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Adventures in Fly Tying... October 2010

Gartside Softhackle Streamer
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


On the outside of the Catskill Museum of Fly Fishing there is a plaque commemorating Jack Gartside's induction into the Fly Fishing Hall Of Fame.  There are plaques for each of the inductee's, but Gartside's plaque, like the man himself, is cleverly original and reflective of a unique character.  It says "Fly Tying Innovator, Teacher, Adventurer, Original Fooler Of Fish".  Although I didn't have the privilege of meeting Mr. Gartside, I can say that the plaque seems to be quite accurate. Through his writings and work he's shown me new and productive fly patterns, taught me how and why the patterns work, spurred me onto some interesting adventures and helped me to fool a few fish of my own.  One of Jack's patterns that I've been carrying for a number of years, one that's never let me down when a small, lively baitfish imitation was in order, is the Gartside Softhackle Streamer.

The Gartside Softhackle Streamer is responsible for the largest stream-caught smallmouth of my career. This fish was nearly 23" long and likely pushing 6lbs.  She took a chartreuse and white SH Streamer tied on a size 2 hook and fished with a slow, staccato stripping action on a sink-tip line.  The hit was solid and the fish was quite powerful.  She was one of several fish over 18" landed that day - all on the Gartside SH Streamer.  The picture to the left doesn't do her justice, as all I had was a cell phone to take the image on a rainy, cold spring day.  But the image of that beastly smallmouth rolling on the top with the fly stuck firmly in her jaw is indelibly printed on my memory in a way that a color photograph will never challenge.  Since then I've found that a red-over-black SH is strong magic for largemouth, pink-over-chartreuse (electric chicken - thanks Al!) does the job on white bass and hybrids, and a ginger-over-white is amazing for low water conditions.

Like the Blonde, Deceiver, Clouser and other great patterns, the Gartside Softhackle Streamer is more of a fly design than a by-the-book pattern.  This is a form that begs for experimentation with color, proportion and flash.  The addition of jungle cock eyes is a classy variation that works wonders at times.  A wrap or two at the front of the hook shank of mallard flank, wood duck or teal can add life-like scales and mottling.  Bead heads add weight for a jigging motion, or a few wraps of lead wire around the shank can make for an action-filled swimming motion.  Nothing about this fly remains still in the water and sparseness is a virtue in this fly.


Hook:  Mustad 60500 BLN Size 1/0 to Size 4 or your preferred streamer hook
Thread: 140 Denier 6/0 color to match or contrast with body

Flash: Crystal flash or Flashabou

WingPalmered marabou blood quill

Hackle:  Duck or game bird soft hackle

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The Gartside Softhackle Streamer is a simple pattern that's an amazingly effective imitation of many small minnows or leeches.  Tied with just two materials, thread and a hook it's fast and easy to make.
I prefer extra heavy short-shank hooks for this pattern.  Hooks that are sold for "nose hooking" soft plastics are a great choice.  The Mustad 60500 BLN in sizes 1/0 to size 4 is a fabulous choice and is available at almost any well-stocked fishing tackle dealership.  It's nice to have a hook that doesn't need to be sharpened out of the box!
Lay down a thread base and return the thread to the hook eye to tie in the flash material.
Sparse is a good watchword for this pattern.  No more than 6 to 8 strands of flash are needed.  I like to double three or four strands over the tying thread and lock them in, leaving the tag ends long.  I trim the tag ends just beyond the marabou as the very last step in the tying process.
This fly is constructed from a marabou "blood plume".  This is an important aspect, the marabou is wrapped like a hackle so it needs a thin stem.  As I'm pointing out in the adjacent image, only the tip of the plume has a thin enough stem.  Also, Gartside was adamant about wrapping the hackle butt first - this is because the individual marabou fibers get progressively shorter towards the tip and wrapping butt first allows the fly to retain a fusiform profile.
Tie in the prepared marabout plume by the butt and fold the marabou fibers to one side.  Slightly moistening your fingers will make it much easier to work with the marabou.
Palmer the marabou up the shank of the hook in non-overlapping spirals.  Don't try to pack too much material on as the magic in this fly comes from motion and the play of internal space and translucency with the water itself.

For a two-color version, leave a bit of space and tie in a second plume for the second color.  Typically I use 2/3 main color and 1/3 topping color.  You can also wrap a turn or two of duck flank or game bird hackle to provide a mottled effect.

Here the second color has been wrapped and is ready to tie off.

Form a neat thread head and whip finish.  Cement the head after you've finished brushing out the body.

A soft tooth brush will work wonders to free up trapped marabou fibers!

The final step is to trim the flash material so it's about 1/4 to 1/2 inch longer than the marabou plumes.  The fly is ready to fish!




Tight lines and flamboyant waters...

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