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Old 07-13-2008, 10:02 AM
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Default Question reguarding feathers

Hi All,

I just started tying and I'm trying to get a handle on what all the different materials are and their application.

My question is, what is the difference between a neck, a saddle, and a cape?

On a side note, I got a Peak Vice from The Full Creel. What an awsome tool.

Thanks,
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Old 07-14-2008, 09:21 AM
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Default Re: Question reguarding feathers

Hi Flydog,

I think you will like th Peak Vice. Good going buying from The Full Creel.

The cape is usually the whole skin. You may or may not get the tail feathers.

Here is a hen cape from C R Birds.
Click the image to open in full size.

The Neck is the cape trimmed to include just the neck/chest area of a bird.

Here is a Dry Fly neck and Saddle from Whiting Farms
Click the image to open in full size.

You can see that the neck does not include any body feathers from the back or sides. Necks are always trimmed to this configuration.

Here is a chart from Mike Hogue. The first feather on the left bottom is a Whiting dry fly saddle. The second feather is a Whiting neck feather. The next feathers are a saddle and a neck. You can see how long and thin the Whiting feathers are compared to the others. That is why the Whiting feathers cost a premium.

Frank

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Old 07-14-2008, 03:47 PM
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Default Re: Question reguarding feathers

Since you're a beginner, here's some stuff that might be helpful ...

For wet flies like Soft Hackles, Flymphs and traditional winged wets you'd want feathers with "soft" (not stiff) barbs. Hen necks, grouse and partridge feathers would be a good choice for 12-16. In the picture Frank posted, they would look like the middle 3 in the top row. Starling skins are a good choice for tying smaller wets in 16-18. You can also use hen feathers for the wings on traditional dries and spinners. To start out I would get a package (not skin) of grouse or partridge for $2-3 if you wanted to tie some simple wets like a Partridge and Orange/Green/Yellow in sizes 12 and/or 14.

For Wooly Buggers you'd want a soft webby hackle with longer barbs, like the one 3rd from right on the bottom. A bugger pack for about $12 would be good if you tie a lot of them, or you can by strung hackle for a less at around $6. They'd look like the blue, yellow and 2 orange ones on the bottom. You could use the same thing for tails (Deceivers, bass flies like Dahlberg Diver), and wings (Green Ghost type) on streamers.

For dries you want to use good quality genetic hackle from necks or saddles with stiff barbs. The various grades (gold, silver, #1, 2 etc.) relate mostly to the number of feathers and to some extent the range of smaller sizes it will tie in a cape, and the length of feathers in saddles (how many flies you can get out of a single feather). I would stick to the bronze, #3, or pro grades in terms of bang for buck if you wanted to buy either one. So what's the difference?

Dry Necks or capes (from roosters) will tie the widest range of sizes, typically some 20's and 10's on the same neck, and maybe a few smaller/bigger but most 18-12 in a bronze or #3 grade. A premium neck Platinum, Gold, #1 etc grade might tie down to 32's, and perhaps have more, but not necessarily better quality feathers. Until recently, capes were the only way to go if you needed to tie small hackled flies 18, 20 and below.

Saddles typically tie a smaller range of sizes. Usually it's a 3 size range and can vary by breeder, but something like 12-14-16, 14-16-18, and some less expensive ones 10-12-14, or even 6, 8, 10 so it pays to check them out before you buy. As Frank pointed out, and looking at the picture, you'll see that the Whiting has a long feather with uniform barb length throughout. You can typically tie 5- 6 flies in the same size with each feather by snipping off the excess of each one you tie.

Both necks and saddles in silver, bronze, #2, 3 etc can typically be sold split in 1/2 so you can get two colors in the full range of their sizes for the price of one. Whiting also sells 1/4 saddles (generally 10, 12 14's) and Micro 1/4 saddles (14, 16 18) that tie somewhere around 350 flies.

Whiting 100's are long loose saddle hackles sold by single color in a single sizes, from 10 or 12 to 18 and you can get Micro 100's down to 20, 22, and 24. Each pack will tie about 100 flies in one color, using one hackle size.

So what should you get?

First a word about hackle to hook size on different "style" dries....

"Traditional" flies like an Adams, Light Cahills, Wulffs, Humpies or Trudes are tied with hackle size = hook size, so a 14 hackle for a 14 hook.

Parachutes and some Hackle Wing Spinners (Parachute Adams, Parachute BWO, Rusty Spinner etc) are typically tied hackle size + 2 = hook size, so a 12 hackle on a 14 hook.

Elk Hair Caddis is typically tied hackle size - 2 = hook size, so a 16 hackle on a 14 hook. EHC are also tied hackle = hook and you could tie some up that way too and clip a "V" in the bottom of the hackle streamside with scissors or nippers to make it ride well if you need to.

For starting out, i'd recommend the Whiting 100 pack (loose sorted saddle feathers), with enough feathers for 100 flies. They're sold in a single color and size for about $13-15. if you got a fishy looking all-purpose color like Grizzly in size 14 you could tie roughly 100 flies in size 14 dries, size 12 parachutes, sizes 14 and 16 EHC. I probably wouldn't go smaller than 14 hackle to start, since smaller flies are typically more difficult to tie at first.

By just swapping around body dubbing colors, and wing color (mayfly wings and para posts i'd use turkey flats in cream, light dun, medium dun and dark dun, and for caddis light med dark elk or fine deer hair) you can tie a bunch of stuff to match your local hatches.

After you've knocked off a few of each style, you can consider adding other colors/sizes in the 100's, or move to Whiting 1/4 saddles (10, 12 14's) for a bit more, or Whiting "small" 1/4 saddles (14, 16, 18) for a bit more than that. At some point, depending on how many colors and sizes you tie it makes sense to move up from the 100's.


Hope this helps...

peregrines
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Old 07-15-2008, 11:08 AM
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Default Re: Question reguarding feathers

Thank you Frank and Peregrines for the excellent information.

I bought Cabelas Premium Fly Tying Kit, material only version, so I have a little bit of a number of different materials. Now I'm trying to get a handle on how the different materials are used and why.

I've been using "the Fly-Tying Bible" by Peter Gathercole for my tying instruction. So far I've tyed a few Wooly Buggers. I really need to get some more light where I do my tying.

Thanks again guys,
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Old 07-15-2008, 01:20 PM
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Default Re: Question reguarding feathers

One thing I will add is the fact not all feathers can be called hackle but can be used just the same. I guess it all depends on your meaning of haclke. If any feather is called hackle then the rest of my post is kinda off. But hackle to me is the long, thin shafted feathers that are very flexible. If you have ever seen a pheasent live and up close you will see that they have many colors but lack any long, thin shafted feathers like chickens and a few other birds do. With that in mind, I often use feathers off of pheasents to tie several patterns that require hackle. Thing is when you are using size 6 or smaller hooks any thin shafted feather will do. Chest and back feathers work the best for me. With that said other birds such as waterfowl have flank feathers under their wings that fill hackle type feathers very well. Problem is they dont have much color on them. Often white, blue, brown, grey are main colors you will find off of ducks and geese. Often any given bird may have a feather or two that will work for tying files...but not all feathers will work for patterns that require wrapping the feather. I hunt a lot and keep feathers off of the birds I shoot. Though, I pick just a few of the feathers that I want to keep. Wing and tail feathers just are too stiff and will snapp easily. These are best used for stripping the softer parts off the main shaft. One thing I have found to be really great when working with feathers is artificial hackle. It is a bit easier to use since all you have to do is tie it on and wrapp it to how you want.
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Old 07-17-2008, 12:02 PM
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Default Re: Question reguarding feathers

Fly Dog-

I know what you mean about the light. Once I turned 40 it seems everything started going down hill and eyes were one of them. And I'm well down the slope now.

In addition to a light, you may also want to use some neutral color card board 10 x 12 behind your vise and prop it up with some books. Makes the materials easier to see by blocking out background clutter. A flat gray shirt cardboard from a dry cleaners is good, or if you want to get fancy you can paint or staple construction paper one side black, one side ivory for good contrast on light and dark flies.

I've never used a peak vise, but hear a lot of good things about them, and it sounds like you're off to a good start.

I sent you a PM.

regards,

peregrines
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