Hackles for Tarpon flies [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Hackles for Tarpon flies

11-12-2003, 09:54 PM
Looking for advice on what are the best hackles for tying tarpon flies like the cockroach. Neck? Saddle? Hen? Rooster? you tell me. If anyone knows any good brands please tell.

11-13-2003, 08:12 AM
If you're tying specific patterns, the recipe should describe the type of hackle used in the original. Otherwise I would say it depends on the pattern style and which part of the fly (collar, wing, tail etc.).

For the muddy estuaries of Costa Rica, patterns that push a lot of water and kick out a bunch of vibes would call for a good stiff cock neck whereas a clear water palmered worm pattern would have a lot more life tied with a softer hackle.

Saddlles are great for palmering on long shank hooks. I guess hen could have an application also.

Capt. Mel Simpson
11-13-2003, 05:08 PM
I would look for a feather that is wide and long, round tipped, densely webbed, with a sturdy straight stem that is splayed. My preference is the Whiting American Rooster Cape for all my tarpon wings. I also use a soft wide saddle in front of the collar.

Because our tarpon are the giants, my flies are big, about 4" long.


11-13-2003, 06:18 PM
Lefty's Cochroach is done with a grizzly hackle for the tail and squirel for the collar... do a search in the Striper fly archive where there are 30 classic flies... Use the search word "classic".. you will find the cochroach as well as Apte's tarpon fly

Capt. Mel Simpson
11-14-2003, 03:13 PM
There are 2 basic Cockroach patterns, the first was by John Emery, described by Lefty as a "Deceiver Style". The splayed grizzly feathers were attached about 1/2 way up the hook and then a collar of grey squirrel finished with a large black head ending at the ring eye.

The second was tied "Keys Style", by Chico Fernandez. He tied the feathers on just above the barb and had a black bear or brown bucktail collar with a black or brown head and left the hook shank bare.

The "Keys Style" is hard to define because Homer Rhode's flies of the 50's were called that but they looked like Seaducers and may or may not have been splayed?!?!

The Tarpon flies of today are a combination of the above plus different collar materials, eyes, flash, etc,.

Still, when you buy your feathers and start trying to get 3 or 4 long splayed feathers to lay flat against each other on the hook, then you will know why you bought the best you could find!

Books: Saltwater fly patterns- Lefty, Flies for Saltwater - Dick stewart, and Paul Schmookler's book Volume 2.


11-14-2003, 03:17 PM
Yes ..Thanks... I put a Homer Rhodes fly in a series I did on the Classics... Good info on Fernandez.

11-27-2003, 09:09 AM
Generally, stiff neck hackles are used for tarpon flies. This is especially true for the ones that have splayed tails.

There are some that use saddle hackles. One of the noted guides in the Keys uses saddles and makes the fly about 6 inches long and it is his go to fly when all else fails.

I use strung hackles, both neck and saddle except for grizzly. It is very difficult to find a good "Saltwater" grizzly neck anymore but there are some out there that will work.

At one time, Bucky Metz talked to several of us about trying to breed a saltwater bird but that fell through.

From what I have seen, most of the saltwater grizzly necks these days are a spin off of a dry fly neck. Just my opinion.

It is probably too costly to really breed a chicken for saltwater grizzly necks because it would have to be an older bird so theat you get long, wide, stiff and webby hackles.

If I am not mistaken, Stu Apte originally used saddle hackles as did Winston Moore. Both of these tyer's patterns are still very effective today.

The Sea Ducer was originally called "The Hackle Fly" and was used in the Ozarks circa late 1800's to very early 1900's as a bass fly in rivers. Homer Rhodes took that style of fly and came up with his Homer Rhodes Tarpon Streamer.

You can still see the influence of "The Hackle Fly" style of tying on tarpon flies today.

The "Keys Style" of tarpon fly uses the splayed tail and the collar can be just about any material. It seems that palmered hackle was initially used and then other materials followed. Bob Kay told me that he used marabou on some of his tarpon flies becaue it absorbed water faster and had more movement in the water.

The idea or dynamics behind using a splayed tail and full collar on these types of tarpon flies is that it pushes more water causing more of a disturbance that the tarpon key in on.

Just a note on the Stu Apte tarpon flies that use squirrel tail for the collar. When I talked to Stu about his flies, he told me that prior to tying on the collar he wraps a small ball of thread and ties the collar (squirrel tail) DIRECTLY in front of the ball of thread and DOES NOT wrap the thred over the ball. This causes the squirrel tail hairs to flare instead of laying along the hook shank.

11-27-2003, 11:30 AM

Welcome to the forum and thanks for the very informative post.

The website looks great! Lots of contibutions by our very own mayor of Chatham I see;)

Capt. Mel Simpson
11-27-2003, 12:32 PM

I've been using Whiting, American Hackles for the last 4 years and find their grizzly capes (for splayed) and saddles to be of the very quality I need here for the big West Cost fish and flies, wide thick and webby with a strong consistant round stem.

Your comments about where the "Keys" style or Homer Rhode style tarpon flies came from is a real issue with me. Too often so called "Flyfishing Celebrities" grab fame for flies they virtually stole from someone else. And if you look at any publication today you'll see tyers doing the same thing.

And you know alot of very good tyers over the years have not published their flies just because they don't want to be have their name associated with that.


The French guy
02-06-2004, 10:25 AM
I am suggesting you buy the tarpon hackles from Hunters angling supply in New Boston. http://www.huntersangling.com
They have the perfect feather for tying tarpon flies.
They also sell the American rooster SW neck I use. The bronzed grade is generally enough for most of my fly tying.

02-06-2004, 01:52 PM
Bill Keough (Keough Hackle) also markets a cape similar to the Whiting American Hackle capes at about the same price, which he calls Saltwater/Bass Capes. They are not as easy to find as the Whitings capes though. Hugh Spencer (Spencer's Hackle) also sells capes and patches that would be suitable for tarpon flies. Pretty much any cape that will tie large salmon and steelhead flies will work. I would look for any of these three hackle growers capes for salmon/steelhead flies.

Avoid the Chinese hackle capes because the ones on the market are small these because of the bird flu causing so many of the birds to be killed that the ones left are small imature necks.