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Old 06-20-2008, 04:07 PM
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Default Feather Applications

Can someone explain?
What do I look for when selecting feathers. I'm finding out that just any old feather wont get it done.
I could also appreciate breakdown of the different uses and when to use what where.
Ive been tying mostly Closure Minnows so it hasn't been an issue but trying some of the more typical flys and using some turkey feathers and a few that I picked up at hobby lobby things get a little strange to say the least.
When I went to BPS and started looking at the selection I got a real bad headache and left with nothing.
Is "hackle" a feather type? Is it an specific feature on a fly? Where can i read about what to do with feathers and how to do it?
Ill sure be glad when I've been doing this for 5 years! Its fun but I do get into some dead ends.
Tom
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Old 06-20-2008, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: Feather Applications

Hi Tom,

Hackle is how most of the feathers that I think you are referring to are labeled that I have. I've been using Spencer's Hackles from Montana.

There are several different kinds of hackle, but all the one I've seen are labeled as some type of hackle, and I just pick out whatever one looks like it will work for what I want to do with it. If you can take them out of the bag at the shop, it's nice to check them out before you buy them. Look to see how long the feathers are, how easily they bend, and how the fibers splay out as you bend them. I like ones that don't have too much of the fluffy fuzz at the bottom of them most of the time. Occasionally I'll want to use that part for something but generally it gets cut off. I always try to avoid Chinese hackle, both on principle of trying to buy US and because the feathers don't seem to be nearly as good of quality as the US hackles.

Here's a blurb from Spencer's Hackle that explains more:

Capes
The cape should have a glossy sheen. The higher the gloss, the more natural and alive your flies will look on the water.

Choose a cape with a large range of feather sizes. This lets you tie more sizes of flies. But make sure the cape is heaviest in the sizes you use most. A cape with lots of 24s is great for a spring tier but of little use if you mainly fish #12 Wulffs.

Be sure the cape has a good feather count. More feathers mean more flies; more flies mean more fish.

Check for missing or damaged feathers. A quality cape will have all its feathers and very few, if any, tips will be broken. Birds occasionally do not feather-out completely and feathers can easily be broken. While still usable, broken feathers simply provide less length to tie.

Feathers
Feathers should be long with very little webbing. Webbing is the dense section at the lower end of the feather. Because it absorbs water, webbing will cause dry flies to sink. Length is desirable because a single long feather is often enough to tie a heavily hackled fly.

The stem should be supple. This is very important. Perhaps more dry fly problems arise from thick or stiff stems than from any other cause. Heavy stems are more likely to crack or break when the hackle is wrapped on the fly. In addition, the greater the diameter of the stem, the more oval it becomes, causing the feather to twis or roll rather than stand up when wrapped onto the hook.

Unlike the stem, the barbules should be stiff and extremely dense. Stiff barbs provide better support for your fly on the water. Likewise, the more barbule in contact with the water, the better the fly floats. The best hackles come from birds that have been genetically selected for stiff barbs, such as Spencer's. The barbules should be uniform in length along the entire portion of the stem above the webbing. This can be observed by bending the feather to separate the individual barbs. (Note: barbs located near the base among the webbing will will be longer; the shorter this section is, the better since it will be discarded.)


I hope that helps,
--W
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Old 06-20-2008, 08:53 PM
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Default Re: Feather Applications

Mr. W.
Thats helps a great deal and I really appreciate your time explaining this. Unless I buy on line I am limited to BPS but now I have a much better idea what Im looking for.
I'll also find some of the Spencer Hackle as I am with you on buying from our market. Its not such an easy thing to do anymore.
Thanks again
Tom
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Old 06-21-2008, 12:23 PM
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Default Re: Feather Applications

Hi Tom,

The information provided by wfosborn is about dry fly hackle. If you are tyeing sub-surface flies you don't want dry fly hackle in most cases. The dry fly hackle has very little web but for wet flies you need more webbing in the hackle. A dry fly hackle has stiff barbules, a wet fly barbules should be soft. A dry fly hackle is long and narrow, a wet fly hackle is shorter and not as narrow. Most wet fly hackle comes from hens. Some very low quality rooster hackle can be used for wet flies. The $30 cape you saw was probable dry fly hackle and the $6 cape was wet fly hackle.

Look at the picture of the dry fly hackle and you can see how long and narrow the feather is. Now look at the picture of the hen hackle. You see that it is not long and narrow. The dark center is the web. You can see on the woolly worm in the picture of the hen hackle that the hackle wrapped around the fly is laying back and will be very soft. If you look at the Royal Coachman you can see the hackle is pointing straight out and would be very stiff. The tips of the hackle is what holds the Coachman dry fly on the surface.

I think you would benefit from a good book on fly tying and maybe a DVD or two.

Frank

Whiting Dry Fly Hackle
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Generic Hen Neck Hackle (Wet Flies)
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Kaufmann Royal Coachman Dry Fly
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:20 AM
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Default Re: Feather Applications

Again thanks for the time and great explanation. I know I need to get some books and DVD. Thats next.
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