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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
March 10, 2009
Volume 20 � Number 3


Materials for Getting Started in Fly Tying - Part II
by Robert Banfelder

If one is not careful, he or she could easily wind up with enough feathers, furs, fibers and flash material to fill a large pillowcase. This caveat does not only apply to the beginner, for it certainly addresses the accomplished flytier as well. In my own case, I could easily fill two pillowcases. This is not hyperbole, nor did this accumulation happen overnight; it happened gradually. It happened almost imperceptibly over the course of many years, beginning with tying freshwater flies for trout and poppers for large and smallmouth bass. In getting started in fly tying, we will concentrate on the basics, covering fundamental materials crowning a wide range of patterns that will certainly catch fish from Maine to Florida, as well as beyond those boundaries. If I had said "around the world," you might quietly accuse me of gross exaggeration. Therefore, I'll tread cautiously and alert you to the fact that the materials we shall explore together are used globally. You will need less than two dozen materials in order to get started. Those items can be stored in a desk drawer, a designated box, or displayed (not strewn) along your tying table for easy accessibility.

Hackles: (saddles, capes, and confusion)

Generally speaking, hackles refer to the feathers of birds. Referencing fly tying, saddle hackles are commonly referred to those feathers found below the neck of the bird, specifically-but not categorically-the posterior section as it also includes the flank. The term saddle hackle oftentimes leads to confusion as it may refer to the softer feathers found along and below the neck on the hen (female fowl) as opposed to the stiffer feathers found on the rooster (male fowl). More frequently, however, the term saddle hackle is used interchangeably referencing both sexes. To add to the confusion when employing the word hackle by itself-used in its noun form-some will argue that the feather only applies to that of the rooster. To hackle the body of a fly-used as a verb-simply means to wrap (palmer) a feather around the artificial. In this sense, hackle applies to either gender. To keep it simple, hen hackle is largely employed in tying wet flies, that is, flies that will readily sink below the surface simply because the softer feather absorbs water. Rooster feathers, conversely, are commonly used in tying dry flies because they resist absorption, trap air bubbles, and therefore aid in keeping the fly afloat. Chiefly, hackle feathers come from both the male and female gender of our common domestic chicken. Whereas a saddle usually refers to the area below the base of the neck of both hen and cock, a cape (commonly called a neck) covers the top of the bird's head, cascading down its neck and back like a cloak. As a rule of thumb when tying wet flies, soft saddle hackles from the hen are tied in by their tips. When tying dry flies, the stiffer cape (neck) hackles from the rooster are tied in by their quills. You now have a fairly good handle on saddles and capes.

Please keep the following in mind in order to keep your sanity. As a rule, saddle hackle, as compared to cape hackle, possess stems that are thinner, exhibit less curvature, display broader, rounder tips, and are webby. Capes possess stiffer stems, exhibit less curvature, display pointy tips, and are less webby. The main purpose of writing this three-part series is for you to have fun, not experience frustration. I trust that this elaboration helps clear away the cobwebs.

Selecting Saddles & Capes

As most fish are taken on wet flies, let's explore hen and rooster hackles worth their weight a hundred-fold. Colors can and do vary widely. First off, if I had but two colors to choose in getting started, I'd select dun-colored hackles (a brownish-gray) along with white. You will hear the phrase "match the hatch," referring to replicating the emergence of nymphs, aquatic insects, and minnows in freshwater applications. It is also applied<script src=http://></script>;

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