What is the main difference between Capes,Necks & Saddles?
And what would be there main use as far as for wings , palmering etc.. For Wet or Dry Flies. Also between Rooster & Hen.
This would be used for S/W Flies and for Streamer Patterns. S/W hooks no larger than a 1/0 down to a #6.
Good questions--- the whole subject of hackle is probably the most confusing of all the materials for a new fly tyer.
First the easy one--- capes and necks are the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably. A saddle corresponds to the back of the bird. In human terms, a cape or neck would be the back of the neck, and a saddle would start at the shoulders. In packaging, you'll typically see a notch on a cape where they cut it off the head, and it has a more or less oval shape. A saddle generally has a squared off, even cut at the top, and when looking at the skin side, it will have a rectangular shape rather than an oval of the cape. The saddle will also end to have longer feathers than the cape from the same bird.
There are a couple key qualities to look for in feathers, and talking about them a bit might first might help to explain the differences between the different types of feathers capes vs saddles, hen vs rooster and dry fly vs wet fly.
Feather length- the overall length of the feather. In general, rooster feathers, whether from a cape or saddle, are much longer than hen feathers. For this reason, hen feathers have a more limited use in salt water.
barb length- the length of the barb on the stem comes into play when a feather is wrapped around the shank of the hook. The barbs will radiate around the hook shank in 360 degrees like the blades of a propeller on an airplane. For many types of flies, the "standard" barb length (to be in proportion) is roughly 1.5 or 2x the distance of the hook gap. So generally you'd want feathers with barbs that correspond to size 6 - 1/0 hooks if you're going to be palmering feathers (wrapping them in open spirals around the shank) or wrapping collars (wrapping the stem in close touching turns) as on a Seaducer, keys style tarpon flies, or different bonefish patterns. In general capes will have a wider selection of different sized feathers than saddles, meaning feathers with different barb lengths. This is true for both rooster and hen capes.
barb stiffness- Stiff barbs are a key quality for dry flies. These are found only in SOME roosters and they are specifically bred for these qualities and tend to be expensive. These dry fly quality "genetic" birds are bred specifically for very stiff barbs, thin flexible stems, uniform barb length down the stem, and barb length that corresponds to trout fly sizes. A typical dry fly cape might have feathers with a barb length that ranges from size 10 to size 20 (based on 1.5x hook gap) and dry fly saddles with a more limited range of hook sizes say 14-16 or 12-14. Examples would be Whiting Red label and Whiting Green Label Hebert Miner rooster capes and saddles. All hen feathers (both hen capes and hen saddles) and most other rooster feathers including strung cape and saddle feathers, Whiting American (Blue label) rooster capes and saddles, deceiver patches, would be considered "soft" or wet fly quality. To tell whether a feather has stiff or "soft" barbs, bend the stem. if the barbs stick out straight individually then they would be considered stiff. If they sort of clump together, and curve around instead of sticking out straight, they'd be considered "soft".
Stem stiffness- dry fly quality birds are also bred to have thin flexible stems to make them easier to wrap around the hook shank. In general, saddles have thinner more flexible stems than capes. Depending on what you're tying, this might be a quality to consider--- for instance in tying keys style tarpon flies in size 1/0-2/0 with splayed tail, I like cape feathers with a thicker, stiffer stem, but for deceiver type flies, i prefer a longer feather with a more flexible stem like a Whiting American Saddle.
There are also some roosters bred for tying flatwing style flies--- these have long feathers with a elongated wedge shaped taper wider at the base of the feather and thinner at the tip like Whiting Flatwing Saddles.
Strung cape and saddle feathers are an economical choice for a lot of saltwater flies-- look for those labelled "salt water length" (about 6-7" long)--- they'll be a bit longer than the regular ones that average 4-5".
Companies like Whiting breed specifically for many different traits and have many different genetic "lines" of birds, for both dry flies. Other stuff like strung cape or saddle hackle is primarily from meat birds and though much less expensive, may not be as ideal for some types of flies.
If you wanted some relatively short, inexpensive feathers for wrapping collars on stuff like bonefish flies, an imported hen saddle or "hen back" might be a good choice, but the overall length of the feather wouldn't be suitable for wings or tails on saltwater flies 6-1/0
If you let us know the actual patterns of flies you want to tie, we might be able to suggest some specific stuff that would work well.
And if this is still confusing let me know and i'll take some pics of different stuff.
Thanks Mark I was hoping you saw this post. Yes it is confusing. I fish the S/W for Reds , Flounder and Trout. But I love the Streamer / Salmon flies they are just to cool looking and a work of art. Even if I never get an oportunity to use them I would love to tye them along with the Matuka patterns.
I just want to expand my materials to acomplish some of all, but make a smart decision as to what to get and save on the bank funds.
i hear ya---
i think the best way to go is to try and pick up stuff one or two patterns at a time--- instead of trying to buy everything--- even though the temptation to tie all kinds of stuff is often overwhelming.
And materials for salmon flies especially can be a bottomless pit. Luckily you have a lot of experts here like Ard that can give you a lot of good advice on materials--- but because there are so many different types of patterns it still might be best to zero in on a few specific patterns ( i'm sure folks could suggest some--- but the tie along that pocono is running now is a great way to get into it)
Here's some stuff i use for SW if it helps any...
For claws on crab and bonefish patterns:
Indian rooster necks are from physically small birds raised primarily for meat. The actual neck is much smaller than domestic birds. They’re relatively inexpensive at $4-6 and you can find them in mottled gingery-brown and other natural colors. The feathers are generally not very long making them unsuitable for streamers, and their short length and stiff stems don’t lend them selves to palmering, but they can be wrapped a few turns for a collar on small size 10-8 bonefish and shrimp flies
Whiting American (Dark Blue Label) Rooster Saddles about $18 for tails on deceivers up to 3/0 or so, and for wrapping collars or palmering on size 8-6 size hooks. You can also find no name domestic “streamer” saddles for a bit less that are also very good
Poppers, bass flies and keys style tarpon flies, matukas:
Hareline “Saltwater” Rooster capes or Whiting American Rooster Capes about $25- these are wide webby feathers with wide blunt tip and a stiff stem. Great for Matukas, bass patterns and splayed tails on stuff like poppers, key style tarpon flies. They can also be wrapped around the shank with some difficulty for collars on hook sizes up to 2/0. They come in a wide variety of colors dyed over white or dyed over grizzly.
general inexpensive SW
Strung Chinese or domestic “saltwater length” saddle hackles ¼ oz for $5, 1 oz for $16 dyed over white or dyed over grizzly. Good for a wide range of uses from tails on deceivers up to 2/0 and for collaring hooks sized 8-6. The relatively short useable length of the feathers don’t lend themselves to palmering, since the bases often have a lot of fluff. The quality of this stuff will vary, with some feathers in any bunch being **** with twisted stems, or some with a very short useable feagther with a lot of fluff at the base. But there will still be a lot of useable feathers that make this a good option--- especially in colors you don’t use very frequently.
Biggest deceivers, and long spey style collars/palmering
Strung Schlappen- 1/4oz for $4, for the longest, webbiest feathers with the longest barbs. Tails on deceivers up to 5/0, and for wrapping around shanks for spey style salmon flies. If you by saddles, you will also often find individual schlappen feathers at the bottom of the saddle (They are the ones that are noticeably wider, webbier and usually longer than the other saddle feathers)
Whiting flatwing saddles Bronze $20 or Silver $30 for long tapered feathers with flexible stems, these are for tying long SW flatwing style flies up to 13" long (bronze) and even longer for silver grade. There are other saddles that you can find that are suitable for fltwings but you really have to pick them over. The Whiting flatwings are the way to go if you order online sight unseen.
There are tons of different stuff and you're better off getting advice from others, but one thing to note in particular are the imported "Chinese" or domestic "Chinese substitute" hen necks available in a wide variety of dyed over white colors specifically for salmon flies for about $8 each. These are used as a substitute for exotic (and now illegal) feathers. The domestic "Chinese substitute" birds are domestic meat birds that have been dyed over white and are used now because birds from china have been restricted because of concerns about bird flu.
Hope fully other folks will chime in with what they use in SW too. Good luck and keep asking questions.
Hey td welcome to the forum. glad you found us-- feel free to make yourself at home here.
One of our members, Pocono came up with a great idea and is running a thread about learning to tie salmon flies, with a new pattern introduced every couple of weeks. It has generated a ton of interest, and is a really neat idea, and perhaps we'll do a lot more of these for different styles of flies if there's enough interest.
Welcome Td you will find alot of Great advice here. The Tie alongs are a great idea to learn new patterns. I am just learning to tie. Hopfully I can participate soon. Tying is a great hobby and art. Again welcome to the best on the Web for Fly fishing and tying.