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Here we have Dick Taluer at the bench in Denver. Dick, besides being one of the finest tyers in fly tying, has the incredable ability of putting into words what he is doing at the vise. His volumes of books and articles have made many of us better tyers.

However, no one can claim to be the best at everything. Each of us has something in fly tying that we are well practiced at. Maybe you've developed a technique that's unique. Or what make this feather better than that one for tying a certain fly.

How about putting pen to paper and sharing it. Nothing fancy, dosent have to be long, just jot down your ideas and I'll send you some feathers for your trouble!

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Tying with Soft-Hackle

25 Years of Insight

by Rich Osthoff, Author of Active Nymphing
For more on tying and fishing soft-hackle flies go to www.richosthoff.com

Palmering with Soft-Hackle

I began tying Soft-Hackle Woolly Buggers and Woolly Worms more than 25 years ago as the first genetic hen necks and saddles hit the market. For the first time I had soft, webby hen hackle with sufficient feather length to palmer several turns around a chunky body. Soon I was tying and fishing super-buggy Woollies loaded with great prospecting attributes.

As a commercial tier, I’ve worked with hen necks from all leading breeders, and Whiting feathers are the longest—that means more turns around the body and a buggier, more densely hackled fly. Whiting hen necks also have exceptionally short hackle barbs relative to feather length, making them a great buy. I burn up a lot of size 12 to 16 Soft-Hackle in my commercial tying, and I can use the center two-thirds of a Whiting neck for palmering size 12 to 16 Woolly Worms and Mini-Buggers. Hen necks from other breeders yield few hackles for these sizes; their hackle is mostly larger. I do tie many sizable Buggers, but buying hen saddles, not hen necks, is the economical way to buy high-quality soft hackle in larger sizes.

Tips for Tying Soft-Hackle Woollies:

- I tail my Worm with a short tuft of rabbit hair from a rabbit hide or zonker strip.
- I tail my Bugger with the tip of a marabou blood quill and a few strands of flash.
- I palmer each Woolly with 2 hen hackles, so I dub and hackle the body in 2 stages.
- I dub a forward tapered body using 2/3 rabbit blended with 1/3 chopped Antron.
- I tie in hackles by tips, with top of feather facing the hook eye, and I palmer forward.
- I rake finished fly from head to tail with a nylon brush to marry hackle with teased dubbing.

NOTE: the Worm (a wet fly/nymph) has shorter hackle than the Bugger (a streamer). SEE PHOTOS; they demonstrate desired hackle size and shape for Worms and Buggers.

Palmering Guide for Soft-Hackle Woolly Worm
Wind a neck hackle over rear 1/3 of body.
Wind a neck hackle over front 2/3 of body.

Palmering Guide for Soft-Hackle Woolly Bugger
Wind a neck hackle over rear 2/3 of body.
Wind a saddle hackle over front 1/3 of body.

About Saddles: I prefer saddle hackle for the front of my Buggers; it’s super soft and webby and adds spey-like action. But even a long hen saddle feather palmers only 3 or 4 turns around a dubbed thorax, so I shoot to cover just the front 1/3 of a Bugger with a saddle hackle.

Soft-Hackle Buying Guide for Palmering

Necks: Whiting hen necks have exceptionally long feathers for hackling Worms and the rear 2/3 of Buggers. The feather count in the size 12 to 16 range is the best in the business.
Saddles: Whiting hen saddles provide soft, webby, and less expensive hackle for palmering the front 1/3 of Buggers. A typical saddle has hackle for Buggers ranging from size 2 to size 14.

Favorite Woolly Worm Sizes and Color Schemes
I tie and fish Worms mostly in sizes 12 and 16.
*Black Body/Grizzly Hackle/ Black Tail is my personal favorite.
*Black Body/Black Hackle/Orange Tail is another strong color scheme.
*Olive-dyed-Grizzly, Brown, Dun, and Cream are all useful neck colors.

Favorite Woolly Bugger Sizes and Color Schemes
I tie Buggers in sizes 4 to 14. I primarily fish sizes 6, 8, and 12. A Size 12 Mini-Bugger is my standard for spooky, clear-water trout. In dirty water, I jump to size 8. For big-river trout and smallmouth bass, I like size 6. I often add a brass conehead for more flash and a fast vertical drop.
*Black Body/Black Hackle/Black Tail with Silver Flash is my choice for dirty water.
*An all-white or cream Bugger with flash in the tail is a great baitfish imitation.
*Tan and brown saddles with dark mottling make great Buggers.
*My popular Bi-Bugger has a multi-tone Crayfish/Sculpin color scheme. Tail is black marabou over olive marabou with gold flash. Abdomen is olive dubbing with grizzly hackle. Thorax is black dubbing with black hackle.
NOTE: Since I dub and hackle in two stages, it’s simple to switch color schemes at the midpoint of the fly. You can easily create multi-tone Buggers in a range of colors.

Other Soft-Hackle Options for Palmering
Schlappen: Examine any rooster saddle; the long, webby hackle at the butt-end is Schlappen. It’s unsuitable for dry-fly use, but great for palmering Woollies. A single Schlappen feather is long enough to densely hackle an entire Woolly. Whiting cock saddles often have some Schlappen suitable for hackling Woollies in size 12 and smaller. Most other Schlappen is suitable for size 8 and larger. Schlappen can be purchased strung, in dyed and natural colors; the bulk of this material is best suited to large Buggers.
Rooster Breast, especially from Whiting, can be excellent Soft-Hackle. Whiting markets Chickabou patches from the undersides of roosters. For palmering, the useful feathers are not the small marabou-like plumes located at the rump end of the patch, but the attached breast feathers. They’re virtually interchangeable with hen saddle and have stronger stems.

Soft-Hackle for Collaring
-You don’t need long stems for collaring. Hackle color, mottling, softness, and barb length are more critical considerations.
-I collar steelhead and salmon flies with hen saddle. The soft, webby hackle moves wonderfully, and stem bulk is minimal.
-Hen necks provide excellent hackle for collaring even the smallest trout flies.

Soft-Hackle for Matuka Wings
Hen neck feathers make gorgeous Matuka Wings.

Soft-Hackle for Legging Nymphs
You can add inherent movement to any nymph pattern by palmering hen neck hackle over the thorax. Nymphs can be hackled in the round, or hackle can be trimmed or collapsed under a wing case to project from just the underside of the nymph.

Tying Perfect Wings on Your Dry Flies

by Dennis Potter
Whiting Farms Pro Team


Winger Feathers

Last year Dave Roberts introduced me to Winger Feathers; little skin patches that had a good number of feathers that are great for tying feather wings like on the venerable Adams. I tried them and loved them. Each feather is well rounded and wide, offering a wonderful wing outline.

Mounting the “wings” has always been the stumbling block in producing the perfect Adams type fly. Here are some tips to get you over the hump.

Typically, the tier matches a pair of feathers with similar structure, color and width. The excess barbules are stripped off the rachis (stem) to the exact length of the wing. DO NOT STRIP ALL THE BARBULES OFF THE RACHIS . When you do that, you end up trying to tie two, mostly round stems, side by side on a perfectly round hook. It is very difficult and usually frustrating. When mounted this way, as the thread tightens to set the wings, the thread torque (friction) locks the inboard feather in place but rolls the outboard wing out of position. When the feathers are pulled back and up, and a little mound of thread is wrapped front of the feathers, invariably the outboard feather is canted off at an angle, sometimes severe. It is almost impossible to correct.

Instead, strip off 1/2 of the excess barbules if it is easier to handle the feathers.
With the thread hanging in wing position, hold the feathers with the rachis parallel to the hook shank. Lower the feathers to the hook so the stems are very close to the hook shank. YOU ARE TYING IN THE EXCESS BARBULES.

Instead of securing the feather with a “pinch loop” pulling down, start a pinch loop, take up some of the slack and form a second “pinch loop” going up. PULL UP to secure the wings in place. That maneuver gets rid of the tread torque on the outside rachis and locks both wings in place without twisting. AFTER THE SECOND “PINCH LOOP” ALL WRAPS TO THE SECURE THE WINGS ON THE HOOK MUST GO TOWARD THE REAR OF THE FLY.

Remove the feathers behind the thread. Next, bring the thread back to the base of the wings. Holding the tips of the wings, pull them up and back over the shank of the fly. The excess barbules that you tied in will spring forward. Carefully, using the fine tips of your scissors, trim those barbules back, behind the hook eye. It now takes only a few wraps of thread to stand the wings upright. Carefully divided the wings and take a few gentle wraps in between the stems. You should have perfectly set wings.

Tie 10 or 12 sets of these wings and you will get them perfect every time.

Yippee Tie One On!

Dennis Potter
Whiting Farms Pro Team
Pathological Tiers, Founder


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The Black Spey



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The finished fly!