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DarrellP

winged wet hackle

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I was looking at a fairly modern British fly tying manual, and almost all of the winged wets called for cock hackle. I thought wets were usually tied with hen. Was this a softer rooster hackle than dry fly hackle, or a India hackle, or regular dry hackle? I sort of assumed that maybe this was taken from recipes from back before the genetic hackle like Hoffman or Whiting were developed, and the hackles were softer. Anybody know? BTW, all of the wingless wets in the book called for Plover, Starling, Grouse, Woodcock or Snipe, consistent with other sources.

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I tie a bunch of winged wets with hackle from some whiting rooster capes. Don't know how traditional it is but they work. Takes a couple strips to get them below the surface but once they're down they do the job.

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DarrellP I believe the hackles for those flies came from young immature roosters under a year old

which were called cockerals . The hackle barbs were found to be more pliant on the young roosters .

Pretty hard to find a source for those capes these days.

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I don't how modern the book was, but 50 years ago there was not so much difference in rooster feathers and hen feathers as there are in Whiting's birds. My barn yard cocks still are wet fly quality. Best I recall, about 2/3 of an Indian cape were useless on dry flies. Fibers often to long for trout size hooks on even short stemmed feathers. I still have major name (early genetic) grizzly cape that is maybe 1/3-1/2 wet fly quality and when I bought it it was #1. Long fibers stiffer than hen but not nearly as stiff as modern feathers.

The question that comes to me though, were those collars or beards? I haven't tied winged flies since the mid '80s, and I probably should.

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Most are tied as beards. Some are palmered. I have some old India rooster necks and some India Hen necks that I have been using, more or less based on color. I mostly use them for Bream, who are forgiving. I will try them on Trout when I visit my daughter in Oregon.

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Probably have to keep in mind that hackles of today are very much genetically modified. Selective breeding over the years has changed stiffness, web, color, and length.

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fwiw, I agree with Skip, mostly, especially as a collar; but I don't recall me tying collared wets with wings, which is why I asked. As I said, it's been a while, but, when I started tying almost all the flies I used were in the winged wet category and all that I recall using were tied as wing and beard. I recall plamered patterns, don't recall using them much.

Beard style tying, imo, allows the use of inferior feathers, the stem is of consequence only if it is wound; and, the length of the flues/barbs used is adjustable in a beard or as a wing. In my ordinary roosters two common things, the stem/rachis is larger and stiffer than in genetic roosters and the flues/barbs are much longer for a given feather length than on genetic birds- meaning there aren't many that can be wound on a smaller hook- but they are mostly web free and the flues are fairly stiff. They would work well as beards or wet wings or in winged streamers. My hens not only have softer flues but also have smaller stems, thus are better than cocks for a collar, if web free. I don't recall any of the patterns I used calling for hen, but I learned that the old men in that area tied almost exclusively with hen necks. India hen necks, or, I guess game hen. The bait shop got them in huge barrel sized boxes and the colors were random.

I think much of the style of "classic" wets was related to materials handily available- meaning hooks, and threads as well as feathers. Most households a hundred years ago had geese and chickens, most also had hunters to provide the real soft game bird feathers. Not only have we intentionally evolved birds specifically for tying, we have through the internet made access to the materials universal.

I recall exchanging letters with a "hackle grower" three or four times in arranging to purchase a quality grizzly cape. My inquiry as to what he had, his response and inquiry as to what I'd use it for, my response, his suggestions and prices, my choice, his invoice, my payment, then shipment; at the time I was on the east coast and he was somewhere in California and mail was through the USPS. Took a few weeks to order, but that was a very nice cape for the times, still if compared to one from ten years later, not so good and compared to a Whiting it would be craft feathers. I still have part of it and use some feathers occasionally. I also recall driving several hours to buy another cape at a show in NH, a dun; in those days I thought color most important.

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I was looking at a fairly modern British fly tying manual, and almost all of the winged wets called for cock hackle. I thought wets were usually tied with hen. Was this a softer rooster hackle than dry fly hackle, or a India hackle, or regular dry hackle? I sort of assumed that maybe this was taken from recipes from back before the genetic hackle like Hoffman or Whiting were developed, and the hackles were softer. Anybody know? BTW, all of the wingless wets in the book called for Plover, Starling, Grouse, Woodcock or Snipe, consistent with other sources.

Not at all unusual. In this country, Leisenring tied his wets with "cockerel" (young rooster). Bergman described the Orange Fish Hawk wet, one of his favorites as being tied with exactly the same materials as the dry version, but to sweep the hackle back (this is a wingless wet.)

 

Even today, if you look at some of Davie McPhail's videos, he's using hackle from a Chinese rooster cape as hackle on wets, for example the head hackle in this:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8Mc7o0ueHM

 

Also bear in mind that many British winged wets are intended to be used for stillwater fishing from a boat, where they may function as wake flies -- meant to create a disturbance near the surface.

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I generally tie wound hackle rather than beards. To me, beards are too neat. In my mind, wet flies represent a drowned fly or swimming Caddis, which would appear a bit disorganized. I have used a good bit of hen hackle, some India Rooster, and some game bird. It seems to all be good.

 

I have "disorganized " nailed.

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