Tying in Hackle

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Tying in Hackle

Post by raven4ns » Tue Apr 07, 2015 10:46 am

When you are tying in hackle, do you tie it in by the tip or the butt for soft hackle flies? In the recipes I see they rarely say how the hackle is tied in or does it matter? Thank you.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by Smuggler » Tue Apr 07, 2015 11:16 am

It does matter. Game feathers such as Woodcock, Partridge etc are tied in by the tip. Poultry by the stem.

If the fibers are shorter than the length of the stem tie in by the stem, if vise versa, by the tip.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by Old Hat » Tue Apr 07, 2015 12:10 pm

It does matter as Smuggler says. However, it only matters how YOU want to do it. There is no right or wrong, each tier has their own preference and beliefs why it is the best.

I tie in all my feathers, regardless of what they are from, by the lower stem (butt end) as shown in the Art of Tying the Wet Fly by Leisenring. I was taught by the tip, I much prefer the stem.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by daringduffer » Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:07 pm

I'm a tip man.
This quote from Oliver Edwards means that there are other ways to do it.
Just lash the bloody feather to the hook!
Don't know what rude fellow said that.

Sometimes I do it by the tip, sometimes by the butt. It depends on mood and whims. When I forget to tie in feather 'butt first', I always tie it in by the tip. See - dead easy.

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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by William Anderson » Tue Apr 07, 2015 5:29 pm

Tim, this question comes up every few years and its always interesting. There are some dogmatic types thaliket insist on their preference or cite some historic tiers preference as authority, but as you'll see their are opinions on both and some actual advantages of either, but honestly it might depend on a desired effect or maybe an individual feather might prefer one over the other. In my opinion the best tiers can do it both ways, I don't count myself among them as nearly all my hackles are tied in by the stem same as Carl. It's a weakness in my tying that I would like to remedy and at some point I hope to be as comfortable tying in by the tip. But I'm a ways from that.

Eric (Smuggler) is correct. dd is also correct. :D this topic just highlights my contradictions.

I hope others chime in as there is sound logic to each tiers preference. A couple points that sway me. I like to have the bobbin at the thorax and bring the hackle back to be caught their and wind the thread up through the hackle further securing the hackle ending in front of the hackle and create a small head with no stem or fibers to conceal. A good tier does both beautifully and its little matter.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by PhilA » Tue Apr 07, 2015 7:22 pm

My own view of this centuries old dilemma...

Most feathers used for soft-hackled flies are triangular in shape, some more than others. Feather barbs near the base of the feather are longer than those near the tip. Barbs of the finished fly look best to me when the longer barbs are forward (closer to the eye) than the shorter barbs. The flies just "look right" to me, and the shorter barbs help longer barbs "stand at attention".

Whether to tie in a feather at the tip or at the base, therefore, follows from whether the tyer wraps the feather forward toward the eye or rearward toward the hook bend. Many fly tyers prefer to wrap the feather rearward, catch the stem under thread, reinforce the stem by wrapping thread through the feather toward the eye, and finish just behind the eye. Other fly tyers prefer to wrap forward, tie down the stem just behind the eye, and finish the fly there (without reinforcement).

Both make beautiful flies. If the wrapped hackle is a single turn of feather (as in a sparse narrow collar), then the two methods are pretty much equivalent. If the wrapped hackle is more than a single turn (for example, a thicker collar or hackle palmered through the thorax), then the choice of tying in by tip or base becomes more significant.

By either method, I like to tie in the feather early in the tying process (first material other than thread). It makes for a neater finished head by hiding the tie-in point under parts of the fly covered later with materials.

I probably tie 95% of my soft-hackled flies with method #2.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by jong4029 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 12:23 am

Sometimes I tie tip first and others I tie butt first. Depends on the situation. Like 1 too many nips from the bottle and I keep breaking the tip off and having to start over, then I just turn it around and tie the heavy butt in first and wrap. Hopefully I don't break the dang tip off in the hackle plier. :(
Actually I also like to keep the small end to the hook side and tie in and wrap which ever way is working at the time. Tieing butt forward and then wrapping the thread forward through the hackle seems to also help keep the hackle from getting cut and unravelling. When wrapping the softs, Generally only wrapping maybe 2 wraps I try to get the best part of what ever feather I am using at the time for length and looks. As said there are many different ideas, so take you pick or make up your own.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by raven4ns » Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:26 am

Thank you for your opinions, guys, I appreciate them. I will need to give this further thought as to what I am striving for as far as looks for the fly. Your insight is most appreciated and helpful.
All the best,

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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by kacbo » Wed Apr 08, 2015 3:19 pm

I tie all feathers by the butt, then wind them from eye to hook gap. After some wraps od thread, to trap the surplus feather, thread goes through hackle winding (cross wraping it) and final wraps comes just beihnd hook eye.
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Re: Tying in Hackle

Post by Mataura mayfly » Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:59 pm

Oh.... so many variables!
No 100% correct answer. You decide at the time.
There are a lot of very good answers above, each one has merit and offered by much better tiers than myself...... but.... here goes.

Things to consider:
Thickness/stiffness of feather stem. Length of feather barbs. Design of fly. Preferred method of winding. Delicacy of feather stem. Hook size/fly size and therefore hackle size. Taper of feather barbs. Colouration of feather.
The list can be a lot longer- but that will do for now.
Some feathers (like gamebird and wing coverts) can have quite thick stiff bases to the stem, thus they are easier to tie in by the tip and wrap than tie in by the stem, leads to less bulk at the hackle wraps that can look unbalanced and crowd the eye at the head of the fly if it were tied by the butt end.
Length of the feather barbs really comes into play if you do what I do and buy bags of Partridge body feathers versus actual skins, there are often a LOT of big feathers and not many small. If you tie these in by the butt end you get a long hackle on smaller flies, but tied in by the tip with a single wrap or maybe two wraps for a spider hackle- the individual barbs are a lot shorter. Same with poultry- just not as pronounced. You might get a nice size 16-18 hackle at the tip of a cockerel feather and a 10-12 size at the butt.
Design of the fly. Say you want a thorax wrap flymph, or Stewart spider. A fly with open wraps through the thorax area, well your kind of stuck with tie in point by the butt behind the eye and wrap back so the length of the hackle tapers toward the rear of the fly- or you tie in by the tip at the back of the thorax- either way doing the opposite would just look odd if the hackle barbs became shorter toward the head of the fly.
Method of winding is just if you prefer winding the hackle forward or rearward. Tie your hackle in by the butt at the hook eye and you wind back toward the gape, tie it in by the tip with room to wrap and form a head behind the eye and tie in by the tip.
Some feathers can just be nasty (Snipe, fine Starling) and if you are ham fisted like me...... the tip stems break with little provocation. Often it is easier (for me) to tie in such feathers by the butt end and hackle plier the tips, if you support light hackle pliers well it tends to break less as you wrap than if tied by the tip and wrapped (in MY experience).
Hook/fly size- see feather barb length.
Taper of the feather barbs is kind of more to do with the tie in position on the stem than the butt versus tip, but I use a lot of young rooster hackle rather than hen and they are more dry fly hackle like to look at than hen hackle and less spade like, thus the barbs at the butt end can be of a similar length for a good section of the feather and slow taper to the tip. So it is possible to get several flies hackled from the one feather in one size. Now it is easier (and the feather stem thinner) to step past the taper of the tip, tie in and wrap part way down the feather- catch snip and start again, working toward the thicker stem of the butt. But, you might want a tapered hackle- shorter behind and fuller in the front- so go back to your preferred method of wrapping and decide what way is best.
Colouration of the feather. Often banded feathers are more pronounced in colouration toward the tips- after all on the donor bird these were the sections that were visible and not overlapped by the next feather up. Once again it depends on the effect you are after, but for single or double wraps only, in the likes of a spider pattern, often better colouration is gained by tying in the tip of the feather and forming a sparse hackle.
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