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Thread: Beginner hackle feathers

  1. #1

    Default Beginner hackle feathers

    So I've been tying for about a month starting with an egg pattern, moving up to sucker spawn, then foam hoppers, deer hair ants, wooly buggers etc. I'm now ready to start trying to tie with hackle feathers. The patterns I want to tie are certain mayflies and bass poppers(collars of the poppers), mostly.

    The problem is, I don't know the first thing about hackle feathers: capes, hen feathers, indian rooster feathers etc. I would like to get a few colors that are standards, such as grizzly, black, a pale color and brown. I would also not like to spend $200 getting those 4 colors. Is there going to be any way to cover what I want to tie and at the same time not spend a small fortune? Thank you so much for taking the time to help me with my problem.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Well the bottom line is that I think good dry fly hackle is expensive. I feel your pain , but it's even more painful to spend time tying a dry fly only to have it sink because the hackle doesn't really support the fly.

    One way to go is to get the 100's pack from Whiting Farms for less than $20 each or their 1/4 saddles for like $25 or so. That will save you some cash while you get going. The problem is you'll have to select size hackles based on hook size you'll want so to cover from 12's - 20's you might as well get a full cape!

    For things like poppers, where the hackle isn't needed to make it float, I just use the same saddle hackle I use on wooly buggers, but others might have better advice for you.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Quote Originally Posted by williamhj View Post
    Well the bottom line is that I think good dry fly hackle is expensive. I feel your pain , but it's even more painful to spend time tying a dry fly only to have it sink because the hackle doesn't really support the fly.

    One way to go is to get the 100's pack from Whiting Farms for less than $20 each or their 1/4 saddles for like $25 or so. That will save you some cash while you get going. The problem is you'll have to select size hackles based on hook size you'll want so to cover from 12's - 20's you might as well get a full cape!

    For things like poppers, where the hackle isn't needed to make it float, I just use the same saddle hackle I use on wooly buggers, but others might have better advice for you.
    Thank you William. I figured that was probably what was going to be said: you get what you pay for. I have seen the 2 pack of half capes that have two colors, so maybe I should just bite the bullet and get those. Thank you again for the wisdom.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Hi,

    I am glad to see that you are getting some feedback that is helpful. I could offer advice but all of my capes and skins were purchased long ago and they are many. I am not in the current market and so thought to leave this topic to those with a more up to date slant on purchasing.

    I have given one piece of advice to others here in regard to defraying the expense of buying materials so I will put it out here again. I bought all of my dry fly capes from just three shops. Those stores were sort of old school and so was I. They were willing to allow me to use "Lay Away" with the good old 90 day policy for pick up. This enabled me to choose #1 Grade capes and place a 30% down payment on the items. Then as I had the money I would either stop and pay (if I was in the neighborhood) or save it until I was ready to pick up my stuff. I bought over 20 top end capes like this; 2 bamboo fly rods, 1 graphite, and a bunch of CFO reels. Never swiped a credit card and never felt guilty for spending the milk money either.

    If you have any small shops near by (two of mine were 37 & 52 miles away respectively) go see if they will work with you. With competition from the Internet & big box Sporting companies they will probably help you out.

    We were all in a hurry when we were young or new to this game. Being patient has advantages whether you are buying materials or fishing for trout. When buying, patience keeps you out of debt, and when fishing it puts them on your hook.

    Hope that made some sense to you,

    Ard

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

  5. #5

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Have the price of these things gone up lately??? I coudl've sworn I got these tyers grade Keough capes for under 25 bucks each. That was a couple of years ago. I was gonna recommend them as decent, with plenty of trout sized feathers on them for cheap; but they are almost 40 now!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    If there is a place to get them for 25, let me know! I've found stuff here and there on sale, but generally I find prices consistent, within $3-5, in stores and online. I've just come to accept that it's worth paying for good dry hackle rather than watch a fly sink. I've held out buying full capes, but I see it coming. I'd love to save some money.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    If you're lucky and have a local shop, they may split a cape for you. That is what I ended up doing and it saved me a lot. It will probably take you some time to go through the 1/2 capes anyway which will give you an opportunity to determine what and how you really want to tie.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Wow. Thank you all so much. I went to my local shop today and the guy recommended buying the Whiting "100 fly" feathers in a couple sizes. They said you could buy a 14 and tie 16's with it as well and an 18 will also tie 20s. Those sizes cover most of the flies that hatch here and in surrounding states. The guy also said that grizzly was a pretty good all around hackle color and I could get away tying a variety of patterns with grizzly, even if another color was called for. He called himself "lazy" because he ties with grizzly mostly and doesnt worry too much about it. So maybe I'll start off that way and work my way up to some beautiful capes. The next color I'll get is brown in the same sizes. Just FYI, the 100 packs cost $18.00. Once again, thank you all for taking your time to respond to my query. Your knowledge was greatly appreciated.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Heck, in my little experience with tying thus far...it is all expensive but I get more pleasure out of finding that really sweet looking feather or that something at the shop that I hadn't ever tried before. Anyway, good luck!

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Beginner hackle feathers

    Maccadon--

    Tying can be expensive, but you don't have to break the bank.

    For the two different applications, dry flies and bass poppers, you might want to put the $'s towards feathers with good dry fly quality. For dries you'd want stiff barbs of uniform length, flexible stems, and feathers with barbs that correspond to the hook sizes of the dries you'll be tying-- generally 1 1/2x the width of the hook gap. Typical sizes of dries for trout might range 10-20 with mostly sizes 14 and 16's and as you get into tying on smaller hooks adding 18 and 20's. For bass poppers you can get away with less expensive feathers because you'll be relying on the foam or cork popper bodies for flotation, so feathers with softer barbs will be fine, and longer barbs would match up well with the larger hooks you'll be using for bass.

    For dry flies you might want to consider getting something like the Whiting Introductory pack consisting of four 1/2 capes for $60. These are a pretty good deal and comparable to two whole Whiting Pro Grade Capes that would normally go for around $40 each. These are available in many fly shops, but here's an example from Bears Den, a fly shop in MA.

    Whiting Introductory Neck Hackle Pack ! at BEARSDEN.COM

    Whiting also sells 1/2 saddles in an introductory pack, but the advantage of capes is that they will tie a wider range of fly sizes than saddles, typically dries size 10-18 or 10- 20, and will also have a good amount of feathers you can use for buggers or streamer wings. Whiting saddles will typically tie dries strongest in 2 sizes-- (often 14 and 16).

    If you go with an Introductory pack, I would specify these colors when you order: grizzly, medium dun, brown and light ginger--- these will cover you for a wide range of hatches and popular patterns using these colors alone or in combination (Adams = mixed brown and grizzly).

    As you tie and pick through these 1/2 capes you can replace them down the road with full capes or saddles depending on the sizes you end up tying, and your budget.

    For your bass poppers, a decent and inexpensive option, is to buy strung saddle feathers- These are dyed over white feathers and come in a variety of colors. A 1/4 oz of these strung feathers generally goes for around $4, and will give you plenty of feathers to play with for bass flies, and bass size poppers. These feathers generally have long, soft webby barbs for size 2-6 size flies (when wrapped around the shank). These feathers also come in handy if you tie streamer patterns like Lefty's Deceivers and other meaty stuff for freshwater bass and a they have a ton of uses if you tie stuff to chase saltwater fish. Here's an example, again from Bear's Den, but most fly shops will carry this stuff:
    Strung Rooster Saddle Hackle - 5 to 7" ! at BEARSDEN.COM

    If you have a local fly shop they should also be able to give you advice on what would work well for the patterns and sizes you plan on tying. And if you don't have a local shop, consider buying from an online fly shop as opposed to a big box store, with a 1- 800 number that you can call and ask questions before you buy and talk to someone that actually ties flies.
    Mark

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