How to Fish Emergers and Soft Hackles This Spring

Fly fishing with emergers and soft hackles is an incredibly effective way to trick trout in your local waters as the hatches of Spring and early Summer begin. These patterns are designed to suspend in the top half of the water column and imitate nymphs rising to the surface to hatch. In the case of soft hackles, tyers use a collar of longer feather or synthetic fibers to trap air around the body of the fly, which is to imitate the air bubbles that some nymphs release to begin their journey to the surface. These flies work well during the day before hatches come off the surface and work well in any trout stream. So we thought we would share 2 effective strategies for fishing these patterns this spring and summer!

Examples of Emerger and Soft Hackle patterns:

An Emerger

Bead Headed Soft Hackle
A Bead Headed Soft Hackle

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On the Swing

Swinging some soft hackles over a large riffle.

When fishing soft hackle or emerger flies you can cover a lot of water by swinging them. Now you won’t be making glorious Spey cast or anything, but you will be using the same strategy. when I swing these patterns I like to use multiple flies (Learn how to do that, here), to cover more water and get a few different patterns in the mix. Typically I tie the heaviest fly to my tipper and tie the lightest pattern to the heavier one. Many anglers will tell you that you should put your cast 45 degrees downstream of you, but I prefer to cast 90 degrees to the current to allow my patterns a few seconds to sink in the current before they begin their swing. All you have to do at that point is, keep your line tight and wait for the familiar strike of a hungry trout!

In a Nymph Rig

Tight lining some emergers in pocket water.

When fishing pocket water, I prefer to use the tight line method because it allows me to present my flies in the specific pockets that I want without having to get too close to my quarry. When I add a soft hackle or emerger to my nymphing set up, I typically tie it to my leader as the upper fly in the rig, so it will drift in the upper part of the water column. I’ll often switch to this strategy if I see trout swirling in eddies feeding, typically when this is happening they are feeding on emergers.

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