My #1 Fly Recently: a CDC Soft Hackle

One of the best flies for me this summer and fall has been a small, durable and ridiculously easy fly to make. It was the #1 fly during my recent long weekend at the Farmington. When I see BWOs start to pop, this is a fly I put on.

Fish it as a wet fly, dry fly (use Frog’s Fanny since regular floatant will gum up the CDC feathers), or as part of a tandem nymph rig. If fishing sub-surface, let the fly rise at the end of the drift and be prepared for a very strong strike.

Last weekend, I caught quite a few browns and salmon parr with this fly. I’d crouch down and slowly position myself to be slightly above the last rock at the end of a run. In that cushion of soft-water in front of the rock, fish are nearly always there. And, when they see this CDC soft hackle rise in front of them, they often instinctively strike. Pocket water is loaded with these cushions and it’s a great use case for tightline nymphing.

Why takes on the rise? Well, BWOs are pretty aggressive swimmers and rise quickly to the surface when emerging. Many, many times, trout will not take this fly on a dead drift. They’ll wait for movement. I’ve seen this countless times at many rivers throughout New England. It’s fun to feel such an aggressive strike.

This has been a very effective fly. But, tie it small. I make it in a size 20.

Hook: Tiemco 2488H size 20. This is a heavy-wire hook with a 3x gape. The gape is important for better hooking power for such a small fly. I’ve had plenty of fish pop off when fishing a standard-gape small hook.

Thread Body: UTC 70 denier, olive-brown.

Wire: Extra small in black, copper or gold. I’ve found that segmentation is an important strike trigger at most rivers.

Hackle: Dark dun CDC feather. This material works really well. My theory is that the feathers give great movement under water and will trap some air bubbles, too. Emerging nymphs generate an air bubble to rise to the top, and so, I’m guessing this is a strike trigger.

Varnish: Loon UV Finish Flow.

Pinch down the barb. It’s much easier to remove the fly from a fish.

Put on a thin thread underbody. Attach the wire and bring the thread forward.

Wrap the wire forward to add segmentation.

Sometimes, I add Loon UV Finish Flow to the body. This adds a subtle glow to the fly and hardens it.

Now the tricky part. Spin counter clockwise the thread to flatten it. Split it with a bobbin, put in a CDC feather and carefully cut off the fibers from the feather’s base. Cut off maybe 1″ from the feather, for you don’t need that much.

Spin the bobbin clockwise to rope the CDC into the thread. It’s a quick way to spin feather fibers without creating a dubbing loop. Then, stroke back the CDC feathers while you wind the thread behind the hook eye to create a sparse soft hackle. Two or three turns are enough.

Whip finish. Add a very small drop of UV Finish Flow to the whip finish knot to seal it. Run an old feather stem through the hook eye to make sure it is clear. Hit it with a UV light for a few seconds, and you’re good to go.

10/16/16 edit:

I just tied up some using leftover marabou feather fibers. I suspect they’ll work as well as CDC.


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16 thoughts on “My #1 Fly Recently: a CDC Soft Hackle

  1. Most excellent post! Thanks.
    Does the UV Finish Flow cure hard with the UV light? I use Knot Sense and find I have to use Sally Hansen to provide a non-tackey finish.

    1. Thank you!

      It does. The UV light cures it in seconds. I used to use Knot Sense to finish flies, but I find the UV Finish is much smoother and better. Loon makes three kinds: Thick, Thin and Flow. Different viscosity for different use cases.

      I bought the small bottles to save money and to try them out. I've never gone back to Sally Hansen or super-glue ever since. Plus, the Loon stuff doesn't have noxious fumes.

  2. I appreciate reading about the cdc version of the soft hackle. The fibers will definitely move around more than partridge or wood duck. This fall I tied a few cdc as comparadun dry flies and they were greeted very well by the local trout.

    1. Thank you! CDC Comparaduns? Great idea and I'll have to give that a go, too. Do you use CDC and deer hair for the wing, or just CDC?

      I'm looking for more ideas for CDC in order to use as much of the feather as I can. For example, soft hackle CDC idea came from having a bunch of leftover CDC feathers after using the tips to tie some parachute dries (using the CDC as the post). I hate wasting materials.

      Where are you fishing these days?

  3. So this is basically a sort hackle (spider) using the cdc instead of the hackle. Gonna tie some tonight thanks so much. Love this blog it's like Christmas everytime I see that you posted an entry.

  4. I used just CDC, but have tied others with just deer hair. Both versions produced. Like you, I hate wasting materials too and try to find ways to use the leftover feathers, tips, etc.

    Lately, I have been fishing the less popular areas of the Swift, but hope to hit the Scantic this weekend. I don't think the Scantic's been stocked, but that does not matter to me.

  5. I like the pattern, but the hook shown has a down turned eye and is not a Tiemco 2488H which has a straight eye. I only noticed because the Tiemco 2488 is my favorite hook.

    1. You are spot on. I didn’t have a good photo via my phone of the flies I tied, as mentioned in the post. So, found a photo on the Web. Yes, I too love that 2488H with its 3x gape.

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