February 23, 2017

The Bluegill Bug – The Red Tag Soft Hackle


As anyone who has spent much time fly fishing for whatever species they want, and particularly if you are a fly tyer also, then you probably are very aware of the fish catching quality of Peacock Herl.

You know this stuff: Found in most all fly shops, mail order fly tying suppliers, craft shops etc.

The color, the iridescence, the sleekness, whatever it is, Peacock Herl has “IT”.  Now for as long as Peacock Herl has been used, those that tie much with it can tell you that while it makes some beautiful bodies and other fine effects on a fly pattern, it is not the most durable material to tie with and expect it to hold up.  What to do to make it more durable……… That is the question?

Now some tie with it as it is and put with the fact that if you catch a fish it is quite possible you may have to replace your fly also!  Others have gone away from using Peacock Herl for bodies and gone to dubbing their bodies on flies with Peacock look alike dubbing.  I have done that and really like this:

However, some time ago, I learned that traditional Peacock Herl could be used in a dubbing loop made of wire for strength purposes, twisted into a rope and then wrapped on body style.  This reinforced Peacock Herl body works wonderfully and holds up better when fish are feeding  and looks amazing durable.  Plus, you get the real thing on the body of your fly…..

Here is a picture of a fly that I just tied this morning that uses the Peacock Herl in a dubbed wire body rope.  Now this is an old traditional Wet Fly (some call them Soft Hackles, I do).  Panfish, and particularly, Bluegill love this little pattern.  Rest assured you can exercise lots of flexibility with this fly.  Example: Peacock Herl in a wire loop is optional, Red Tag for the tale can be left off (Why, Bluegill love Red somewhere on a fly), and finally, your choice of hackle for the front can be of your preference. (In this case, I used Dyed Partridge in a Yellow Olive color.)

  • Hook – I use a 2457 Tiemco style scud hook size 10
  • Thread – Black 6/0 your preference
  • Tail – Just a tag end of Red Yarn
  • Body – Fine Gold Wire tied in as a dubbing loop
  • Body 2 – I use at least 6 strands of Peacock Herl.  More if you want a bigger body
  • Hackle – Dyed Partridge (Again, color is of your choice)
  • Remember, you can double click on the picture to get a better view.
Now for a few tips in tying the Red Tag Soft Hackle……………………………………………………….
  • Begin by applying your thread to the hook and bring it back to the point on the fly straight up from the barb. 
  • Tie in a short piece of Red Yarn at this point.  Not too long and serves as an attractor color to get the fish’s interest.
  • Next take a fairly long piece of Fine Gold Wire and fold it in half and tie it in like you would a dubbing loop.
  • Then take at least 6 strands of Peacock Herl and tie them in so that you have your wire loop and Peacock Herl laying next to each other.
  • ***Key Part here – Make sure your wire dubbing loop is open and ready to work with.  Take your Peacock Herl and bring it down along side one side of the loop.  Take the Peacock Herl and begin wrapping it around one side of the loop only.  Keep twisting until the loop on that side is totally wrapped with Peacock Herl.  Then insert your dubbing loop twister into your loop  which should tighten your loop for you.  Then twist the dubbing loop tool until the Peacock Herl is twisted into what looks like a chenille rope.  Wrap the Peacock Herl forward leaving enough space at front of the fly to tie in your hackle.  Tie off dubbing loop and clip any excess left.
  • Hackle – Tie in your Soft Hackle feather by the tip and make (3) full turns around the hook (one in front of the other) sweeping them back each turn in wet fly style.
  • Whip Finish Knot – Go Fishin’

If you have any additional questions on this pattern don’t hesitate to jump right in the conversation and leave a comment.









18 thoughts on “The Bluegill Bug – The Red Tag Soft Hackle

    Well, look at you go. Yes, tonight, I played with peaoock herl and broke it a few times as I wrapped a collar behind a bead. It drives me crazy! But, the fish like it. Nice tie, Mel.

  2. Brk Trt

    Mel peacock is one of three materials that will get any fishes attention. One of it's drawbacks is it's fragile. Your method will help to eliminate that fragility.

    By the way that's one hell of a trout fly.

  3. Hibernation

    Couldnt agree more, as far as fishy material goes, peacock comes in slightly ahead of most things, and slightly behind earth worms :)! I never thought of using it in a wire rope – great idea. But, a few years ago I watched this Tightline Productions video… Since, I've often done this for bodies – it's basically a dubbing loop but you wrap the herl around one side of the peacock loop, then spin the loop. Creates much more strength…

    Love that fly you tied up Mel!

  4. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Howard, if you really want to tie a durable Soft Hackle or any of the many Peacock bodied Nymphs, then by all means take a closer look at this method. At my age, I don't have time to tie a new fly on after each fish I catch with the traditional method of just wrapping Peacock on the hook. Allows more time for fishing or a nap…………….

  5. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    RD, just an older example of the Energizer Bunny these days! Peacock is a deadly and very unique material for tying flies. I would rather fish more and spend less time at the vise tying repeated Peacock patterns over and over again. Thanks for the compliment on Red Tag Soft Hackle.

  6. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Thanks, Alan, for the kind words on the Red Tag Soft Hackle. I know it is a very effective stillwater Trout pattern. A staple in the fly box of any lake fly fisher that I know. I just brought it along when I transitioned to fishing more Panfish and they won't leave it alone! While I learned this method some time ago from someone, somewhere, I tie all my Peacock bodied Soft Hackles and Nymphs using this technique…..

  7. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Thank you, Ralph! As you and I both know, anything with a Peacock colored body or Peacock somewhere on the fly you are using has its' advantages for sure. Something about those words, "Fish On"!

  8. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Hi, Will! I had to laugh at your start of this comment………. Peacock flies truly are almost as deadly as the lowly earthworm. Tee Hee! Thanks for the kind words on the Red Tag Soft Hackle. I will check out the video, I may have just tried to describe that process in words…….. Stay tuned!

  9. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Will, I have watched the video and a couple of things come to mind. Woe is me if I try to tie a size #20 anything, let alone a dubbed body of Peacock and Snowshoe Rabbit. Nice technique, though! I think I should look some more for a video that shows more clearly how I do this. Since I don't do fly tying videos yet, that would probably be helpful for others to see…………..

  10. Greg Charles

    Just yesterday I was using peacock herl and after breaking the requisite herl after herl I decided to tie in a piece of copper wire just as you would for a counter wrap rib.
    Then added 4 herl.
    I then ran my fingers down the herl to "fluff" out and then twisted the 4 herl and wire together and wrapped forward.

    While this worked for me on the next 3 flies I am anxious try this dubbing wire loop.

    Thanks Mel!

  11. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Hi, Greg! Welcome to my blog. Am happy to hear from you here also. Your views and comments are always welcome here………..

    We all have too experiment in what works for us and makes us comfortable with the flies we tie. While your method certainly will work, and I applaud you for your success, I think you will find by using a full dubbing loop method that your Peacock bodies nymphs or soft hackles will be bomb proof body wise. In twisting the loop you combine the herl and (2) strands of wire into one "rope" of Peacock. Therefore, making your body even stronger and tighter. If I can help in any way, just give me a shout!

  12. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    I spent some time doing a You Tube search on using Peacock Herl in a dubbing loop. What I found were several videos that showed the use of Peacock Herl in a dubbing loop, but, showed a different way of inserting the Peacock into the loop and then twisting it into a "Rope". The ones I viewed were also done with a different dubbing twister than I use so in the end I would say, there is more than one way to do it! Any of you video takers out there want to give this a try?

  13. Walt Franklin

    Mel, Perhaps I haven't caught enough fish yet with the herl patterns but those bodies haven't been too much bother for me, assuming that the herl wasn't too fragile to begin with (granted, that can often be a problem, but your solution here should fix that nicely). Thanks for sharing this wingless variation on the great old Leadwing Coachman!

  14. Mel - Fly Tyin' Times

    Thanks, Walt, for your comment. I guess I struggled enough with Peacock Herl over time that I needed to do something. The wire dubbing loop method is a great way for nymphs etc, however when tying a dry fly that may use Peacock Herl, I still go with just the herl and no wire. Also, just goes to remind all of us that the patterns that we tie in today's age of fly tying, somehow, somewhere have been used before in one form or another.


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