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Rubber vs Feather Hackle
Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger


I have been doing some experimenting over the last few days as I go out to the lake over my lunch hour. I had not been catching as many fish as I normally do, but I had seen them following the flies. I had also had some strikes that I could not hook fish on. This normally indicates to me that I need to either slow down or go to a smaller fly.

What really got me started was watching a few fish hit the rubber hackle legs on the fly but not the body of the fly. It was time to experiment with different flies. I tied flies on in tandem that had either rubber hackle legs or had a feather hackle wrapped on them. The feather could be palmered over the body or at the front like a soft hackle. I alternated which fly was at the front and which was at the back so there was not a preference on that.

What I found by fishing them very slowly was that I got the fish to hit, but mostly on the feather hackled flies. I was fishing the flat that is about 5 to 6 feet deep out for 30 feet before it drops off into deeper water. I would cast out and let the flies drop for about 10 seconds before doing anything else. Then I would bring them in at the rate the waves were pushing the line in. The wind was blowing about 10 mph for reference.

What would happen is that I would see the line twitch and that was it. But every time I set the hook I had a nice gill on the line. All of them on the feather-hackled fly. This was not fast fishing but a fish every 5 minutes at noon time in the middle of July is just not bad.

I did try fishing the flies faster, deeper, and shallower to see if that would make any difference on which fly they hit. The only difference was that the rubber hackled flies were not catching anything. I don't always learn fast but I do learn some of the time.

Today I decided to see if there would be any difference between a fly with palmer hackle and one with the hackle wrapped at the front. I tied these in tandem again and alternated which was the dropper again.

What I found today was that it did not seem to matter much which way the fly was tied. I caught fish on both types of flies and even had doubles a couple of times. The conditions were the same as yesterday, wind temperature, and cloud cover.

This is my guess as to what is happening with the flies. The rubber hackled flies just have to move too fast to get the action of the rubber to work. The fish follow them, but it is just too much activity. The feather hackled flies can be moved much slower and the hackle still moves. The movement given to the fly by the wave action moving the end of the fly line seems to be just enough to make the fly enticing.

I did watch the flies as they were close to shore and could see this action going on. This means that I will need to get some more flies tied up to do this when I go out on other ponds to see how it works. Give it a try and let me know if it works in the ponds and lakes that you fish.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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