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M. saxatilis 03-09-2005 12:21 PM

Saltwater saddle hackle
Fellow fly folk,

I am relatively new to fly tying and my question(s) are regarding saddle hackle for use in tying saltwater flies.

When I tie using saddle hackles I usually end up searching through the bundle of tied material in search of a few feathers that are not too damaged. However, I find it is like peeling Brussels sprouts trying to get to their core. There are none!

My question(s): Do tiers use hackles in less than perfect condition? That is, is it ok to use a few hackles with a few barbs missing their tips? What about a crimped rachis (quill portion)? How will these imperfections impede the natural fluid motion of my fly in the the water? If I am tying a fly with several hackles (i.e. Popovics Full dress pop lip or Semper Fleye) does this really matter?

If the answer to these questions fall under the “...individual preference of the fly tier” category as my local fly shop owner likes to say, I fear I will be lost on the ebb and flow of my meticulousness and confusion forever.


Adrian 03-09-2005 01:28 PM

For full dressed patterns I wouldn't worry too much - although the fish is the final arbiter in any debate over pattern quality :wink:

Some patterns - flatwings in particular - need a finer quality hackle stem in order to get the feathers to stack level and swim correctly. For regular deceiver style patterns the odd missing tip isn't going to make much difference. The first couple of fish will make it look pretty ragged. In most cases, the more "beat up" the fly gets, the more effective it gets. :smokin:

If you have feathers that are twisted or kinked try holding them (use pliers or tongs etc.) over a steaming kettle for a couple of minutes. Hot steam will sometimes bring them back to shape. Then lie them flat on a paper towel until dry.

Are you using a cape or strung saddle? The strung stuff seems to be cheaper but once you know what you want, you are much better of buying saddle hackle capes. Keep an eye out in your local fly shops - you'll see the odd bargain now and again. I've picked up some really good stuff for < $20 that was grade "D" or "not good enough" for trout patterns. A cape will give you a lot of material with a big range of sizes. Also, they last years soyou save money in the long run.

Hope this helps a bit - good luck!

Dble Haul 03-09-2005 02:30 PM

I have to ditto what Adrian has said. Unless I'm tying flatwings, I usually don't fuss too much about hackle imperfections.

M. saxatilis 03-09-2005 04:31 PM

Thanks Adrian,

What was I thinking that my fly wasn't going to get beat up? I like the optimism!!

By the way I am using strung saddle and have applied the steam trick to some ostrich hurl. Works great.

When this newbie gets a few tied up I'd like to post em for critique but I guess the fish are the best critics of all.

Adrian 03-09-2005 04:57 PM

Looking forward to seeing them. :smokin:

Whereabouts in Joizey do you fish?

M. saxatilis 03-14-2005 09:34 PM


I have fished the surf in Monmouth / Ocean Counties with spinning gear and artificials for the past 14 years. Right now I am looking for some new spice to add to my ever-increasing arsenal of tactics.

I am looking foward to hunting the southern shores of the Raritan Bay and throughout the Sedge Island of area of Island Beach State Park with the fly rod though. It is unfortunate that I only have the fall run to look foward to as my seasonal work beckons elsewhere.

Capt. Mel Simpson 03-16-2005 06:48 PM

M. sax,

A little late in responding...almost a week, but this is how I see it:

The prey is well worth the best you can offer them,

It is so much easier to tie with really good feathers,

There are available, for a reasonable cost, very good quality feathers,

And you can be proud of your flies!


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