10-22-2011, 02:53 PM
Re: Collins Hackle
I've bought a bunch of stuff from Charlie Collins over the years, mostly grade 3 capes for a bit under $30, (which include a free saddle) and a few orders of his Commercial Grab Bag which consist of 4 capes for $60 in colors of his choosing (The colors are typical dry fly colors not weird stuff, saddles are not included in the Grab Bag).
The stems of the capes and saddles wrap easily, and the the quality of the barbs --ie stiffness on the capes is excellent. The saddles that are included with Collins capes vary in quality, with barbs tending to be softer, there are usually some that are dry fly quality on each saddle, but some natural colors tend to run softer than others (natural duns and blacks tend to have softer barbs than natural gingers and browns)
In comparison to other brands, the Collins birds are physically smaller than Whiting's dry fly birds. Whiting has two distinct genetic lines of dry fly birds, the Whiting and the Hebert Miner (purchased by Whiting a few years ago) lines. Whiting (with red Whiting label) and Whitings's Hebert Miner line (with Whiting green label), so that the actual capes of Collins birds are physically smaller, maybe a 2/3 the size or so, and the feathers themselves tend to be a bit shorter. There's a wide variety of natural colors in the Collin's birds including many natural duns In this respect Collins capes are more similar to Whiting Hebert Miner capes which also come in a wide variety of natural duns and unlike "Whiting" duns which are mostly dyed over white). Collins capes also come in a variety of natural occurring barred colors ( which look great on a fly) in addition to solid colors, and a variety of natural dun shades sandy dun, rusty dun etc.
Charlie raises his birds for the capes-- saddle feathers take longer to develop and when the bird is harvested for the cape, the saddle feathers may or may not be fully developed, and the barbs are not as stiff as Whiting saddles. His actual saddles are smaller than Whiting or Hebert Miner saddles and the saddle feathers themselves tend to be much shorter which translates into less flies per feather. Whiting saddles are pretty hard to find these days because of the hair extension fashion craze that hopefully will pass shortly)
In terms of sizes, Collins grade 3 capes typically have a full range of sizes down to 18 and many/most tie down to 20. His saddles typically have feathers that mostly tie in two sizes usually 12-14, but sometimes 10-12 or 14-16 (this is just luck of the draw).
His capes also come in a wide range of dyed colors (since saddles are free they are not dyed, so if you buy an olive dyed grizzly cape you are likely to get a grizzly saddle)
They are an excellent value and Charlie Collins is great to deal with-- you can call him on the phone (area code 607 734-1765) and tell him what you'd like to tie and he'll do his best to pick out the right stuff-- I've found him to be very easy to talk to and there's no pressure to buy anything. If you do buy stuff from Charlie ask for one of his "tailing packs"-- these are packs of spade hackle feathers you'll get a pile of feathers in a variety of dry fly colors and shades of gingers, browns, duns, grizzly, creams etc. There will be some soft webby feathers mixed in, but most of the feathers will have long stiff barbs that are great for tails on dries.
Other options in the same price range that are a little more widely available are Whiting Hebert Miner Pro Grade capes for around $30 or a Whiting Introductory pack consisting of 4 1/2 capes (if starting out you might want to specify ginger, dun, grizzly, brown) for $60.