THE SOLDIER PALMER This most famous of flies is an old favourite of mine. Being my fly of last resort, I would always end up using this fly when all else had failed. In my naivety it was a ‘catcher’ and I relentlessly relied upon it to produce results. When it failed, as occasionally it did, I was left with no alternative answer, surely it wasn’t me?
This fly illustrated to me many years ago that quite plainly, my lack of understanding of flies in general was not conducive to successful fishing, and essentially made me look at them in a different light. If I were to compete against the wily trout, I needed to go back to basics – so I started to learn about fishing flies, the flora and fauna, the insects, the seasons, wind and of course the fish I was pursuing. This would stand me in good stead for later years and I would encourage all newcomers to fly fishing to take some time out to learn about the subject matter, it will pay dividends.
The Soldier Palmer, not to be confused with the Red Palmer, is probably one of our oldest flies. Dating back to the early 17th century it was first mentioned by Isaac Walton in his book ‘The Compleat Angler’ of 1653. It is of course primarily a wet fly with a palmered hackle, but like most flies, many variations exist.
The fly roughly imitates insects in a number of forms, such as larva, pupae and drowned adults, however in the true sense of the word, (and this is the case for many flies), I have yet to find an insect that it truly represents, that aside, trout still go for it – in a big way. Particularly effective during sedge hatching during the warmer months from May to September on still waters, reservoirs and lochs the Soldier Palmer is an irresistible treat to a hungry trout. Its movement through the water draws the hackles backward towards the tail on the recovery, when stopped, the hackles resume their normal position. Done repeatedly this imitates life and movement, or a struggling insect and provides temptation that the trout finds hard to ignore. The use of a heavier hook and softer hackles will allow the Soldier to sink slightly below the surface, where its use on faster waters and streams will pay dividends.
Tying the Soldier Palmer Materials required Hook sizes 10 to 12 wet fly or long shank Red tying thread Medium gold wire A long brown cock hackle Red wool for the body and tail Tying Instructions Run the tying thread down the shank to a position opposite the barb. Catch in a length of red wool, making sure that the wool covers the shank up to the eye. Catch in some fine oval gold tinsel Pull some of the wool fibres from a strand of wool and create a dubbing rope. Wind the dubbing up the hook shank towards the eye, creating a uniform body. At the eye, catch in a brown cock hackle with a length of fibre 1.5 times the hook gape. Wind the hackle palmered style down towards the start of the oval tinsel. Wind the oval tinsel back up to the eye, trying not to trap too many hackle fibres (Moving the tinsel using a left then right motion frees many fibres). Secure the oval tinsel when the eye is reached and trim off the waste. Secure the hackle and trim waste. Catch in a second hackle to become the collar hackle, this usually has slightly longer fibres that the hackle used for the body hackle. Wind the hackle a few times, secure and trim excess. Create a neat head, whip finish and varnish the head. You now have an attractive fly that in most circumstances of the season will catch. I still use it regularly as my fly of choice when all else has failed. Hopefully it can be as successful for you. The 'Soldier Palmer' is featured in our Wet Fly Collection.