft Hackle Nymph

When other flies fail, this soft hackle pattern has an uncanny way of surpassing our expectations. While it can be swung through pocket water and deep pools, the Caddis Soft Hackle is most effectively fished either below an indicator whether it be a foam strike indicator or a buoyant dry fly.

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Dusty’s Black Soft Hackle

Dusty’s Black Soft Hackle seems to excel more than any other soft hackle pattern we attempt on overcast days and low-light conditions. The black body perfectly contrasts the sky and trout appear to notice. Not to mention, this is an excellent pattern when mayfly hatches are rampant.

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Dusty’s Olive Pearl Soft Hackle

We love to include this olive pattern into our nymphing rigs on days when blue-winged olives duns are apparent on the surface. Trout will often ignore these freshly hatched BWO duns on top and target the freely drifting nymphs below.

Dustys Orange Pearl Soft Hackle 14608 Best 11 Soft Hackle Flies For Swinging And Nymphing Rigs

Dusty’s Orange Pearl Soft Hackle

This barbless wet fly is a great prospecting pattern when you’re not exactly sure what exactly trout are favoring today. It has just enough flash and movement to give the impression of a mayfly nymph or caddis larva struggling in the current.

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sulphur partridge soft hackle Best 11 Soft Hackle Flies For Swinging And Nymphing Rigs

Champion’s Tungsten Partridge Sulphur

This pattern is deadly in the New England states before the Sulphur duns begin to emerge and nymphs are incredibly active alone the stream bottom. As they begin to hatch you’ll see trout taking nymphs just below the surface and ignore the already emerged duns on top. This is the time to swing this pattern down-and-across currents or include it near the top of your nymphing rigs.

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Partridge Hares Ear Soft Hackle

The Partridge Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle is an extremely versatile and buggy wet fly that will imitate nearly any insect hatch. We love including this soft hackle within our wet-fly rig near the top and in a smaller size to imitate the common daytime midge hatches and reoccurring caddis hatches.

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Puff Daddy

Tricky fish that wouldn’t take duns or adults off the top, will find it difficult to resist this soft hackle emerger. This particular pattern has little weight, which helps keep it in that strike zone for emerging mayflies.

Bread and Butter Caddis Emerger Best 11 Soft Hackle Flies For Swinging And Nymphing Rigs

Bread And Butter Caddis

Trout love to key in on emerging caddis flies. You’ll know when this is happening because trout will literally be rocketing out of the water in pursuit of caddis pupae that are racing to the top. The only way to catch fish during this time is to imitate a rapidly moving caddis emerger swimming to the top by swinging this pattern with other soft hackle flies.

New Trick Soft Hackle Olive 1 Best 11 Soft Hackle Flies For Swinging And Nymphing Rigs

New Trick Soft Hackle

Few things beat soft hackles when trout are exploding at the surface. Sure, beaded nymphs do well, but when trout refuse to feed close to the bottom and keep their eyes up only wet flies will do. This BWO soft hackle fly pattern is a great blue-winged olive fly for swinging through runs.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>