Partridge Soft Hackle Patterns

By Nick Simonson

With partridge season underway and the first few birds placed in the pouches of an upland vest, I can’t help but plan for two things – dinner, of course, and the number of patterns I will tie with the feathers attached to the birds I harvest.  With the first partridge of the year comes one of the most ubiquitous materials in the hobby, the soft gray-barred back feather.

Popular in wet flies, known as soft hackles, partridge feathers are most often tied as the collar of a fly, emulating gills, fins, legs or other pulsating parts of underwater insects.  As they move, they reassure fish that the item is fit to eat.  As both insect and fry imitators, the flies tied with these feathers are used for all major trout and panfish species and can often be very simple ties, like the first pattern.


The Partridge & Yellow, tied by Nick Simonson.

Partridge and Yellow

Named for the predominant materials in the fly pattern, the Partridge and Yellow is a classic trout fly and a prime example of a soft-hackled fly known as a “spider.”  From this pattern have come hundreds of variants, but the combination of the neutral partridge and bright floss body has been around for generations.

Hook: Wet fly, Size 12-16
Thread: 6/0 Brown
Body: Yellow Floss
Collar: Barred Partridge Feather

Start the fly by anchoring the thread and tying in a piece of yellow floss.  Then wind the thread to a point just behind the hook eye.  Next, wind the floss evenly up the hook shank so that no part of the hook is showing.  Tie off and trim the floss about one hook-eye length back from the eye.  Then tie in a partridge feather with the curvature facing back.  Wrap the feather around the shank one or two times, forming a collar by using a hackle pliers.  Gently stroke the feathers back and tie off the feather, trimming the excess.  Build a small thread head, and whip finish.

The Partridge and Yellow is easily modified and provides a start in the category of soft hackle flies.  Use your favorite colors to imitate hatching insects, such as black for caddisflies or green for mayflies.  Add a dubbing ball in at the point where you tied off the floss to give the fly a fuller look.  Another popular partridge pattern is the Partridge and Orange, and a box of floss will give you access to every color in the rainbow.


The GRHE Soft Hackle tied by Nick Simonson.

GRHE Soft Hackle

One of my favorite things to do at the vise is try new twists on classic patterns, and patterns don’t get any more classic than the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear nymph.  My favorite spin-off of the GRHE is a soft hackle version which provides more motion and more attraction than the standard pattern.  Replace the  hare’s ear tail with a few of the soft hackle fibers from a partridge feather for a barred look and add in a soft hackle collar for a balanced, baby baitfish-like profile.

Hook: Wet fly, Size 12-16
Thread: 6/0 Brown
Tail: Partridge Feather Fibers
Abdomen: Hare’s Ear Dubbing
Rib: Gold Tinsel
Wingcase: Turkey Quill
Thorax: Hare’s Ear Dubbing
Collar: Partridge Feather

Tie in a pinch of partridge feather tips to form the tail of the fly and add a three-inch strand of gold tinsel at the tie in point to start the fly.  Dub a small yarn of hare’s ear dubbing and wrap it forward over the tie in point, forming a tapered body up to about the 2/3-point of the hookshank.  Wrap the gold tinsel forward three times, segmenting the abdomen before tying it down and trimming the excess.

At that point, tie in the turkey quill, upside down, and secure it with a few thread wraps.  Form a smaller dubbing yarn and create the thorax, advancing the thread to just behind the hook eye. Fold the quill forward, tie it down and trim off the excess to create the wingcase. At that point, tie in another partridge feather by the stem and wrap it once to form a collar, securing the end and trimming off the excess.  From a small thread head, whip finish and cement and the fly is complete.

If you are considering giving fly tying a try and are an avid hunter with a reliable shot, everything you need for these patterns and others can be found on the wing as partridge take the to skies in front of you and a reliable dog. Save those skins and crank these great soft-hackled patterns out for next season.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s