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...