Hail the Half-hog

Six stun­ning pat­terns, proven wet and dry

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: PETER GATHERCOLE

SINCE NOR­MAN IRVINE de­vised the Half-hog, a sig­nif­i­cant vari­ant of the Hedge­hog, in the 1990s, this style of dress­ing has de­vel­oped a small but ded­i­cated fol­low­ing. It is lit­tle won­der. The Half-hog is one of the most ver­sa­tile pat­terns avail­able. It can be fished as a wet-fly, nymph or dry-fly (emerger). And it works just as well for rain­bow trout as for brown trout. Fish­ing H-HS re­quires del­i­cacy. You can fish them suc­cess­fully off fast-sink­ing lines if you so de­sire but, pri­mar­ily, they suit low-den­sity lines much bet­ter. And the dress­ings are semi-im­i­ta­tive, so they can stand close in­spec­tion by fish, thus slow and static re­trieve-styles won’t jeop­ar­dise your catch re­turns. Best of all, they are a dod­dle to tie so long as you obey a few im­por­tant rules. Nor­man’s orig­i­nal dress­ing had no hackle, but I al­ways felt that this style of fly was boosted by a light fringe of hackle fi­bres, es­pe­cially in the un-dubbed pat­terns. One of the best ways of fish­ing H-HS is to lightly grease the hair wing, then fish them as dry-flies for a short pe­riod be­fore a slow fig­ure-of-eight brings them back. When fish are high in the wa­ter, and you get pat­tern/colour se­lec­tion just right, the sport can be fast and fu­ri­ous. In a sit­u­a­tion where you can’t quite work out whether the fish are tak­ing sur­face or subsurface items this tech­nique is usu­ally the an­swer. Hatch­ing olive and midge of­ten cre­ate this sce­nario. Of­ten, dur­ing an olive hatch, it looks as though trout are tak­ing the dun when they are in fact at­tack­ing pre-emer­gent nymphs. That they are do­ing this among a lit­ter of post-emer­gent duns leads to con­fu­sion and poor catches. Hatch­ing midge can be just as con­fus­ing, as trout will take the bug in all states of emer­gence and work­ing out just what stage at­tracts them most is crit­i­cal. H-HS also make a very good ad­di­tion to a wet-fly combo, es­pe­cially in the early months of the sea­son. Slim pat­terns come to the fore then be­cause most trout food is slim in pro­file dur­ing the in­tense feed­ing cy­cle of late spring and early sum­mer.


Stick­ing knot­ted legs on a Half-hog seemed en­tirely log­i­cal and do­ing so added an ex­tra di­men­sion to an al­ready ef­fec­tive style of fly. Legged pat­terns are, in my opin­ion, best ac­com­pa­nied with a seal fur dubbed body. I sup­pose this is be­cause I gen­er­ally use them as dry pat­terns, but as a pulled wet-fly they can be very suc­cess­ful, too. In the early years of this cen­tury there was an at­tempt to hi­jack the Half-hog Hop­per by sub­sti­tut­ing the deer hair for CDC and call­ing it a Harry Pot­ter. This sub­sti­tu­tion seems like a good idea at first, but after con­tin­ual im­mer­sion deer hair is much eas­ier to re­vi­talise than CDC. While I tend to think of the H-H as an early-sea­son fly, I start think­ing about the Hop­per ver­sion later in the year. As a durable, semi-drowned im­i­ta­tor it can cover a wide range of ter­res­trial flies. I tend to only treat the wing with floatant, es­pe­cially in a light rip­ple but I’m more gen­er­ous in the brisk breezes of au­tumn. It’s al­most manda­tory when us­ing knot­ted pheas­ant tail fi­bres that the tyer uses three on each side. But with H-H Hop­pers I pre­fer a pair on each side. The ex­tra legs con­fuse the is­sue and are not nec­es­sary. The whole idea is a light touch and sparse­ness.

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