I have not been to the lower Farmington to bear witness, but I know the Light Cahills are coming off because the first rose in my garden bloomed today. On top, a classic Catskills dry or a creamy Usual; subsurface, a legacy Light Cahill winged wet or a Partridge and Light Cahill soft hackle. All will serve you well.
Every year is different, but nature is always on time. This rose is called “Grenada.”
Surely any aficionado of the soft-hackled fly knows the value of the partridge. Although James Leisenring committed the act of understatement when he said, “The English or Hungarian partridge provides the flytier with some valuable gray and brown speckled feathers.” Some? There are enough glorious feathers on a full partridge skin to keep you in soft hackles for decades. I know, because I just bought my second skin. I still have the first one, purchased a decade ago, and it still has many seasons of flies left in it.
Forget the packaged bags of partridge feathers. Then listen to Dave Hughes, who said, “I cannot urge you strongly enough to purchase an entire skin, wings and all.” This one came from UpCountry Sportfishing. I like to buy hackle in person so I can eyeball the skin. And of course, it’s a good idea to support your local fly shop.
I use feathers from all over the skin — for saltwater flies, too — but the hackles I value most are the silver-grey and brownish feathers that line the neck, shoulders, and back. These are the feathers that are used in the North-Country spiders and dozens of other traditional patterns. The closer you go to the neck of the bird, the smaller the feathers. Look for a skin that is densely packed with these smaller feathers.
A hook, a partridge feather, and some thread. Simple, buggy spiders like these have been fooling fish for centuries.
Some more production tying last night at currentseams HQ. Partridge and Light Cahill soft-hackles. So simple. And so effective during an emergence of the creamy mayflies we get on late spring evenings on the Farmington. A size 12 or 14 will do nicely. Hold on, now. Trout get reckless during this hatch.
When I started tying wet flies, I made two full rows of Partridge and (insert Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk color here) in my box. Later, on a whim, I bought some Uni Light Cahill thread and tied up a few of these soft-hackles. They sat unused for at least one season. I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but I do know that the first time I fished this fly, I cleaned up. I still have one of those original Partridge and Light Cahills; I fished it last spring, caught a trout on it, then retired it. It barely had any hackle left, but it still worked.
Such is the power of the impressionistic soft-hackle.
Filling corks with Partridge and Light Cahill soft-hackles. These are tied on a 1x strong, 1x long size 14 hook.
Hook: TMC 3769, size 12-14
Thread: Uni Light Cahill 6/0 or 8/0
Abdomen/Thorax: Working Thread
Hackle: Two turns grey partridge