In this article, Wet Fly Hackles Tying Steps, Skip explains how to tie wet fly hackles, demonstrating standard, half-stripped, and reverse-wound methods.
A classic wet fly, the Leadwing Coachman
tied by Skip Morris
Here are three good methods for creating a wet-fly hackle collar, and though each method has its drawbacks, each also offers specific advantages.
The standard approach of wrapping the hackle forward, then binding its tip, is the easiest. And it's probably just fine from the trout's perspective.
Here are the standard wet fly hackles tying steps:
1. When the body and tag and tail of the fly are completed (if there is a tag and tail), bind a hackle by the stripped base of its stem at the front of the body.
The hackle should slant back, over the body. Trim off the butt of the hackle.
2. Advance the thread to just behind the hook's eye. Wind the hackle forward in three or four close turns, secure the tip of the hackle under a few tight
thread-turns, trim the hackle's tip closely.
Now is the usual time to bind on the wings, but as an alternate approach you could also have bound them on before adding the hackle collar.
3. If you want the fibers to sweep back (which most tiers do) just pinch them down hard. This is a hackle collar that was pinched down in
The half-stripped hackle offers a very sparse collar—just right for persnickety trout and a dead-drift or barely manipulated fly. And only one simple step is added to the standard approach.
Here's the half-stripped hackle method for tying wet fly hackles:
1. Winding a half-stripped hackle makes it easy to create a sparse hackle collar that is more realistic than a bushy collar and more likely to
convince finicky trout.
Begin by stripping the fibers from the base of the hackle.
You want to strip the correct side of the hackle completely—the correct side is the one that, after the hackle is bound by its stem at the front of the body, allows you to wind the hackle forward with the natural curve of the remaining fibers sweeping back, and with the striped side of the stem down against the hook.
2. Bind the hackle by its stem at the front of the body, slanting back—the hackle should lie on its stripped side—and complete the process of
making a hackle collar just as described in the first two captions.
Three turns of hackle should do it.
3. Here is the hackle collar made from the half-stripped hackle after it has been pinched down to set the fibers back.
Compare the results in this photograph with the results of the standard approach in photograph number three(step 3 in the standard approach) and you'll see that the half-stripped hackle collar is considerably thinner than the full-hackle collar.
4. I like the half-stripped hackle best with "soft-hackle" flies, fly patterns of a specific styling that includes no tail or wings and a very
soft hackle collar of partridge flank, hen-saddle, or the like.
Here is the Partridge and Orange soft-hackle fly with a half-stripped partridge hackle.
The reverse-wound hackle isn't much more difficult to make than the standard, just a couple of quick extra steps. The big advantages to this method are:
And, here's the last technique...the reverse-wound method of tying wet fly hackles:
1. To make the reverse-wound wet-fly hackle, bind the hackle by its stripped stem up just behind the hook's eye—not at the front of the body as usual.
The hackle should project forward off the eye, not back over the body as in the previous two methods.
Wind the thread back to the front of the body.
2. Trim off the stem. Wind the hackle back to the front of the body in close turns. Wind a turn or two of thread over the tip of the hackle.
3. Continue winding the thread, but now spiral it forward, right through the hackle
to the eye.
Now the stem of the hackle is crossed a few times by tight turns of thread—this really reinforces the hackle and makes it durable.
To complete the hackle, find its tip and trim it out, then pinch back the fibers.
Reverse-wound hackle completed.
In Wet Fly Hackles, Part 1, Skip talks about the debate over the materials
best used for hackles on wet flies.
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Skip has a new literary essay in Big Sky Journal's annual Fly Fishing issue, called "Montana Mayflies" released February 1, 2024. Skip wrote; Carol painted. Here's the link to Big Sky Journal to check it out:
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Skip's literary essayMontana Mayflies in Big Sky Journal's February 2024 Fly Fishing issue...
Top 12 Dry Flies for Trout Streams: How, When, and Where to Fish Them, is now available on Amazon as an ebook...check it out! Click on the links below to go to the information page on Top 12 Dry Flies (the link to Amazon is at the bottom of the page...)
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Tying the Predator