Tying the Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer

I think if Jack were still alive he would be making a lot of tying videos. It was something we talked about and I wish we’d done more of it. I was reminded of this today when I was talking on the phone with a tyer from Wisconsin, describing one of Jack’s signature patterns, the Soft Hackle Streamer. It’s a fly that is at once very simple and amazingly effective. It can and has caught just about everything, from bonefish to catfish to tarpon to carp.

In the course of our conversation I was describing the blood marabou you need to tie the pattern  correctly. The tyer hadn’t heard of blood marabou and it took me a little to explain how it differs from standard quill. When I got off the phone I wondered if anyone had made a video of its tying steps. So I did a quick internet search. And the answer was yes. Several.

Now one of the great things about the Soft Hackle Streamer is how adaptable to change it is. So not surprisingly, of the videos I found, no two tied it exactly the same. And none of them tied it quite in the way Jack did (granting that Jack himself tied it in a variety of styles).

The video below, from Joe Cornwall of Ohio, is very good (no comment on the opening music, tho  😉 ). If you’ve never tied the fly before, it’s well worth a watch, as is one by Jim Misiura. Joe does a good job emphasizing some of the things critical to understanding the pattern: its ‘breathability”; the importance of using blood marabou; the method of winding the marabou as hackle; and the importance of combing out the fly (Jack used a fly or eyelash comb rather than a tooth brush).

There also are a few differences worth noting between how Jack tied the fly and how Joe ties it:

  • Jack did not to my knowledge ever tie the pattern on short-shank hooks, usually using a Mustad 9671 or equivalent. (When tying Soft Hackle Streamers for tarpon, he used long-shank hooks, tying the fly on the rear third of the shank and leaving the front two-thirds bare. This protects it some from the tarpon’s sandpaper mouth.)
  • Jack tied the pattern with a collar, usually of folded wood duck flank. (On his New Wave Soft Hackle Streamer he used the lower, downy end of a grizzly saddle feather). He believed the collar served a very important function: it helps the head maintain a consistent shape. Specifically, it helps prevent the marabou from “jelly-fishing” forward during pauses in your retrieve.

5 thoughts on “Tying the Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer”

  1. I was fortunate enough to fish soft hackle streamers on the Madison in the Park way back in the mid 80’s. Jack believed, and I witnessed, that the fly fished almost as well dead drift as it did stripped. It’s hard to believe how large trout would pound the streamer as it hit the water next to the bank on the Madison when the spawners were up from Hebgen. I still have bags of marabou that I sorted through looking for good blood. I also remember asking Jack why he didn’t tie them in small sizes. In Michigan in those days, we fished very few #4 streamers. Jack answered ever so kindly, “What size trout are fishing for? Any trout that can’t eat a #4 fly isn’t worth fishing for.” There is no more lively, easy to cast, fast sinking streamer than his Soft Hackle Streamer. I still fish it regularly. Some day I’ll have to share my “purple” story and the SHS. Dave

  2. The above comments about the short-shanked are correct. Also, the mallard flank was the most difficult portion of the fly to tie, but to Jack, most important. He told me it not only gave the fly shape, but the “buggie” soft hackled, appearance. I don’t know if the shortness of the shank would have mattered to Jack, but he did tell me that the 3407 and 34007’s that he used were because of the extremely wide gap to allow the marabou to move, heavy wire for sinking, and the 3407’s (tin coated) very low cost. (typically Jack) I will tell you this, though about Joe’s video. He’s right, Jack was indeed the most creative tyer I ever met. And, the fly that Joe ties will most certainly catch lots of trout… with or without a mallard hackle. That’s the beauty of the Soft Hackle Streamer.

  3. Jack and I are hopper fishing West Fork here./Users/daveleonhard/Desktop/Jack Gartside and Dave.JPG

  4. Great stuff, Dave. Thanks for sharing. Would love to hear the “purple” story sometime when you get the chance.

  5. I’ve just watched the video of Jacks Sparrow and the Soft Hackle Streamer.
    Having tied with Jack many times and having a collection of his flies and books, I have to say there must be better videos to explain how Jack would have tied his flies.
    I understand fly patterns are changed to the liking of the tyer, but when you change the dressing or leave out particular materials, its not the original pattern and not the way Jack, or any originator, would like his pattern to be copied.
    The flies tied in the videos are tied well and I compliment the tiers, but they are not tied in the original way Jack would have tied them.
    I am not criticizing the tiers I just think the original patterns should stay original.
    Thank You

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