Hackles

A great place to discuss various patterns and tying methods for wingless wet flies, Yorkshire spiders, Flymphs and other patterns tied with soft hackles.

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Hackles

Post by raven4ns » Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:43 pm

Hello,
What hackles do you use for most soft hackle patterns? I have some partridge feathers and a couple of soft hen capes but that is it. While I have a number of dry fly capes/saddles my soft hackle assortment is lacking. Now I do fish a lot of drys and some wets my use and success of soft hackle flies has been limited.
Many of you use feathers that seem to be very pattern specific as opposed to being a generic feather. What would you consider a minimum of different capes to have for most patterns? Thank you.

Tim
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Tim
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Re: Hackles

Post by William Anderson » Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:12 pm

:D this ought to be great! I'll weigh in after a few others have shared their stash.
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Re: Hackles

Post by letumgo » Wed Nov 26, 2014 9:31 pm

My first choices would be:

1) Hungarian Partridge/roughly $25 dollars (without a doubt - the best money I've spent on soft hackle feathers)
2) Starling Skin/roughly $8 dollars (I like the ones with wider spade shaped back feathers. (I'd recommend picking this our in person, at a fly shop, since the quality can vary so much on starling skins).
3) Indian Hen Capes / roughly $6 dollars each (get a few colors / grizzly / brown / dun / furnace / black / ginger / white (roughly in that order)


You can tye a wide range of fishing flies with these skins, without spending a fortune on hackle. However, if you get hooked on soft hackles/wingless wet flies, there are LOTS of other options.

4) Charlie Collins Hen Sets / Roughly $22 which includes the cape and then neck (excellent values). If you can get a honeydun set, buy it!

If you love the historical patterns, you will soon "NEED" a range of game bird wings or full skins (these can be difficult to obtain and can get pricy in a hurry):

English Grouse, Waterhen, Coot, Golden Plover, Snipe, Moorhen, Magpie, Woodcock, Quail, Crow, etc.

Then there are the "unobtainium" varieties that you will only read about in books:

Landrail, Doterrel, etc.
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Re: Hackles

Post by raven4ns » Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:06 pm

Thank you, Ray, for the suggestions. The local fly shop doesn't have the greatest selection of soft hackle capes/saddles so I usually look elsewhere to find what I need. Unfortunately, this precludes me from looking at the saddles myself and necessitates me taking what I get.
Do you often find the Indian capes give you usable feathers for the smaller hooks? I don't tie really small flies any more because I've found the older I get the trout seem to want larger flies....lol. Thank you.
All the best,

Tim
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Re: Hackles

Post by Mataura mayfly » Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:45 am

Tim, if your local store does not stock your wants/needs, you can do a lot worse than having a look here http://jimsflyco.com/
Don't just look at capes, but bags of individual feathers and whole skins.

In NZ it is extremely hard to pop to the local and buy soft hackle wings, capes or skins in most any of the historic pattern varieties. So I improvise. As a few that have been here for some time can verify- I often hunt and gather both fur and feather. I also use a lot of barnyard fowl, hen wings are a very under utilised feather source, as are the capes from juvenile roosters, I use a lot of both- because I can find them easily and cheaply here. But, I also use a lot of Starling because I can "gather" the birds off of our lawn when needed.

Ray makes some great suggestions, but it all depends on what you want to do and how serious you want to get. A bag of Grouse body feathers from Jim might be enough to satisfy your needs for a while, rather than the expense of an entire skin?
Also, what do the trout where you fish have on the menu? Not much point swinging a lot of light coloured flies with light ginger hackles- if they are eating dark naturals. Your tying stock should be dictated more by your quarry's needs than what a book of patterns suggest.

If I were you I would be keeping things simple for a start. Hackles of black, mottled brown and a lighter ginger/red (maybe mottled ginger/red) and some shade of "Dun" will cover a lot of your needs for trout food most anywhere in the world. I believe you do not need to cover the entire prismatic range....... for a start.

Think also of size. Entire skins will let you choose a size to suit the hook, often bags of feathers are all of a larger size than desired (not all bags are like this though!) If buying online, make sure you can discuss with the supplier what you need in regard to size and they should be able to suggest/provide skins to cover your needs. I have read of some online orders of partridge skins that are missing near the entire neck section, which is the feathers you perhaps want the most.

It is heading in to Winter over there right? I would take the time to befriend a game bird hunter..... maybe a waterfowl hunter as well. ;)
"Listen to the sound of the river and you will get a trout".... Irish proverb.
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Re: Hackles

Post by DUBBN » Thu Nov 27, 2014 7:21 am

I started out tying soft hackles with hen cape. For me it is the best all around choice. I use India hen capes, Collins, Whiting hen and Whiting Brahma hen in a variety of colors. The Whiting hen is my favorite as I can tie 2 to 4 flies with one feather, depending on how many wraps I use. At 22.00 per cape, it becomes a very economical source of SH material. Also, I can tie down to size 24's with it. Brown is my favorite color in different shades, followed by Dun, then Grizzly.

India Hen provides me with one feather per fly. At 5 to 6 dollars per cape, it too is very economical. Smaller flies (18 and smaller) can be difficult, but not impossible with India Hen. The great thing to me about India Hen is the wild colors and mottling of the feathers that can be found.

As Jeff stated, barnyard fowl can be a treasure trove of material. If you go that rout, ask him how he preps it. Judging by the material that he provided me, he really knows what he is doing.

I wont say Partridge is a must, as I did well for 30 years not using it. That being said, in the past 5 years I have fallen in love with it.

Bill (tie2fish) has a tutorial on using over sized feathers. It is a great tool to have when using any kind of duck feather for Soft Hackles. It is also a great way to use the over sized feathers on a partridge skin.

TUTORIAL BY BILL SHUCK: http://www.flymphforum.com/viewtopic.ph ... 60&start=0

Charlie Craven also has a great tutorial on his web site, http://www.charliesflyboxinc.com/flybox ... rentID=155

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-dfsN0ZPkc.


Hans Weilenmann has a similar video
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Re: Hackles

Post by tie2fish » Thu Nov 27, 2014 8:21 am

Moderator Note:

Bill - It looks like we were doing the same thing. I had just modified Wayne's post, to include the link to your article. Sorry for the duplication.
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Re: Hackles

Post by raven4ns » Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:04 am

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and suggestions. Because soft hackle flies will always play second fiddle to dry flies I don't want to put a whole lot of money into costly SH capes. I think I will look at adding a few saddles/capes of the inexpensive variety for now. If I find I'm using more SH than I expected then I will add the better quality variety. Thank you again for your help and suggestions.

Tim
All the best,

Tim
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Re: Hackles

Post by Eric Peper » Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:34 pm

Good softhackle capes are one of those things I kinda haunt fly shops for because so often they seem to wind up in "bargain bins" and the like. I've acquired a couple of Metz hen necks this way, and they are among my favorites; one lovely dun and one grizzly. I'm still using ruffed grouse wing covert feathers from birds shot ages ago. Then I filled up on a sidewalk sale at Blue Robbon Flies a few years back with snipe and English woodcock wings as well as a Hungarian partridge skin (after making the mistake of buying bagged feathers a couple of times). A Mearns or Valley (unmarked) Quail skin came from a bargain bin at Mike Lawson's shop ($4.00). I did buy at full price a couple of Whiting hen necks, primarily because they are excellent for dry fly winging as well as softhackles. Ray mentioned the Charlie Collins hen sets, and they are beyond wonderful -- simply perfect. I'm still using some hen necks acquired I-know-not-where some 25 or more years ago -- amazing they avoided bugs this long.:-)

We won't even get into the dryfly hackle feathers . . . ! And I don't even tie that much.:-)

Eric
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Re: Hackles

Post by letumgo » Thu Nov 27, 2014 1:08 pm

Eric - Bill has a knack for finding bargains like that too. He showed me a couple hen necks he found in bargin bins and they are gorgeous. I got lucky a few years ago and bought a three Whiting hen necks on eBay.
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