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  1. #1
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    Default Which Hackles - My Experiences

    There has been some discussion recently on the forum about hackle feathers and types. There are a lot of new fly dressers on the forum. I am by no means an expert but I would like to share a few of my experiences over the short time I have been making my own flies by showing some of the hackles I have bought.

    This is my first purchase



    10 Chinese cock neck capes bought at a bargin price on Ebay from "an ex-supplier to the trade". Initiallly looking like a bargin, especially as these were bought to tie my very first flies. A good mix of colours and patterns.



    Looking at the honey badger cape above, there is a good mixture of sizes of feather. Tiny, tiny ones up to some quite substantial ones.

    But now look at the next picture.




    This is the same badger cape next to a grizzly cape from Chevron hackles. Quite a difference in size. Again you can see there are a whole range of sizes on the chevron cape. The feather are better quality and being so much longer are much easier to use.



    As you would expect they come in a range of colours.

    Next take the Chevron Grizzly and Compare to a half neck Grade 3 silver badger from Metz.



    As can be seen from the picture the feathers are longer again. Short stiff barbs make this great for dry flies.

    Now add in a Whitings farm silver grade half saddle.



    The feather are hugely long on this saddle but all very similar in size. The necks on the other hand have a variety of sizes to suit all occasions.




    Above are the feathers taken from the various necks and the saddle.

    1) is the chinese badger. The feather is triangualr and very short with a stiff stalk. If a substatial hackle is needed I have found that I need to use two feathers from a cape like this.

    2) is the Chevron Grizzly. A nice usable section in the middle of the feather, softish stem, very much easier to use.

    3) the silver badger grade 3 from metz. Again a nice useable feather.

    4) a feather from the Whitings farm silver grade saddle. A huge feather, you'll get more than one fly from this. The stem is soft and supple, very easy to ties with.

    Each of the above feathers was picked out from about the middle of the cape/saddle as an example of a typical feather. I made no attempt to match them in size in any way.

    Now the final test how do they tie.





    Well here they all are tied side by side onto a needle. They are in the same order as they were in the previous picture 1 to 4.

    The chinese feather gives a very soft hackle. The feather is short for the length of the barb. Really this is no good as a dry fly hackle.

    The Chevron has probably got the stiffer bard of all of the feathers. The stem is supple and easy to tie with. Very satisfactory results.

    Likewise the grade 3 neck. A very supple stem, the barbs are not quite so stiff as the chevron but still infinitely better than the chinese neck. The whole finish with this feather is very neat and tidy.

    The Metz saddle produces a very dense hackle. One feather will tie three hackles of this size. Probably the best result out of the four.

    So you pay your money you take your choice.

    I probably use the Chevron Hackles most. I like the finish and stiff barbs for my dry flies. The Metz neck is good, I would like to get my hands on one of the top grade ones to see the difference. The saddle gave the best result of all but will only tie sizes 10 to 16 at best. I like to tie dries in a whole range of sizes down to about 22.

    My chinese necks came at a bargin price from Ebay.

    The chevrons I get from Fly Only - On Line

    The Half neck I picked up at the Chatsworth Angling Fair

    The Whiting Saddle came from Lakeland fly tying

    In my opinion the chinese necks are virtually useless for dry flies. I use them on occasions for the very few wets I tie or for legs on nymphs. The barbs are too long and soft for anything else. I feel I wasted my money on these. As for the other three, a whole Chevron cape is 33, the half neck grade 3 from Metz was 22 and the half whiting saddle 20. I tie a range of sizes so I tend to use the chevrons more than the others. Perhaps one day I will get my hands on a high grade neck cape from Metz or Whiting and do this again.

    In the mean time I look forward to your comments.
    Last edited by Cerberos; 09-07-2006 at 10:55 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    Excellent Cerberos, I 'm sure that will be very helpful to beginners and few more experienced ones as well.
    One point I would add...
    Although genetic capes are more expensive to buy initially, because you have so many "usable" feathers on each cape, they actually work out cheaper in the long run.This is because for every genetic cape you buy, you will need to buy 6-10 Chinese or Indian capes for the same amount of feathers, especially in the smaller sizes. In addition, for the most part you can forget about tying anything smaller than a size 16 on Indian and Chinese capes.
    Finally, beware not all genetic capes are good,unless you can see the cape before you buy stick with the the more well known "names"
    All done

  3. #3
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    Default What about the grading system

    Scotfly you are very obviously far more experienced than I am. Would you mind explaining the various grading systems used.

    Metz seem to grade one, two and three. Grade one being the best.
    I have also seem bronze, silver, gold even platinum on some online suppliers sites. To confuse matters further I have also seen mention of "Pro Grade".

    I would have assumed Pro-grade to be the best though I have read somewhere that these could be top grade capes in less than perfect condition. What has been your experience on these grading systems?

    I am looking for a red game cape for tying up some sedges, what would you recommend?

  4. #4
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    Most of the cape suppliers grade their neck capes 1- 3 Grade 1 being their best, these will have the highest density of hackles on the cape and also the greatest number of smaller hackles, and will have few, if any broken tips.
    It is the same for saddles, but hackle length will also be a consideration.
    The exception is Whiting who use a grading system which goes from Platinum ( the best) through to bronze. Basically they have replaced grades 1 - 3 with Gold, Silver and Bronze and created 2 new grades in Platinum, which are near perfect and Pro- grade which are grade 3, but will contain a few hackles with broken tips.
    For the majority of tyers who will be tying flies in the 10 -16 range the Pro-grade or Bronze grade will be more than adequate, or grade 3 with the others.
    Tyers who tie a lot of flies in sizes 18 - 24 will probably benefit from using Silver or grade 2, or if they are flush Gold or grade 1.
    The Platinum grade is of little interest to most tyers, unless they are flush with money.
    You can find a good article on grading capes here..
    http://www.flyanglersonline.com/begin/101/hackle.html
    All done

  5. #5
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    Default

    i use metz capes most of the time. i always now buy grade 2 as they are cheaper and unless you want to tie alot of no 16 and below, there is no sacrifice. i have grade one capes but do not use them very often. i also tie more with hen capes then cock, for all my flies except dries obviously, as you get alot more movement. your chinese necks look more like indian necks from your pick. decent chinese necks are normally 5 upwards, whereas indians are 1 upwards from bargain bins. some prepacked may pick up 3-4 but mostly in the lower price range. try this link for capes. i have bought over 20 capes from them this year and they provide first class service. all goods have been recieved within a week.

    http://stores.ebay.co.uk/HILLTOP-FLY-TYING-SUPPLY-SHOP

    hope i havent confused anyone

    wullie
    If its' no tied at hame, its no hametied

  6. #6
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    Very clear Cerberos but...

    The Chinese cape is the only one of the set that is marked correctly and is of the best colour for flies like the Double Badger and the Grey Duster. If you can get smaller hackles from the same cape and that have the same markings and colour, then I would choose them in preference to the other.

    Look at the wound Chinese hackle. See the suggested thorax of the dark centre? This and the dark tips are what makes some Grey Dusters more effective than others. Turns of hackle? No less than three nor more than six is my preference depending on size and desired sparseness, so really long hackles are not needed, in fact they are a nuisance because if you don't want to waste them you will find the second tying in to be awkward compared to the first one.

    Now please understand, my flies would never win any prizes in a fly dressing competition but... They catch fish.

    richard

  7. #7
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    Default

    Yes, good posting cerberos.
    Nice to see somone taking a bit of time to present something.
    Tight Lines
    Last edited by Highlander; 10-07-2006 at 08:27 AM.
    "The Future's Bright The Future's Wet Fly"

  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by richardw
    Very clear Cerberos but...

    The Chinese cape is the only one of the set that is marked correctly and is of the best colour for flies like the Double Badger and the Grey Duster. If you can get smaller hackles from the same cape and that have the same markings and colour, then I would choose them in preference to the other.

    Look at the wound Chinese hackle. See the suggested thorax of the dark centre? This and the dark tips are what makes some Grey Dusters more effective than others. Turns of hackle? No less than three nor more than six is my preference depending on size and desired sparseness, so really long hackles are not needed, in fact they are a nuisance because if you don't want to waste them you will find the second tying in to be awkward compared to the first one.

    Now please understand, my flies would never win any prizes in a fly dressing competition but... They catch fish.

    richard
    Richard,

    Thanks for your comments, this is exactly what I am looking for, I have a great deal to learn.

    Can you tell me more about the flies you tie. I fish a small stillwater mainly and the files I tie are the ones that work there. Klinkammers, f-fly, sedges and buzzers are what seems to work best along with the odd lure and nymph.

    The problem I have with the chinese capes is the hackles are so soft they become water logged and will not support my dry flies. Am I right in guessing that being in Bakewell you do more river fishing? I have never fished a river so I can't say how my flies would stand up. Is it possible for you to post a picture of your grey duster?

    What does a correctly marked cape look like. I see what you mean about the chinese cape suggesting a thorax. Does not the third hackle also suggest one?

    I don't have a badger cape from Chevron so I don't know how that would compare. Do you think the Metz and Whiting capes are too light in colour or is it that the dark bar down the middle is too narrow?

    Sorry to come back at you with so many questions when you have been kind enough to respond to my original post.

  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Cerberos
    Richard,

    Thanks for your comments, this is exactly what I am looking for, I have a great deal to learn.

    Can you tell me more about the flies you tie. I fish a small stillwater mainly and the files I tie are the ones that work there. Klinkammers, f-fly, sedges and buzzers are what seems to work best along with the odd lure and nymph.

    The problem I have with the chinese capes is the hackles are so soft they become water logged and will not support my dry flies. Am I right in guessing that being in Bakewell you do more river fishing? I have never fished a river so I can't say how my flies would stand up. Is it possible for you to post a picture of your grey duster?

    What does a correctly marked cape look like. I see what you mean about the chinese cape suggesting a thorax. Does not the third hackle also suggest one?

    I don't have a badger cape from Chevron so I don't know how that would compare. Do you think the Metz and Whiting capes are too light in colour or is it that the dark bar down the middle is too narrow?

    Sorry to come back at you with so many questions when you have been kind enough to respond to my original post.

    A good floatant will keep even a no hackle fly from sinking so don't worry over much about the softness of the Chinese hackles. I do make my tippet/leader float though.

    A "correctly marked" (i.e. "traditionally marked") badger has an ivory colour with a dark list down the centre and dark tips to the edges. Correct colour depends entirely on what you want in your fly. The silver ones and pale ones can be very useful and for lures all colours have their uses.

    Yes the third one from the left also hinted at a thorax, quite well enough to satisfy me anyway...

    I have not been able to find any genetic cape with the ideal colours but have used them all the same. I usually use Indian capes but I bought them donkey's years ago when they were easier to find in good quality. To this day I still search through the bargain boxes and still buy more and more of all and every type (genetics included) if I find the colours i want. Badger is so important for the flies I tie and yet it is still easier to get good Honey Dun capes from the genetic suppliers than to get good badger!

    Ask away as often as you need. On these pages it's everyone's responsibility to try and help anyone with anything to do with fly fishing.

    I will one day take some photos but my flies are not works of Art. Are you coming to the Game Fair? I will tie one up for you on the Haddon Hall stand if you do come over.

    richard

  10. #10
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    Default

    Superb thread guys.

    i too have spent a small fortune on finding the right cape for the job. basically speaking i use whiting pro grade necks or silver grade saddles for klinks and other dries.

    Regarding wets i now use either cheapo indian hen capes or whiting hen capes. the whiting brahma hen cape is a fine natural looking cape in various colours. perfect for spiders. these are for wet flies when i want a soft hackle. i've even taken to using dyed indian hen capes for salmon shrimp flies. can see no reason to bother with chinese capes in this instance.

    i do use chinese capes for palmered flies and wet hoppers etc.

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