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uptrout 03-31-2003 10:54 PM

Wrapping Hackle?
I am new to fly tying and am having some trouble wrapping hackle. I grab the end of the feather with my hackle pliers and start to wrap the shank of the hook. However, the feather frequently breaks right at the point where I grab it with my hackle pliers. Am I doing something wrong? I am not pulling on the feather with an excessive amount of force and no matter how careful I am I seem to break feathers.

Could this be due to the hackle feathers being of poor quality? Could my hackle pliers be causing this by having a sharp edge or grabbing the feather too tight? How can I solve this problem?

John Desjardins 03-31-2003 11:26 PM

Re: Wrapping Hackle?
IMHO it's tools or technique thats causing your problem. If you had brittle feathers you'd breakoff at the tie in point. That can be much more frustrating.

The tools are easy to test. Open up the hackle pliers, take a cotton ball and rub lightly over the faces that touch the feather. If tufts of cotton are pulled off that is your problem. polishing the pliers with 600 grit sand papper or a buffing wheel will cure the problem.

If not then here are a couple of things to try. Grip the feather further from the tip when you apply the pliers. Or hold the feather between your finger tips when winding the hackle and only use the hackle pliers to weight down the hackle when tying it down.

flytyer 04-02-2003 12:01 AM

One of the most common causes of the hackle breaking is putting the hackle pliers on to the feather tip incorrectly. If the hackle pliers are placed at right angles (sideways across the feather), they are prone to bread the feather stem as you wrap the hackle.

The proper was to place the hackle pliers on the feather is with the hackle plier jaws pointing down the feather stem. If you do this, it should fix the problem of hackle feathers breaking as you wrap the hackle.

Norseman 04-02-2003 12:10 AM

Another Twist

Another way of softening the jaws of the hackle pliers that has worked for me over the years is to slip a short section of heat shrink tubing over each side of the jaws. Heat the stuff up and it shrinks to a perfect fit. Shrink tubing can be obtained anywhere electrical supplies are sold. Radio Shack etc etc

If it is the hackle stem that is the cause it is often the hackle is too dry and brittle. Try either soaking the hackle stems in water for a while beofre tying or soaking them in a jar with water and a little hair conditioner. Then lay it flat on a paper towel to dry. When using hair conditioner, pick the one with the least amount of smell, as you don't want a perfumed scent to the fly.

One way of testing what it is that is breaking the hackle is to wrap the hackle by finger only. If it breaks with fingers, it is most likely dry brittle hackles. If the pliers are breaking it and not the fingers I suspect the pliers are to blame and would use the heat shrink tubing to correct the sharp edges of the pliers.

Best regards.....Paul

juro 04-02-2003 04:41 AM

I can tell you don't have a true rotary vise. If so you could hold the feather in your fingers and turn the fly, which is what I do 99% of the time.

One thing not mentioned here among the excellent ideas is the universal hackle plier. It has a uni-joint to allow the jaws to stay aligned with the hackle's 'grain' thus removing axial torsion from the stem and reducing stress, breakage dramatically - not to mention keeping the barbules pointing outward (perpendicularly) from the hook shaft more easily.

With a uni-plier the concern becomes whether it's gripping the feather hard enough, some are a little whimpy in terms of holding power. Buy the kind you can adjust (bend) to increase clamping power if needed.

Since buying the true rotary, I have probably used the universal hackle plier once and it was only for nostalgic reasons. ;)

Your results may vary,

flyfisha1 04-02-2003 06:19 AM

Juro, what model rotary vise do you use? I've been doing quite a bit of dubbing lately, and recognize the advantages that a rotary vise would afford me.

juro 04-02-2003 02:18 PM

I have the renzetti traveler clamp and saltwater pedestal. Although the jaws can't compete with some vises, the rest of the vise is excellent and if you have the cam version the jaw concerns are negated. After countless flies, I re-habed the parts for the original traveller - it cost a couple of bucks and it's as good as new! Sometimes it just pays to ask your local fly shop, they had the whole parts list on hand.

Recently more models have come on line, perhaps a vise consumer report is due...

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