By Nick Simonson
Soft hackle flies come in all shapes and sizes. For dainty fish like trout, tiny spider patterns with wisps of partridge hackle are all it takes to mimic delicate crane flies or smaller aquatic insects just under the surface. For those hungry fish that want a bit more of a mouthful, heavier hackling, like the kind found on the ringneck pheasant, gives a pulsating piece of bulk for them to key in on. It’s the latter option in the Pheasant Ice Soft Hackle pattern which combines the flashy green back feather of a rooster pheasant with a buggy body created by loosely-yarned ice dubbing to give hungry trout, bluegills and crappies a bigger bite to eat.
Hook: 2XL Nymph, Size 10-14
Thread: Black 6/0
Head: Black Bead
Weight: .02” lead wire
Tail: 8 PT Fibers
Dubbing: Peacock Ice Dub
Collar: Pheasant Back Feather
Start by placing a black bead on the hook and set it in the vise, adding six wraps or so of .02-inch lead wire immediately behind the bead so that the wire can be pushed into the slightly larger opening on the back of the bead to help hold it in place (1). Then start the thread on the hook securing the lead with a few wraps, and then go back to near the hook bend and tie in the tips of eight pheasant tail fibers for the tail (2).
At the tie-in point, wax the thread and create a loose yarn with the ice dubbing, so that the fibers will poke out when applied to the shank of the hook, forming a buggy body (3).
Wrap the dubbing yarn forward, forming a tapered body, more dubbing fibers will start to come out, making it look like legs or gills or little hairs, increasing the apparent size of the fly (4). It may be necessary to make an additional yarn if the first one runs out before reaching the area just behind the bead head. With the body in place, pick and brush a few fibers out to give it that fuller appearance.
Locate a green-tipped back feather on a rooster pheasant skin – one with lots of shimmer in its tips – and strip the fluff from the bottom. Tie that feather tip in just behind the bead head (5). Using a hackle pliers, gently wrap the feather around the hook shank one time, forming the soft-hackle collar, secure it with a few thread wraps and trim off the excess (6). Whip finish, trim the thread and add a drop of head cement over the thread wraps just behind the bead (7).
Feel free to adjust the dubbing and bead type, to make a variety of fish-catching patterns and have some versatility for cloudy and sunny days. A box of ice dubbing provides a dozen different options for patterns like this, so let the creativity flow and craft up a multitude of these cool flies.