Get your Fly Noticed: Popping Hackles

Friday, 7 October 2016  |  PG

Tenkara "poppers"?

Now there have been a few posts that touch on the subject of Stiff-hackled wet flies on the DT blog of late. Quite a few people have been surprised by Fujioka-san's finding that these are actually much more common than reverse-hackle flies (sakasa kebari) in tenkara. That includes some folks who got to see Mr. Fujioka's English-language presentation on flies and hackle types. Now, don't get me wrong, soft hackled flies are amazing for many situations, but there are some really handy things that stiff-hackles will let you do too...

So I thought I'd throw in a quick Friday tenkara blog post that also shares some common ground with the Ashtapa-zuri (struggling/buzzing fly presentation) blogs as well.

To get us in the mood, here is a photo of the back-end of a stiff-hackled kebari from Japan (subscribers to the free Email lessons will recognise it once they get to the relevant lessons)

OK, so it is super-obvious from this photo how a hackle like that will emit those amazing high-frequency "buzzing" vibrations when you tap on the rod handle and the fly us up on the surface. But there are also some closely-related effects that you can take advantage of too.

For example, pulling the fly for a short distance across the surface will throw up quite a wake. You could even make this work a bit like a "popper" if you wanted to...

Granted, that is quite a long way from refined and "polite society" dead-drift dry fly fishing, but wow, is it ever effective on the right day. You should try it when the fish are really up and at 'em in high season, it is great fun. Again, there are a lot more ideas on building your tool-kit of manipulations in the Email lessons so you can check them out in there. They will show you how to make your fly move very attractively - but without falling foul of the common problems which stop you catching fish.

The last point is something that I was reminded about when chatting to my brother Ian and nephew Shaun (congratulations again on your latest loch-style team competition win btw. Big up Stocks Falcons!). This was talking about the slightly forgotten aspect of sunk flies and the vibrations picked up by fish lateral lines - a favourite subject of Stocks king-pin Ben Dobson. 

You see, I find a surprising amount of shared wisdom between the worlds of stillwater (lakes, reservoirs, lochs and loughs etc.) and the world of tenkara fishing on streams and rivers. Don't believe me? Well, the stillwater experts are the only other anglers outside of tenkara anglers who have an extensive and well-rounded range of named ways for moving (or retrieving) their flies. Even fly-rodders who regularly fish streamers on rivers tend to have just a small number of named variations between "stripping" and "sweep-stripping". There really is nothing in river fishing outside of tenkara that has identified anywhere near the same variety of fly movements and specific presentations - to the point where these different "retrieves" have individual names.

These stillwater gurus also have a firm grasp on the functional aspects of their flies (in other words, choosing the materials that will perform a particular job brilliantly within a specific presentation; like using neutral buoyancy flies to perform a slow, level/hovering retrieve...). I certainly learned a lot in these aspects during about the first 17 years of my fly fishing "career"...before being seduced by flowing water!

My main point is this, then.

Don't neglect stiff-hackled wet flies for "pulsed" sub-surface manipulations. Both JP and me have reason to believe that (as well as the visual stimulation) that the pressure wave coming off the front of a stiff "disk" of a collar hackle could really help a predatory fish (trout or anything else) home in on what you have got tied onto your tippet. If in doubt - check out the photo above again and imagine what will happen to the water around that hackle when you try to pull it through the water...

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Paul