| VIDEO | RECIPES
EQUIPMENT | HOOKS | MATERIALS
FEATHERS | HACKLE | HAIR & FUR
PHOTOS | CONTACT | LINKS
Fly Tying Hackle Feathers can be a complex and complete subject in themselves. Hackle feathers are used on a fly to create movement or when a bug like hair appearance is desired. They can be used to imitate legs, wings, ect... The life like motion of hackle feathers when in the water is hard to duplicate with synthetic fibers. Most hackle feathers sold at the local fly tying shop are from chickens. Some of the major brands of fly tying hackle include Whiting Farms, Hoffman, Metz, Keough, Hebert and Spencer's each with their own generics and unique characteristics. Most of the confusion concerning hackle feathers can be attributed to the wide array of generic characteristics.
The difference between capes and saddles is
the area it was harvested from the bird. Cape
hackle is also
referred to as neck hackle and are the same, just different terms used
in the fly tying world. Fly tying capes are from the neck of the bird and
saddle hackles are from the back and rump area. Think of
the saddle on a horse and bird saddles are in the same area.
Feathers are just feathers and by some definitions hackle is the actual process of wrapping a feather around the shank of a hook so the barbs splay out. A hackle that is tied in towards the rear of the hook and wrapped forward with evenly spaced turns is called a palmered hackle. Dry fly hackle would most often be tied on the front section of the fly using closely spaced wraps. Wet fly hackle is generally defined as hackle that has been tied near the eye of the hook and swept back. There are several methods and applications to hackle a fly and with terms that can be interchanged will prove confusing, especially to the beginner fly tyer, but getting started is not all that difficult and the salesman at your local fly shop will be happy to point you in the right direction depending on what style and type of fly you are constructing. On this page we are not as concerned with the actual definition of what hackle is, but trying to sort through the different kinds of hackle feathers with descriptions, characteristics and most common uses.
difference between hackle feathers and
other feathers on a bird, would be the circumference of the stem and
the ability to easily manipulate it around the shank of a hook when
tying a fly. Most birds should have a decent selection of feathers that
can be used for hackle, but chickens raised for fly tying purposes have
been specifically breed for the length and characteristics of the
feathers are graded on a system based
on the quality as determined by a loose set of terms set by individual
producers. Factors should include length, range of sizes, quantity and
condition of the feathers. The color and pattern definitions would also
be calculated in the equation when grading a fly tying cape or saddle.
Most commercially available fly tying hackles are good quality due to
selective breeding, but a basic inspection of the skin and feathers
should be preformed and depending on the intended application will
determine your selection.
ROOSTER AND HEN HACKLE
Chickens have a wide range of natural colors and patterns between the generic lineages. The feathers can be dyed a wide range of colors to provide an even greater selection of possibilities when designing fly patterns or matching insect hatches.
The hackle feathers on the
rooster cape and saddle have pointed tips as compared to hen feathers
which are more rounded.
Pro Grade Dry Fly Hackle Rooster Grizzly
Saddle Hackle. Grizzly hackles are named
for the black bar pattern. The longest feathers
on this saddle are 12 inches in length and can
be used to construct several small dry flies.
Top grade hackle will have a higher barb
count per inch and you can achieve the
desired effect using less wraps.
ROOSTER SADDLE HACKLE
When thinking about hackle feathers, the first thing coming to mind might be those long feathers from a premium grade rooster saddle, but there can be wide spectrum of generic characteristics.
The barbs on premium rooster saddle hackle are more uniform in length than the neck feathers and can be limited to a very narrow range of hook sizes. Premium saddles will usually list recommended hook sizes on the label.
1. Premium Grade Saddle Hackle
2. Strung Saddle Hackle Feather
As you can see in the above image, there can be wide variations between saddle feathers and trying to define saddle feathers with an exact definition would not apply between the different generic lineages. The lower grade saddle feather could be confused with feathers from a cape and again it all comes down to the generics. Both rooster saddle feathers in the above image would have a use when fly tying. The premium saddle feather would most often be used when tying small dry flies, while the lower grade saddle feather could be used for streamer wings or other wet fly applications. Depending on the length of the barbs, can be used for a beard or throat on a steelhead fly as another example.
Top quality rooster saddles can cost a small fortune, but if you tie a lot of flies they can prove to be more cost effective with longer stems and uniform barb size throughout the feather, allowing the construction more flies. The barb count will be higher than feathers on lower grade capes and saddles, thus achieving the same results while using less wraps of the feather. Premium hackles are generally easier to manipulate when tying them on the hook and just by default your flies will look better.
Not all chickens are breed for the purpose of fly tying, but the rooster will always have longer hackle feathers than the hen.
HEN CAPE HACKLE FEATHERS
HEN SADDLE HACKLE FEATHERS
Dyed Yellow Hen Saddle Hackle Feather
with rounded tips and longer barbs than
When using a hen saddle hackle feather you would strip away all the downy barbs located towards the bottom half of the feather. Usually the mid-section of the feather is best suited for hackle purposes and less likely to clump together than the barbs toward the tip.
We tried to make an order for some black laced hen saddle hackle the other day and were informed that they are being phased out, but this is not verified information.
hackle feathers are almost
exclusively from domestically raised birds that have been selectively
bred for their color and characteristics. The fly tyers from fifty
years ago would be amazed at the hackle available today. In another
fifty years with science and DNA manipulation there could be some
interesting feathers or 3D printers that make perfect flies with the push of a button.
SPEY FLY HACKLE FEATHERS
The saddle is cut from the back of the bird.
The top cut of saddle is wider across and
cut in a straighter line than neck capes.
An easy way to distinguish the difference between capes and saddles is by looking at the top cut mark. Looking at a complete cape, you will notice the cut on the top will be a neck shape, while the saddle has a long straight cut.
STREAMER FLY WINGS
Hackle feathers are often used for streamer fly wings. Rooster saddle hackle feathers are most often used for streamer wings because they maintain certain flexibility of the stem and the angle of the barbs will help keep the intended profile when wet. Besides rooster feathers, there a several different spieces of birds the produce feathers suited for streamer flies.
HISTORIC FLY TYING BOOKS
If you have read this article and are still confused, like mentioned at the beginning of the article, fly tying hackle is a complete subject by itself. There are many varieties of chickens and generic lines, plus the fact that interchangeable terms can be used to describe the same thing, will prove daunting to the beginner fly tyer. We are starting to post more articles that concentrate on individual types and variations of hackle feathers with detailed descriptions and photos. Will also be covering hackle feathers from other species of birds including, guinea fowl, peacock neck feathers, ect...
"Strung" is the process of somebody physically sorting the feathers by
length and sewing the base of the quills together.
While chickens have been selectively breed for hackle
feathers, most birds will have feathers that can be used as hackle.
Commercially available bird skins and feathers bought in a fly tying shop will be clean and have uniform color when dyed. If acquiring bird skins and feathers from other sources then precautions should to be taken to avoid insects or other pests that could infest your fly tying supplies.
Fly tying equipment and materials
reference guide. Learn how to tie
flies for fishing and display.
FLY TYING HACKLE FEATHERS