How To Fish a Soft Hackle

RIO is starting an amazing new series of “how to” videos and we wanted to showcase them here on our blog too. We hope you find great value in these videos and learn a lot! Below you will find a transcript of what’s in the video. Enjoy!

Welcome to the first episode of RIO’s “how to” videos. In this one, we are going to look at how to fish a soft hackle on a river. I’ve chosen this one because it’s probably one of the easiest ways of fishing in a river. You don’t have to cast well, you don’t have to pay attention, and you can catch fish. Good way of starting. It’s also a lot of fun and it’s also quite tactical when you get into it and quite technical when you get into it. So, there’s a lot of reasons to fish it. Soft hackles are just small flies with soft little hackles and little bodies, and they can simulate emergers, nymphs, drowned insects, and the large ones can simulate flies. So, they simulate a lot of things that are under the surface film. Soft hackles are eaten prolifically by fish, well worth fishing and that’s why we are starting with the episode on soft hackles.

Now in this series, you’ll see that each of the films we do we’ll be starting off with a little tackle guide. Kind of the right gear for fishing the style. Gear’s really important because if you set it up right, you have a much better chance of catching fish and a better chance of the line and everything performing when you cast it. So each episode is going to start with this thing.

For soft hackling, I like to fish a 4 weight outfit. You’re not going to fish strong and heavy leaders so you’ll fish light leaders and you don’t want a heavy outfit that’s going to snap when you set the hook. So I like to fish a 4 weight, this is Sage’s X rod but whatever 4 weight you like is a really good starting tool for soft hackling. On the end of that and the fly line, I think it’s really important that you have a fly line with long tapers that give you a nice soft presentation cause the flies are small. So RIO’s InTouch Trout LT is probably the best choice for a line when fishing soft hackles. Or, if you like to do a lot of roll cast and spey cast and stuff like that, the InTouch Single Handed Spey, that’s another really good line and personally my favorite for swinging soft hackles. So one of those 2 lines is great, something with a long taper. On the front end of that line you don’t want to put your regular leader on. You can try, you can certainly start off, but the soft hackles are very light and small. When you cast across the current and swing them around, which is how we’re going to be fishing these things, they can sometimes skate in the surface film. Fish don’t like to come up to the surface film and grab them. You might see splashes behind the fly there indicating the fish are not taking it, but they are interested. So if you start with a regular leader and are not catching any fish, go down a little bit and put on a sinking leader. We make these sinking leaders at RIO, these are called VersiLeaders. The clear one here, this is an intermediate VersiLeader, and this brown one is a slow sinking VersiLeader. Both of them sink and make sure the fly swing underneath the current a little deeper, more in that taking zone. So put those on the end of your line. And then on the front end of the VersiLeader you want to attach a regular bit of tippet. I tend to fish 4x off it. So this is 4x Powerflex Plus which is our strongest tippet material. I like to have a short section of that and then because I fish more than one fly, I always fish 2 flies, I would heartily recommend fishing two flies, then you set yourself up with what’s called a tippet ring. A tippet ring is a very easy way of fishing more than one fly. To the tippet ring you tie a bit of 5x tippet material down to your point fly, and then you hang the second fly off of your tippet ring, and that is your team. So that is all that you really need if you’re going to do the soft hackling. So let’s jump in a boat, take a float down the South Fork and find a nice little riffle, a perfect area to show you how everything is set up and show you how to fish soft hackles.

Thanks for reading and watching. When the next episode comes out we will make sure to post it for you! If you need anything else check out our website at,

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