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Kschaefer3January 23rd, 2015, 2:20 pm
St. Paul, MN

Posts: 376
I called my local shop and they finally got some dry fly hackle in. Since I am new to tying dries, I don't think I want to spend $60 on a full cape. I am thinking about getting a half cape in two different colors. Unfortunately grizzly was back ordered, so I'm thinking brown and medium or dark dun.

Does anyone tie with Whiting Bronze? Is the quality typically good? I am thinking I want capes as opposed to saddle for the range of sizes. The blog, "Fly Fish Food", did a nice comparison of hackle and they stated that a Whiting Bronze cape has feathers that will tie down to a 26. Obviously every cape is different, but that is the type of versatility I am looking for. Let me know if I'm way off base here.

I know I am looking for nice stiff barbules, even barbule length and barbules that aren't mini propellers (thanks for that one, Kurt!). Is there anything else that is very important when selecting fry fly hackle?

I appreciate any help! Hopefully I'll have some pictures I can post soon after getting it.
WbranchJanuary 23rd, 2015, 5:26 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
"Does anyone tie with Whiting Bronze? Is the quality typically good?"

Kyle, I tie more dries than anything else and in my opinion Whiting bronze is not going to tie to #26 and anyone who is telling you that is not being entirely truthful. I only buy saddles and only Whiting Silver. When Hoffman was still selling hackle I bought #1 and #2 half saddles. I would never, under any circumstances, buy a dry fly neck or saddle sight unseen. Sometimes graders mess up and you can find a lot of #1 feathers on a #2 saddle.

I currently have a Hoffman #1 saddle and a #1 medium blue down that will tie honest #24 dries. Personally I have no interest to tie, of fish, flies smaller than #22 but will go to #24 if pressed. You might want to try those little Metz or Whiting "100 Packs". It is enough saddles to tie about 100 dry flies. They come graded for flies by hook size; #14 - #20. I had one for #14's and it was graded well. I think they cost $20.00.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
BoulderWorkJanuary 23rd, 2015, 6:29 pm
Posts: 29Kschaefer3,

I fully agree with Wbranch in reference to personally inspecting the capes before purchase. Big fan of Metz capes. Make sure that the capes are not dry rotted and keep them stored in a manner to insure that the cape retains moisture.
EntomanJanuary 23rd, 2015, 10:03 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Look into Keough necks in the tier's grade (or similar brands) for conventional work. I have some older Metz necks that are excellent as well only a little thick in the stem on some of them. The Whiting saddle will give you fits by twisting your fine tippets up. They are excellent for parachute work, though.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
MartinlfJanuary 23rd, 2015, 10:38 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2975
Although I am sure Wbranch is right about the advantages of examining capes before you purchase, I've had some luck working with people I trust, and I think that you can ask a shop owner you have dealt with before to carefully select a cape for you and come out OK most of the time, especially if you are buying a Whiting Silver. I would not buy a Whiting Bronze sight unseen, though. I don't know if anyone is still offering Whiting Silver half capes, but I have several of them (dun and black--grizzly seems to be harder to find) that I bought sight unseen, and they have been good enough for me. They will tie down to size 28. They have been preselected at Whiting to have high barb count and flexible stems, two of the things I look for when I hand select a cape. IMHO Metz capes vary more in terms of these two elements, but different folks seem to have differing loyalties and experiences.

Oh, I just saw Kurt's comment on the Keough Capes. That is a good suggestion. I called Keough once years ago and had the breeder send me a Cree tyer's grade that is just beautiful. We had a good conversation and he picked one out for me. I don't know if he'll still do this, but it might be worth a shot. Oh, and the Whiting 100 packs are a good idea, especially if you only have a few sizes that you need.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CatskilljonJanuary 24th, 2015, 12:19 am
Upstate NY

Posts: 160
I have mentioned my main hackle guy before, Charlie Collins in NY. He doesn't have a fancy website and only a handful of shops carry his stuff, but he is a great guy to talk to and has a money back guarantee if for some reason your not satisfied.

His capes come with a saddle, and he actually suggests to most guys to buy the commercial grade capes for the best value. No one is more open and honest than Charlie about hackle, and he offers a really good product that is quite a bit cheaper in price than everyone else.

I could go on and on about his capes, but you get the idea. Just offering up a suggestion.

http://www.collinshacklefarm.com/

Good luck, CJ
TNEALJanuary 24th, 2015, 11:33 am
GRAYLING. MICHIGAN

Posts: 277
Some pretty good advice here. Whenever possible, buy in person; the thought about grading is very applicable. I've had pro grade saddles that produced 1500 flies and higher (allegedly) grades that produce half that.

A word about Collins hackle: if you are tying a full range of sizes, say 20 thru 6, Charlie's product can't be beat. His capes will tie parachutes as large as our hex(#63xl) with no problem. With the combo cape and saddle vended at one price, I regularly get 500 or so flies from #20 to #6 for $30.
CrepuscularJanuary 24th, 2015, 11:55 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Yes good advice. I try and buy my hackles in person, I totally agree with Tim and CJ's opinion on Charlie Collins feathers. Very, very nice. It's hard to argue with those two gentlemen, they tie a better looking fly than I will ever be able to achieve, I'm sure of that. If you want you can just call Charlie up and tell him what you are looking for and if he has it he will get it to you. Really his prices can't be beat, plus you get the cape and the saddle. Not to mention he's a really nice guy. The Whiting capes are nice as well and actually I have more of them than the Collins capes. If anything, the reason to go that direction would be a greater variety of available colors between the Whiting and the Herbert Miner capes the available colors both dyed and natural is pretty extensive.I have had pro grade capes that for the life of me I do not know why they were graded that way. They supplied a huge amount of feathers in a wide range of sizes all the way down to really small stuff.As far as tying small sizes I do not agree with Matt on the lack of the ability to tie a #26 dry fly with a Whiting hackle (but he is probably pickier than I am). I have not had issues with the Whiting or Herbert Miner hackles twisting my tippets, but maybe thats just with the saddles, I don't use them, not enough of a variety of sizes for me. Here is a #26 adult Midge tied on a Daiichi 1110 hook using a dun colored hackle from a Whiting Bronze cape:


Ugh, those macro shots of my flies, just make me depressed...:(

MartinlfJanuary 24th, 2015, 4:13 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2975
Hey Eric, few can even tie a size 26 fly. That one looks like it will catch fish to me. Trout may be much more generous consumers of aesthetics than we sometimes are.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CrepuscularJanuary 25th, 2015, 10:26 am
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Hey Eric, few can even tie a size 26 fly. That one looks like it will catch fish to me.

Thanks Louis! I just hate seeing all those wisps of material coming out the front. Even with my 3x glasses I have a hard time seeing that stuff on those tiny flies.

Trout may be much more generous consumers of aesthetics than we sometimes are.


Thank god!
WbranchJanuary 25th, 2015, 10:34 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
It's funny what you said about how the macro pictures can get you depressed! I recently bought a new Sony camera and just love the quality of pictures it takes and the 20:1 zoom ratio. What I do like is the camera senses when I am moving in close. I do not have to set the camera to a macro mode. It just automatically goes into a macro mode when the lens is within a few inches of the object. It's funny though as I just tied twenty-two #22 Trico duns but when I look at the macro pictures any error is just so blatantly exposed for the world to see.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
WbranchJanuary 25th, 2015, 10:50 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
Kurt why did you say a Hoffman saddle will twist a tippet? I've never had a tippet twist while using a fly tied with a Hoffman saddle as long as the tippet employed was the correct diameter for the fly I'm using. 3x for #6/8, 4x for #10/12/14, 5x for #16, 6x for #18/20, and 7x for #22/24.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
EntomanJanuary 25th, 2015, 11:16 am
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
I didn't know why Matt, just knew it did. Not all the time, but often enough that I abandoned using it long ago on anything but parachutes. It wasn't until I got into macrophotography here that I learned what I believe to be the reason. It's the same reason the barbules are so stiff. Instead of being more rounded in cross section like traditional hackle it's elliptical. Each barbule looks like a broadsword except that it will continue to get thicker towards the base. When wound conventionally it can turn a fly into a little turbo fan. They (the whole feather) also tend to be a little inconsistent along their length, with sections being larger and smaller indiscriminately, often up to a full size. When tying parachutes with them I usually have two sizes of hook out to take advantage of this.

Perhaps the reason you haven't noticed is because you don't fish many conventionally hackled flies.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
WbranchJanuary 25th, 2015, 11:41 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
You are correct. I clip the hackle either into a "V" shape on the bottom or pretty much cut it clean off in the horizontal plane. I have though many times noticed how the barbule length can vary significantly within the length of one saddle feather. It might be an #18 length at the bottom after pulling off the fluff, then get bigger for a few inches in the middle up to a #14 and then back down to a #18. When that happens I either just cut out the odd size barbule section or just throw the feather away.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
EntomanJanuary 25th, 2015, 11:52 am
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Yeah, the problem with cutting the sections out is that they are often not long enough to use later. I'm too cheap to do that so I just have two sizes of hook out. A good example of this was this Fall when I tied some 16 paraleps and 18 Baetis from the same feather. I needed both patterns anyway so what the heck.:)

Btw, come think of it, I do use them for more than parachutes. I really like them for pull down hackling. Their great length makes it much easier to swap hands when winding around the loop. The finished fly looks much like a comparadun only with hackle instead of hair. Excellent for the small stuff where hair isn't usually delicate enough or too speckled and opaque. They float like little corks too because the hackle won't absorb water like hair will eventually. I don't tie a lot of thorax style flies but you are right that that solves the problem as well.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
CrepuscularJanuary 25th, 2015, 12:46 pm
Boiling Springs, PA

Posts: 919
Each barbule looks like a broadsword except that it will continue to get thicker towards the base.


Evolutionary trait from scales? I'd like to see a comparison of the shapes of barbules. Anyone have access to an SEM? :)
EntomanJanuary 25th, 2015, 1:05 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
I guess... All I know is that some of them are so stout that when you flex the hackle they look a lot like the leading edge of a flight feather - more bioty than barbuly.:)
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
WbranchJanuary 25th, 2015, 5:17 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
Kurt,

Yeah, the problem with cutting the sections out is that they are often not long enough to use later. I'm too cheap to do that so I just have two sizes of hook out.


What I'm about to say is pretty cavalier but back in the day when I was working I had a ton of disposable income and I bought at least a dozen full Hoffman saddles in Grizzly, cream, medium dun, bronze, and coachmen brown. I would turn them over and with a razor blade carefully slice them in half and split them with my buddy.

So since I still have a lot of half grade #1 Hoffman saddles and it is unlikely I will run out during my lifetime I just throw the inconsistent barbule section of the feather away.

Since I have so much hackle I was unaware that Hoffman was no longer in the business. Do you know when they stopped selling hackle and why? I saw another comment you made about Metz capes and how the stems can be very thick. Back about forty years ago I bought a dozen Metz dry fly capes. Two each of brown, cream, grizzly, dun, barred cream, and barred ginger. The stems of the barred cream, cream, and barred ginger were always very thick compared to most of my grizzly necks as well as some other colors. They are so thick in fact that sometimes they will crack and split as I palmer the hackle.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
WbranchJanuary 25th, 2015, 5:23 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2611
.As far as tying small sizes I do not agree with Matt on the lack of the ability to tie a #26 dry fly with a Whiting hackle


Did I say that? How dare you disagree with me? LOL It must be the hydrocodone I'm taking to ease the pain of the hernia surgery I had Friday afternoon. It feels like there is a hot knife being plunged, and twisted, in my groin.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
OldredbarnJanuary 25th, 2015, 6:32 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2599
Nice little discussion you started here Kyle!

Louis. For Christmas once years back I just gave my mom Rusty Gates' phone number and told her to tell him what she wanted to spend and its for Spence...No complaints on my end. :) My mom grew up on a farm just outside Oakland Maryland and flipped when she heard what "chicken feathers" were going for"! :)

If you are lucky enough to have a good relationship with someone like that no problems.

I use to stand back in the hackle corner of his shop and dream. He even dipped into some of his stash he was hording for the commercial tiers he had tying for him.

Mr Collins...Last year at Somerset I met him...Sent there by Eric if I remember correctly. Very straight forward and easy to deal with...I bought a couple neck sets...Also a huge grab-bag of softhackle fluff etc he was selling...Before he let me buy it he wanted to make sure I knew what I was buying and I knew what to do with it...Nice guy.

I agree with most but would add that you are just starting to play with dry flies...Buying the small pre sized packets like Matt mentioned probably not a bad idea. You can get a nice variety of colors etc. If you flip and go nuts with this then look into whole necks or saddles.

Google Jim's Fly Shop on the Madison outside West Yellowstone...Check out his "wall of hackle"...I'd still be standing there if I hadn't been smart enough to take someone with me to drag me out.
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
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