The Soft Hackle Emerger is an old pattern for me that I originally came up with back in my guiding days. I developed this pattern as an alternative to the ubiquitous RS-II. I have since discovered why this pattern has produced so well for me. It seems that Baetis do not fall onto the water in the spinner stage as many other mayflies do. Instead, Baetis crawl down sticks and rocks into the water to lay their eggs. After depositing the eggs, the spinners die and drift off with the current. I believe that this pattern effectively imitates these drowned spinners. When I first spotted the naturals crawling down the legs of my clients’ waders (only green waders for some reason), I noticed their wings were held together and upright along their backs, and that they were rather rigid. The profile of the Soft Hackle Emerger matches that of the natural exactly. While I originally developed this pattern as an emerger imitation, I now believe that it is most often taken as a drowned spinner. Either way, the fish eat it and I’m not going to argue with that!
I generally fish this pattern as a nymph with lead or a heavier fly on the leader for weight, but have also had great success by greasing it up and fishing it as a cripple in the surface film. You can also fish it like a traditional wet-fly with a down and across swing and experience some jolting strikes. The cool thing about this pattern is that you can hardly fish it wrong; on the bottom, on the swing, in the surface film, drag free or sliding cross current, it has the profile to pull fish in.