Published May 31. 2022 - 1 year ago
Updated or edited May 31. 2022

Softly Softly

The Partridge Parachute Emerger – or PPE for short – is a soft hackle dry fly, all limp and spindly

The PPE or Parachute Partridge Emerger
The PPE or Parachute Partridge Emerger
Nick Thomas

In the past couple of years, the acronym PPE has been banded about a lot to cover personal protective equipment of many types. Having worked in a laboratory all my career it was a very familiar to me, but never heard outside of work. Nowadays unfortunately, it’s common parlance. The fly above is also a PPE, but one for happier calmer times; the Partridge Parachute Emerger

I like soft hackle dry flies. So do fish. They are all limp and spindly, and in my humble opinion make a fly look a lot more like fish food than the stiff hackle barbs normally used to float a dry fly. Expensive shiny feathers look nice and are what we are accustomed to seeing on a dry fly. However, they really are not necessary to make a fly float; buoyant poly yarn does the job perfectly well.

I tie many of my dry flies with nothing more than an organza body and a folded back poly yarn wing. With a smear, and I do mean just a smear, of Gink on the wing fibres they float all day. It was one of these simple suggestions, a #16 OFFLY (Organza F Fly), that caught my largest brown trout from my local river at 27 inches or 70 centimeters.

However, sometimes it’s nice to tie and fish something more than a minimalist synthetic fly. My sensitivity to natural materials limits how many I can tie in a session, but generally two of three is OK without too much sneezing or tears. So, if I think a bit of soft feather enhances the look of a fly, I’ll give it a go for the odd pattern.

A pair of PPE's
A pair of PPE's
Nick Thomas
PPE - Partridge Parachute Emerger
Pattern type: 
Nick Thomas
Hends BL550 #12/14
Sheer 14/0 brown
Olive organza selvedge
Semperfli iron blue poly-yarn
Olive partridge
Olive squirrel dubbing
Skill level/difficulty: 
  1. Run on the thread behind the eye, take back about a third of the way along the shank and remove the tag end.
  2. Fold a piece of poly-yarn around the shank from underneath, secure with cross wraps in front and behind and then wind the thread up and down to form the wing post.
  3. Take the thread down to the bend and tie in the woven edge trimmed from a piece of cream organza ribbon coloured with an olive marker.
  4. Wind the organza up to just behind the wing post, tie in and trim.
  5. Strip the base of a partridge feather, tie in the stem behind the post and then a little way up the post.
  6. Dub behind and in front of the post leaving the thread hanging a short distance behind the eye with just a short length of thread out of the bobbin holder.
  7. Hold the end of the feather in hackle pliers and make two or three turns around the post working down toward the hook finishing with the hackle pliers hanging on the near side of the hook.
  8. Bring the thread around the hook and make some thread turns over the feather wiggling the tip of the bobbin holder to steer the thread between the feather fibres.
  9. Remove the hackle pliers and snip off the tip of the feather. Fold back the post and hackle and add some dubbing to complete the thorax.
  10. Smear the thread with varnish, whip finish and cut the thread.

On the water
On the water
Nick Thomas
My local urban river
Nick Thomas

In my mind a hatching insect looks a bit like us trying to get out of a tight pair of waders without falling over. It’s the awkward transitional stage between walking in waders and without waders; the tugging, sliding, pulling, hopping and finally emerging angler.

The PPE is definitely one of my favourite emergers. The smooth organza ribbon body hangs below the surface while the long soft partridge fibres dimple the surface film. It’s an impression of something busting a gut trying to lever itself through the transition from one life stage to the next.

Tempted by a PPE
Tempted by a PPE
Nick Thomas

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