Gill Candy Soft Hackle

Written by Ian Anderson


I ran across this fly about ten years ago on The Fly Tying Forum.  I had a class to teach on some simple panfish flies and thought this one would be fun to tie and a productive fly to fish.  I was right on both counts.  It is basically a “soft hackle” fly but in a larger size with some added protection from toothy panfish.  I had fished soft hackle trout flies to panfish before but they were more traditional trout flies and not as large or bright in color.  Over the years the Gill Candy has become a staple in my fly box as well as tying classes.  It is not a complicated fly to tie and I think that is why many people have enjoyed learning it.  You can tie up a dozen in a couple of hours and in no time have a variety of colors and sizes in your box that will last many years.

The fly is tied on a traditional nymph hook, in this case a Mustad 3906.  If you would like a little longer body you could tie it on a 3906B.  The recipe I found on The Tying Forum is by a user named ‘letumgo’ (read his submission) and he uses Hungarian Partridge for the hackle and 4-strand Rayon floss for the body.  I like to use tying thread for the body and African Guinea fowl for the hackle collar.  I think the Guinea has better contrast.  I also use a UV resin for the body and the head of the fly to help protect it.  You could instead use head cement, Hard as Hull or even a CA glue (Zap-A-Gap, Loctite, ‘superglue’).  Below is Step by Step instructions for those who like this format better than videos. I have detailed all the steps and there is a high resolution image for each step (simply click on the image to the right). If you prefer a video format there is a embedded video at the bottom of the page.


Mustad 3906, size #6 & #8
Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread 140 Denier, Black and Chartreuse
Gold Mylar Tinsel, #14 or #12
Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread 140 Denier, Chartreuse
Ice Dub, Chartreuse
African Guinea fowl
Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread 140 Denier, Black
Bug Bond UV Cure Resin, Original-Lite




1) Place the hook in the vise and de-barb the hook if you would like. Gill Candy - Step 1
2) Start the thread for the body on the hook about half an eye length behind the eye of the hook.  Then wrap the thread down the hook shank with touching turns to form a base layer of thread on the hook.  Stop at the end of the hook shank which is just between the point of the hook and the barb of the hook. Gill Candy - Step 2
3) Place the end of the mylar tinsel, silver side up, on the hook shank and attach with tying thread.  You want only about 1mm of tinsel sticking out of the thread wraps to minimize any resulting bump at the end of the shank of the hook. Gill Candy - Step 3
4) Wrap the tying thread down the hook bend in touching turns for about 4 – 5 wraps. Gill Candy - Step 4
5) Wrap the thread back up the hook bend about 4 – 5 turns to where you tied in the tinsel. Gill Candy - Step 5
6) At this stage you will start to wrap the tinsel around the hook shank to create the tag of the fly.  However, if you start to wrap the tinsel with the hook ‘upright’ in the vise you will have to navigate the thread and bobbin out of the way each time you come around the hook point for each wrap.  Not to mention, having to navigate around the hook point.  To make this step easier, simply rotate the hook upside down.  If you do not have rotary vise then remove the hook from the vise jaws and turn it over before clamping it back in the jaws.  Doing this will move the thread and bobbin out of the way and because of the angle of your wraps you will not have to move around the hook point for each wrap of tinsel. Gill Candy - Step 6
7) Place 3 – 4 wraps of tinsel, gold side up, along the hook bend as you work your way to the thread.  Make certain the wraps are either touching or overlap slightly so all of the underlying thread is covered up. Gill Candy - Step 7
8) Once you are at the tying thread secure the tinsel with three turns of thread.  Try to make each turn of thread right in front of the previous wrap as you secure the tinsel.  This will minimize any ‘bump’ at the end of the shank. Gill Candy - Step 8
9) With the tinsel secure you can cut off the remaining tinsel as close to the body of the fly as you can get. Gill Candy - Step 9
10) You will have a small tag of tinsel poking out from under the thread wraps holding in the tag (about 1mm – 2mm depending on how close you cut the tinsel off) you will want to take touching turns up the hook shank to wrap down this tag end of tinsel.  Once all the tinsel is secured and covered you will want to make the body of the fly.  First, give your bobbin a counter clockwise twist.  This will take out the clockwise twist that is in your thread and flatten the thread for making the body of the fly. Gill Candy - Step 10
11) You will now wrap up the hook shank with touching turns until you get to the end of the body, which is where you originally attached your thread.  Keep in mind you will have to stop every dozen or so wraps to spin the bobbin counter clockwise to re-flatten the thread.  Once you reach the front of the body you will then wrap back down the hook shank to the tag and then back up to the front of the body.  Keep your thread flat and keep the wraps touching and this will provide you a very smooth and even body.  Once back at the front of the body, give your bobbin a clockwise twist to twist up the thread again and place one wrap around the hook shank.  This will keep the thread profile small for the next step. Gill Candy - Step 11
12) At this point you will apply whatever protection you want to use to help protect the body from the small sharp teeth that panfish have.  You do not need to do this if you do not want to.  You can skip this step, look at the flies as expendable and simply tie up a half a dozen extra flies to make certain you have extras.  I do this because it does not take much time and it adds a great deal of resilience to the fly.  I use a UV resin by Bug-Bond.  It is the “Original-Lite” formula.  This particular UV resin is tack-free when cured.  Other resins are not and you have an extra step or two to make it tack-free.  I apply about a drop of UV resin to the hook shank and then use my bodkin to spread it around.  If there is extra on the hook I remove it as I do not want any drips or droops when curing the resin. Gill Candy - Step 12
13) Once the resin is covering the entire body I will use the UV light on the resin to cure it. Gill Candy - Step 13
14) After curing the resin, wrap the thread down the hook shank so it is about one eye length behind the eye of the hook. Gill Candy - Step 14
15) You are now going to apply the dubbing for the thorax of the fly.  You want to apply the dubbing (in this case Ice Dub) sparsely on the thread and make the resulting ‘dubbing noodle’ long.  The reason for this is you will have greater control of the placement and size of the resulting thorax than if you have a short thick batch of dubbing on your thread.  Gill Candy - Step 15
16) Apply the dubbing so that there remains an open space of one eye length behind the eye of the hook.  You also want the dubbing to be in a spherical shape.  After applying the dubbing advance your thread to just behind the eye of the hook. Gill Candy - Step 16
17) You are done with the thread that made up the flies body at this time.  Leave the thread (in this case Chartreuse thread) hanging and pick up your UTC 70 Denier Black thread.  Attach the black thread just behind the eye of the hook and wrap down the shank to the thorax.  This will wrap over the tag of black thread and the attached Chartreuse thread at the same time. Gill Candy - Step 17
18) With the black thread hanging just in front of the thorax, grab the Chartreuse thread and the tag of black thread and cut them away from the fly. Gill Candy - Step 18
19) You should now only have the black thread used for tying in the hackle and making the head of the fly attached to the hook. Gill Candy - Step 19
20) You now need to tie in your hackle by the tip of the feather.  You will tie in the hackle where you have separated the hackle fibers from the tip section of the feather. Gill Candy - Step 20
21) You do not need to snip off the hackle tip once it is tied in.  A better way is to fold back the tip that sticks out on the front of the fly and secure it down with a couple wraps of thread.  If needed, you can tidy up the head area of the fly at this time.  You will want to have a smooth base of thread on the hook for wrapping the hackle in the next step. Gill Candy - Step 21
22) Make certain to stroke back the hackle fibers as you wrap the hackle around the hook shank.  You will want to wrap the hackle about three times around the hook shank.  If the usable portion of your hackle is short then only wrap two times.  Do not wrap into the fluff or the thicker portion of the hackle stem.  If the usable portion of the hackle is longer then you might want to put in four wraps and add a little more “bugginess” to the fly. Gill Candy - Step 22
23) Once your hackle collar has been wrapped, secure the hackle with three turns of thread around the hook shank and hackle. Gill Candy - Step 23
24) At this point you could snip off the remaining hackle and finish the fly.  However, I prefer to fold/sweep back the remaining feather with the hackle collar and then create the head of the fly.  This will force the hackle fibers in a backward direction and add more security to the collar and the fly. Gill Candy - Step 24
25) You will want to start the head of the fly right behind the eye of the hook and wrap back toward the thorax securing in the hackle collar and shaping the head of the fly as you go. Gill Candy - Step 25
26) Be careful to not add too many wraps in this step. Only apply as many as are needed to secure the collar and shape the head to make a nice neat head. Gill Candy - Step 26
27) Once you have created the head of the fly and applied your finish knot(s) you can cut the tying thread from the fly.  The remaining section of the hackle that you tied in can easily be pulled toward the front of the fly to snap it off.  Gill Candy - Step 27
28) You can now apply your favorite had cement to the head of the fly.  I place about half a drop of UV resin on the head of the fly to protect it from tiny teeth and give it a finished lacquered look. Gill Candy - Step 28
29) If you are using UV resin on the head hit it with the UV light at this time to cure it. Gill Candy - Step 29
30) Your fly is now complete. Gill Candy - Step 30

Soft hackle flies are not a ‘fast action’ fly. That is to say, you do not impart much action on them at all while fishing. If you are fishing them in a stream you pretty much let the stream currents do the work for you.  If you are fishing them in stillwater (ponds and lakes) you will simply apply VERY SLOW strips to simply creep the fly through the water. Think drowned bug. Dead drowned bugs to not move under their own propulsion. Your fly shouldn’t either.

Popular colors are Chartreuse, Red, Orange, Pink, Blue, Purple and Olive. That said, I think all black and all white would also be good colors. Experiment with the materials you have and come up with something new. If it catches fish feel free to leave a comment for others who might want to give your recipe a try.

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If you are interested in purchasing any Gill Candy flies, there are a few for sale on Dressed Irons (while supplies last).

Feel free to leave a comment or question below. Always Remember…It’s Fly Tying…It’s Fun!



2 thoughts on “Gill Candy Soft Hackle

  1. Ray,

    thanks for the comment! I have been teaching this fly for (at least) 12 years, ever since I found it on the Fly Tying Forum. I am a big fan of Soft Hackle flies and finding a pattern that is applied to panfish (the Midwest Brook Trout) is fantastic. These are so much fun on a lazy summer evening cast out along a weed line and slowly crept through the water. I’ll keep spreading the word. A fun fly in the water as well as the vise!

    Be Well,

    Ian Anderson
    Dressed Irons

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