Soft Hackle Primer: Making Mike's Hare's Ear Spider

By Mike Hogue

It has been awhile since I've posted any new patterns on my site, so I thought I would back up a bit. Mostly I haven't posted anything because I have been working on several writing projects and haven't had the time to experiment for awhile.This winter ( 2006) I got some extra money for Christmas and at my wife's urging I bought a new digital camera. ( For what it's worth I bought a Nikon Cool Pix L6. ) I can't say I'm some techno wiz because I am not. I don't even know if my photos are really that good, I just thought well I will take a few shots and see how it goes.

I choose to take some pictures of soft hackles because they aren't that complicated. I also have this vague idea of starting a beginner's section for easy flies on my web site. Maybe something that kids or families could use, we'll see. We will begin by talking about soft hackles in general......a little background if you will. Soft hackle geru Sly Nemes has traced loads of flies and articles in his book, " Two Centuries of Soft Hackles". In this book he pulls all sorts of patterns from a good many obscure publications. These are fairly interesting patterns since Syl covers the development of this style of fly over a long period of time. I'm not exactlly sure where this pattern came from but it is an old style pattern that is very useful. It combines 2 good ideas and makes it into a nice fishable fly that is pretty easy for even the newest tyers to make.

Before we make our fly let's talk about materials. On the left is a partridge pelt. I know a good many of you may think well, I can buy just a packet of feathers and that should be good. I perfer to buy whole pelts when I can. The pelts offer you the tyer, many sizes,shades and shapes of feathers. The cape usually has a light gray while the saddle has a dark brown. The backs of wings have marbled feathers. Quills from the tails and wings are also quite useful for making wet flies. The larger breast feathers can be used for big nymphs and for throats on wet flies. My favorite feathers come from the cape, saddle and the backs of the wings. By buying a pelt you also get a full range of sizes and can tie flies from a size 8 down to an 18.

In the long run a full pelt will actually save you time and money because the cost of each feather goes down when you buy the entire pelt. With this single pelt, some dubbing, floss, wire and tinsel you can tie hundreds of flies in a variety of patterns. Also by mastering just this pattern you take this same idea and expand on it to create lots of interesting variations. For example you can tie a Pheasant Tail Spider, Partridge and Green ( Red, Orange et al) and loads of other flies just by changing the dubbing, wire, floss or tinsel.

Here's the pattern we are going to tie:


Mike's Hare's Ear Spider:

Hook: Mustad 3906B sizes 10-16

Thread: 6/0 Black

Rib: Gold Mylar Tinsel

Body: Hare's Mask Dubbing

Hackle: Partridge Cape

Begin by wrapping the hook with thread, travel down the hook shank and stop above the hook's point. Tie in a piece of gold mylar tinsel. I use Danville's extra fine double sided tinsel. I tie the gold side facing out. I move the thread up the hook shank and then back down to cover the tinsel.






Next I start to dub the body. I take and pinch some dubbing and strech it out a bit. I twist the dubbing counter clock wise. The main reason I do this is so that the body is more durable.






As you move the dubbed thread forward, the dubbing rolls into itself. This single step makes the fur bond together with itself, making the fly much stronger. Basically, you twist left to dub and wrap right to create the body. I have found this method to be easy and effective. Dub up to the eye of the hook leaving about 2-3 eye lengths open. Leaving space allows you to have room for the hackle.





Make 2-3 turns of tinsel at the base of the body. This will create a small tag and also allows you to make sure that the tinsel is facing the correct way. If the gold side isn't up, make a few twists and continue to wrap. Wrap the tinsel forward in even twisting turns. For this hook, I make about 4-5 turns of tinsel. On smaller hooks, you might make less wraps. Tie the tinsel off and clip the tag off.





Tie in a hackle from the cape with the good side or shiny side out. If the feather looks dull you have the wrong side out. To size the hackle I choose an oversized feather that is about 1 1/2 times the distance of the hook gap or the distance between the hook point and the shank. Clip the stem of the feather off.






Wrap the hackle around the hook shank. If the fibers get matted twist them a bit with your fingers. If I don't like how the fibers lie, I will cock the head by twisting to get the hackle to lie straight.






One step I do that drives traditionists nuts is this. After I cock the head and twist the fibers, I wind the thread back into the hackle. This locks it into place and makes the fibers lie exactlly where I want them to. This method saves you from creating all sorts of bizzare hackle folds and makes the hackle slope back. A correctly wrapped wet fly has a hackle wrapped in a cone shape like the one shown.





Make a whip finish and cut off any tag ends of thread. If you wish you can rough up the body by rubbing it with a vel-cro dubbing stick or a dubbing brush tool. That's it. Now you go nuts and make all sorts of variations just by changing the body to floss, pheasant tail fibers or adding a bit of wire for the tinsel.





If you are interested, I have a kit of materials: Mike's Soft Hackle Spider Kit, Includes: Partridge Pelt, Hare's Ear dub, Tinsel. Gold Wire, Peacock, Orange, Olive and Yellow Floss, Pheasant tail, size 12 and 14 hooks. $30.00. Everything you need to get started. To order, just click on the email button below and let me know you want this kit.


For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946