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Dry fly saddle hackles

2012/12/9 15:03
From Lewistown, PA
Posts: 532
I recently decided to splurge on a couple of dry fly hackles. I was initially going to buy capes like I've done before, but decided I'd buy a couple saddles and see how I liked them. Turns out there's now way I'm ever buying dry fly capes again! Well, unless I need to tie really tiny flies.

I bought 2 whiting pro grade saddle hackles in ginger and natural dun, and they're awesome! The feather sizes are surprisingly diverse, at least on the ginger hackle I got - I found plenty of 14's and 16's but also a surprisingly large number of 18's, and even a few 20'. Not many 12's, but I don't tie size 12 dry flies that often anyway.

What I really liked about them was that I could tie a bunch of flies with a single feather. That way, instead of finding a feather that's the right size every time I put another hook in the vice, I was able to crank out half a dozen elk hair caddis from the same feather. Plus there's only one tip section to throw away from all those flies, so I feel like I wasted a lot less material than I do when tying with a cape.

I wish I had bought some sooner.

EHC from a single feather:
Resized Image

Posted on: 2014/1/25 16:36

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2013/3/14 7:13
From Norwich, CT
Posts: 294
there is nothing better than tying with high quality hackles

Posted on: 2014/1/26 5:34
Fly tyers can be masters at making things complicated!

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2011/9/24 16:37
From Clearfield
Posts: 189
I definitely agree.....while I haven't bought a full saddle I have been stocking up on whiting 100 packs....I only use hackle on dries between 12-16 so i have no use for the rest of the feathers on the half cape I bought 2 years ago. (I don't tie buggers, use hackle for tailing, or any streamers that could possible use hackle feather)

Posted on: 2014/1/26 8:46

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2013/1/15 12:02
From Pipersville Pa.
Posts: 951
Good quality hackles make the day in my opinion. Nice ties. I really like those fluttering caddis types. I did some yesterday and used cdc for the wing. But yours look like they will skitter very nicely.


Posted on: 2014/1/26 8:54
I can make you feel. But I can't make you think.

Ian Anderson, Thick as a brick.

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2012/1/13 15:28
From Ferguson Twp.
Posts: 2845
Very nice ties Jeremy, You're going to have a good time with them.
Personally I like saddles better as well.

Posted on: 2014/1/26 11:51
There is a need to fish, to be in the water. It soothes the soul...

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2012/12/9 15:03
From Lewistown, PA
Posts: 532

GenCon wrote:
Good quality hackles make the day in my opinion. Nice ties. I really like those fluttering caddis types. I did some yesterday and used cdc for the wing. But yours look like they will skitter very nicely.


Skittering caddis... I didn't exactly know the name for this pattern when I was tying it... I was just thinking that I had seen some elk hair caddis tied this way instead of having the hackle wrap the whole way down the body, and kind of liked the way it looked. I'm glad to know that there's a name for it.

Posted on: 2014/1/26 12:08

Re: Dry fly saddle hackles

2009/5/26 8:36
From York & Starlight, PA
Posts: 653
I agree that for 100% of my dry fly tying saddles are the best way to go. I wrote this post on another forum to a guy who wanted to start tying dries;

"Seriously tying good dry flies is not a black art you just need to know the skills needed to properly handle the materials and how to apply them to the hook in a proportioned manner.

If you decide you want to tie hackled dry flies I would recommend you save some money and buy high quality (Whiting, Metz, Collins) dry fly hackle. IMO you just can't go wrong in only buying high end saddles. Forget neck capes as they just don't have the numbers of hackles in sizes #12 - #20 to make the purchase price worthwhile. There are mixed sizes from very small to humougously big but just not many of them. A good saddle on the other hand has individual feathers that are at least 4" long and may be as long as 8" and not only is the stem very fine and consistent in diameter but the individual hackle barbules from the tip to the butt are pretty much the same size. I can usually tie 4 - 6 #14 flies from a single feather and as many as 6 - 8 flies from the smaller #16 - #20 size feathers.

A couple of #1 grade saddles will last you years. You know from our exchanged emails that I fish dries most of the time and I tie over a hundred dries every year. Yet I've still got the same saddles that I bought fifteen years ago. The colors I think everyone should have are grizzly, med & dark dun, cream, ginger, and brown. I guess in todays money that is going to cost you about $500 maybe a little less. Or you can buy half saddles as I have done many times and spend $250.00 It is very important to know what you are looking for in high end necks and it has been written about a great deal.

I look for small diameter stems that are pretty consistent in size from the tip to the butt. I also like to see stems that are supple and when you bend them into a hoop they don't break. It is pretty much impossible not to see some webbiness down where you pluck the feather off of the skin (actually it is better to cut it with your scissors at the butt so you don't tear the cured skin) but once you go up the same about 1/2" the barbules should be nice and stiff and not webby. I don't know how other guys judge for barbule stiffness but I still bend the feather between my thumb and index finger and place the fibers against my lips. Stiff fibers will actually feel sharp and unbending. I like those, fibers that I can feel deflecting against my lip with just a little pressure go back on the rack.

If you are tying conventional fully hackled flies I might palmer 4 - 5 turns of hackle. I don't tie any "Catskill style" flies and 95% of my hackled dries are Marinaro Thorax style where I set the wings back more from the normal eye position of a fully hackled fly and I clip the hackle fibers on the bottom to a "V" shape so the fly sets up better and closer to the surface. On those flies, in sizes #14 - #16 I will use three to maybe 3 1/2 turns of hackle. On flies #18 - #20 two - three turns is plenty."

Posted on: 2014/1/26 16:01
Fly fisher for fifty years.

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