Hail the Half-hog
Six stunning patterns, proven wet and dry
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.