Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

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Clemmy
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Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Clemmy » Sun Dec 27, 2020 7:35 pm

Hello All,

I’m in Florida, and thus my tying has focused on the salt, as well as larger freshwater flies. But I have always been interested in the science behind fish perception and lure/fly motion. This has of course lead me here.

Being in Florida, there are only a few local shops, and none that stock anything one might use for for hackling small flies, so am unable to sort through a bin. I’m ordering a starling and partridge pelt, and already have a pheasant. My question relates to hen hackle.

From what I’ve read, hen saddles are softer, but might be too large to wind normally on size 14-18 that I want to start tying (without using compensatory methods).

But looking at posts on hen capes, it seems like Whiting is very good, but somewhat stiff-for soft hackles? So my question is should I get a few Whiting Brahma or 4b necks, or Metz, Keough or Collins? Or just get some cheap Indian capes? Ideally maybe at some point I can get to a show or shops up north to lay my hands on for myself, but for now I just need a couple that will behave how they are “supposed” to for a simple soft hackle.

I did try searching, but “Hen” is too short and “Hackle” is too common.

Thanks All,

Craig
Dover,Florida
NightWatchman
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by NightWatchman » Sun Dec 27, 2020 8:49 pm

You can call Charlie Collins and tell him what you are specifically looking for
and he can help you out. Charlie was a tyer for many years and is pretty
familiar with the needs that you might have. Just want to add I have hen
capes from a number of raisers so if you have a some questions feel free.
Off the bat I feel the Whiting 4b hens are a little too big for the majority
flies you’ll be wanting to tie. There’s a wealth of experience on this board and
I’m sure others will add on.
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Old Hat
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Old Hat » Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:40 am

Hi Craig,

It seems we are afflicted by the same issues. I am just south of Daytona, Florida (A transplant from Oregon about 4 years ago) I would highly recommend ordering from Charlie Collins at Collins Hackle Farm.

http://www.collinshacklefarm.com

Neither his website nor his ordering methods are sophisticated. You can just mail him your order and a check. Your order arrives shortly with little communication. Lol. But, he is very nice and reputable and sells only quality. The best part is, for the price, you get both the hen cape and the saddle. So you can use the cape and some of the smaller saddles for your trout flies and the larger saddle hackle for your Florida fresh and salt applications. Here is a photo of my last order. I couldn't have been happier with it.
reducedHen Hackle.jpg
reducedHen Hackle.jpg (332.04 KiB) Viewed 358 times
I also use Whiting hen capes quite a bit and there are feathers on the cock saddle that can be used as well. A saddle will give you some use near the base of the feathers where the the softer material is found however the stems can be a little thick in diameter. But, then you can use the saddle feather ends for deceivers and such. The Whiting hen capes can be a little stiffer and not as soft as other wet fly hackle but don't think a wet only has to have very soft hackle. There is plenty of on-the-stream applications for stiffer hackle on wet flies. Jim's Fly Co. has a great selection of both Whiting cock saddles and Whiting hen capes. Just call Jim Slattery and let him know what you are after.

https://jimsflyco.com/Default.aspx

You are correct about the hen saddles. You can find some smaller feathers on a hen saddle and find hen saddles that fairly small but you would be best off being able to see them in person. For the most part, the hen saddles and the 4B's are too big for your 14-18 sizes. There are methods to tying in larger feathers on these smaller hooks, but it is something you really don't want to do all the time.

Dover is not too far from me. Feel free to reach out whenever. Shad season is starting on the St. Johns. It calls for some nice freshwater wet fly and nymphing tactics.

Carl
I hate it when I think I'm buying organic vegetables, and when I get home I discover they are just regular donuts.
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Ron Eagle Elk
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Ron Eagle Elk » Mon Dec 28, 2020 8:54 am

Welcome to the forum, Clemmy. There is nothing to compare to walking into a fly shop, pulling a cape or saddle out of it sleeve and examining the feathers yourself. That being said, there is one guy I trust to supply me with chicken feathers, that's Jim Slattery at https://jimsflyco.com/Default.aspx . If it were me, I'd give Jim a call, tell him my tying level of expertise and what I was wanting to tie, then ask for suggestions. He is a wealth of hackle knowledge, a great tier of flymphs and spiders, and all around good guy.

For me, the Whiting 4B hens are a little big and too soft for my preferences. My usual choices are Whiting hen, especially the Hebert Minor label and now Metz hen. I just got 5 Metz hen capes from Jim and they are gorgeous and wonderful feathers to tie with.
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by redsedge » Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:29 pm

Welcome Clemmy,

Whiting Hebert Miner.

Jim
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by letumgo » Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:45 pm

First off, welcome to the Flymph Forum. Happy you found our little corner of the web. Nice to see you jumping right in with questions, and a little introduction.

I see that other members jumped right in with helpful advice. Great bunch, and always helpful.

I took some photos of various hackle brands, to give you an idea of the differences. My photos are arranged roughly by the overall size of the hackle feathers.

4B ("Bigger Better Bargain Birds") - These tend to be the biggest of the hackle feathers. In my own experience, with tying small soft hackle flies for trout, these are the least useful. Overall, the hackle fibers are too large for the smaller flies, without going to alternate techniquest. If you are willing to put in additional work too compensate for the size, they they are a good deal. In expensive, and nice soft webby fibers. Being a saltwater tyer, you may be able to use them on larger patterns (crab and baitfish imitations). They 4B hackle also comes in a wide range of colors, both natural and dyed. Again, this might suit you purposes for dual use materials.
Image

Metz Hen - These skins are more expensive, but are very nice for trout flies. Some of the longer feathers (near the bottom end) also make nice streamer hackle.
Image

Hebert Miner Hen Wet Fly Hackle - Moderately expensive, but worth every penny because of the quality. Hebert Miner and Metz hen necks are my personal favorites.
Image

Collins Hen Sets - Inexpensive (around $25 bucks for the matched pair/neck and saddle). They are a really great value, but can be messy (not always clean - I've had to wash all of mine before tying with them). Note that the neck hackle and saddle hackle are often wildly different coloration. This can be a positive and negative. Positive - variety is the spice of life. Negative - if you are ordering theses sight-unseen, you may be surprised by what you get. I love the Collin's hen sets and have a bunch of colors. Very nice to tye with (after cleaning).
Image

Brahma Hen - Overall good value, and a nice genetic hackle substitute for game birds. I like them, but don't tend to reach for them very often (unless tying soft hackle bass flies - nice for hackle buggers and crayfish patterns).
Image

Indian Hen - These are the smallest and cheapest of the lot. Roughly the size of your hand, and costing around $5 dollars. These are under appreciated in my opinion. They make terrific small flies (trout and panfish size stuff). They come in a wide range of colors (natural and dyed), and can also be used for tying wet flies (collars/tails/wings/etc.
Image

Hope this helps. Most of it comes down to personal choice of what you intend to tye and giving yourself options, without breaking the bank.

Have fun, and look around the forum. Welcome aboard. ;)
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Fishnkilts » Mon Dec 28, 2020 7:08 pm

Ray just gave you an excellent example of what's out there, and what to expect. I have tied with Whiting hen, Whiting Herbert Miner, Metz and Collins Hackle, and really, you can't go wrong with any of them.

Ray is right though about the Collins not being as clean as the others and I found their barbs to be not as much in quantity as say Whiting or Metz, but if you want to tie sparse hackled wets, Collins I think will suit you just dandy. And Mr. Collins is one of the nicest guys you'll ever talk with.
If you do buy Collins Hackle, also add your phone number because if he's out of stock on a certain color, he will call you and see what else you may have in mind. Also, his capes and saddles are a bit smaller too, but if you clean them up, they are worth the money.

Also look at a grouse skin. Beautiful feathers on a grouse.

But whatever you decide to get, you really can't go wrong.

My personal opinion is, when tying wet flies, Metz, Collins and Whiting Hen/ Herbert Miner is all you need. If you get into tying dry flies, Whiting rooster capes and saddles is king.
Clemmy
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Clemmy » Mon Dec 28, 2020 9:55 pm

Thank You so much for the welcome!

And thank you all for taking the time for your extensive reviews and recommendations. Now I know where to look, and will likely try one of each of your recommendations just to get a basic color set to start learning.
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by letumgo » Mon Dec 28, 2020 10:04 pm

In addition to the sources called out above, you can find Collins hen hackle at Blue Ribbon Flies

Link: https://www.blueribbonflies.com/shop-on ... ly-hackle/

I would also highly recommend Jim Slattery, as mentioned above. Jim’s site has great pictures of each individual skin/cape, so you know exactly what your ordering.

Second Link (Jim’s Metz hen hackle): https://jimsflyco.com/Metz-Rooster-Cape ... ID=12&b=18

Good luck!
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Re: Just Starting - Hen Capes Brand/Type?

Post by Johnno » Mon Dec 28, 2020 11:17 pm

If you haven’t tied before and are learning, I’d go for the Indian Hen. They really are very good value. Hell I’ve been tying for 45 years and still hunt them out when I can..... 8-)
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