Bobby you've asked good questions---
Originally Posted by bobbyc21fish
What about wet flies? Are the feathers on the bottom of the capes used for wet flies?
For wet flies you'd typically want soft webby feathers as opposed to the stiff barbs on a good dry fly feather. Bend the stem of the feather--- if the barbs stick out straight in individual "spokes" radiating out from the bent stem instead of curving and clumping together, you have a dry fly feather. At the bottom of the cape the long feathers tend to have long barbs--- if some of them have stiff barbs they'd make great tailing. But a lot of the feathers may have soft barbs. Because of the long barb length they'd be good for hackling larger size hooks like woolly buggers or for making collars on streamers. These feathers are also good for some other uses too--- feather wing streamers like the Light and Dark Spruce or tails on streamers like deceivers if you tie saltwater or bass flies.
For smaller wet flies (size 10 and smaller) there probably won't be too many feathers with short enough barbs for typical wet flies like softhackles. A hen cape, or game birds like partridge or grouse would be better choice for wet flies. A very good and inexpensive alternative to a whole partridge skin or genetic hen (25-30 bucks) is a starling skin (5-6 bucks) for stuff like soft hackled wet flies. Just substitute starling in recipes calling for partridge or hen.
On a saddle, there typically will be several feathers at the bottom of the saddle that are soft and webby and make great streamer collars and bugger hackle. Their thin flexible stems (compared to the stiffer stems on the bottom of a cape) make them a pleasure to wrap.
Also, along with the Adams and EHC I am starting to tie other drys like the BWO. For the Adams I would just use moose hair for the tail. Now that I am going to be using hackle for the tail I am wondering what part of the cape I would get the hackle from. Im guessing the bigger feathers towards the bottom??
Ok, so after you look for feathers at the bottom of the cape with long stiff barbs, you'll also want to check for "spade hackle" aka "spade feathers" for tailing material.
Since you have 1/2 capes, you'll have one straight edge, where the cape was split down the middle. The other side looks sort of like a 1/2 a pear shape. Turn the cape over, skin side up, and look carefully at the widest edge of the cape, where it bulges out to the side for "spade feathers".
These are sort of wedge shaped, wider at the base (like the spades on a deck of cards) and tend to be shorter and more sharply tapered than the rest of the dry fly feathers. If you find some and bend the stem you'll see they have long stiff barbs these are highly prized for tailing and some breeders sell them as tailing packs. These spade feathers are also sometimes found on the top edges of saddle patches. Whiting tends to trim their capes and saddles pretty closely so that there typically isn't a lot of spade hackle to be found. Some other breeders are more generous with the trimmings so you get a lot of other feathers including spade hackle---- but the quality of the dry fly hackle (and whole point of purchasing a dry fly cape) is often far short of Whiting.
Many people eventually bite the bullet and buy "tailing packs" from Whiting (about 16 bucks) or Whiting Coq de Leon Saddle patches (22 bucks). The feathers from CDL roosters have long stiff barbs that are perfect for tailing and a pleasure to use.
Other choices for tailing include moose body hair, elk mane, mink and other stuff with stiff guard hair, as well as synthetic stuff like nylon microfibbettes.