Last winter I read Fool's Paradise by John Gierach. I won the book at a fundraiser for our local chapter of Trout Unlimited. I really wanted Trout Bum, but a young kid grabbed that first so I ended up with Fool's Paradise instead. I owe that kid a big thank you because his choice led me on a year long challenge and lesson in fly fishing.
In one of the chapters Gierach briefly talks about local waters, boredom and a friend who fished a Royal Coachman all season long with reasonable success. It was then I had my A-HA moment and decided on doing the same thing. For the entire season I was going to fish a hungarian partridge soft hackle. I immediatley went to my vice and started tying. Within a few days I had my boxes full of soft hackles from size 12 to 8 with a few bead heads thrown in. My colors were yellow, green and red bodies. Hackles were primarily Hungarian partridge and a few pheasant. By April first I was ready.
For whatever reason I didnt get out until the first week of May. I went up the Starbuckle Dam at the end of Schroon Lake, made a few casts to shake off the rust and was into a nice brown trout on the 3rd cast. It was game on after that.
For my 50th birthday my lovely wife booked a trip at Tall Timbers Lodge in Pittsburgh NH. It was the 3rd week of May, snow on the ground, windy cold and cloudy. The trout were just waking up from their cold winter slumber and I caught them on that fly. I had a great week and caught a lot fish. When I returned home UPS delivered my birthday gift to me, a 7.5 ft JP Ross Beaver Meadow 3 wt. and I caught Adirondack Blue Line Brookies on the same fly. The Summer Solstice Hex Hatch on Jabe Pond had me catching brookies stripping the soft hackle slowly just under the surface. Another trip to NH in July had me catching trout and landlocks on the Connecticut and Androscoggin Rivers all with the soft hackle. Finally, just this past week on our yearly trip to the Salmon and Oak Orchard Rivers I caught and hooked up with Kings, Coho's, Chrome and Browns all on soft hackles.
What I learned about this fly is it is very easy to tie and does not require a lot of materials, just a good Hungarian Partridge cape and yellow, green or red floss. Depending on how it's fished it represents the different stages of flies life cycle. Tie it big enough and you'll catch bass on it as well.
If you're looking for a challenge next season give the one fly challenge a try and don't rule out the soft hackle I promise it won't disappoint. Good luck and tight lines.