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With all due respect to Charlie Collins, there is now evidence that Cree can be bred.

In the April 2013 Whiting Hackle Newsletter, Dr. Whiting wrote an article titled, "TO CREE OR NOT TO CREE" in which he described the breeding necessary to obtain Cree hackle.

I quote from that article which describes that Cree can be cross bred but the result is "inefficient" resulting in low yields :

"TO CREE OR NOT TO CREE BY THOMAS S. WHITING, PH.D. 

Countless fly tiers have asked me over the years why the Cree dry fly hackle is so hard to get. So here’s why..... 

From a poultry breeders’ perspective, the color pattern of Cree is not too much of a mystery. Obviously the “barring gene” is at work, the same gene that creates the classic grizzly feather pattern. This barring gene, which happens to be “sex linked’ (meaning it is on the X sex chromosome), causes the regular interruption of black pigment formation within the feather follicle as the feather is being generated. The sex linked aspect of the barring gene also causes the darkness of the grizzly hen feather as opposed to the considerably lighter grizzly feathers of the rooster. This is because the hen can only have one ‘dose’ of the barring gene because she is XZ, while the rooster can have a double dose of the barring gene be- cause he is XX. In addition, the barring gene is incompletely dominant so there is a dosage effect; two doses inhibit the production of the black pigment more than one dose. That is why the ratio of white to black in the barring of hen grizzly feathers has a wider black bar than white, while a rooster grizzly feather is lighter with about half black and half white. 

Along with the barring gene the Cree pattern also has some brown genes at work. This is more complicated than what can be addressed here, involving multi-allelic [the alternative forms and patterns] of ‘brown’ genes. But the basic combination of the barring gene and several types of brown genes are what create the Cree pattern. So these are the ingredients. Now, how to put them together! 

The best way, or the only good way that I have found, is to cross a grizzly chicken with a brown one. And despite the recitation above about sex linkage, it doesn’t matter initially which sex is grizzly and which is brown. This is because you just want to generate a rooster that has only one dose of the barring gene, in combination with the genetic background of brown. The result is a ‘grizzly variant’, which looks like a regular grizzly but with a considerable number of non-grizzly feathers, such as badger and furnace feathers, interspersed throughout all the feathers. This grizzly variant rooster is then mated to a non-grizzly hen, preferably a rich brown colored one but a black or red-necked black hen will also work. This is the ‘Cree mating’. Some would call it a three-way mating because an initial mating has to be done, and the yield of that mating mated to another type. Now this is where the rarity of Cree happens. Because of this three-way mating a wide host of all sorts of other color and pattern genes are stirred up. And as these genes segregate into the myriad of combinations that are possible when the genes of the mother and father are combining at conception, a whole array of colors and patterns are formed. These include, to name just a few: light ginger, furnace, golden badger, speckled variant, basic brown and more grizzly variants. And a few, a very few, will be Cree. 

To make it rarer still, what few Crees come out will vary from good to poor to barely Cree. Generally, the proportion of Cree produced from this three-way Cree mating will only be in the single- digit percentiles. And truly good Cree will constitute only 1% or 2% of the output. That is why Cree is so rare. 

So Cree generation is just exceptionally inefficient. You create many colors and patterns, some not even named nor used in fly tying. Thus you end up dying many pelts black to justify the few Crees created. The question is sometimes asked, “Why can’t you just mate Cree roosters with appropriate hens to create Cree?” You can try, but you won’t get Cree, or at least as many Crees as you would with the above described mating. I don’t have a good genetic explanation why, but it just doesn’t seem to work. Nevertheless, every few years I come across a spectacular Cree rooster in the production flock. Then I just have to try it again anyway. And so I do, just to re-convince myself that it doesn’t work."

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I may be the only person who finds this interesting, but I'm amazed at the colors and quality of today's hackle. Here's a quick comparison of a couple of Cree saddles.
 
One was inherited from another tier. It is a Metz grade 2.  I have no idea how old this saddle is, but the retail price was only $8.00.  It's been a long time since since you could buy a Cree saddle for only $8. 🙂 The other is a current generation Whiting Herbert Miner series Pro grade Cree saddle.  I got it through the shear dumb luck of being at my local shop when it arrived. 
  
Two major differences are color and length. The colors of the new saddle are much brighter with very distinct separation of each color. By itself, the old one looks good, but along side the new one, the colors are more muted and blurred. The first photo shows the old Metz on the left and the new Whiting on the right. The barring appearance on the Whiting is much more defined.
   
The second photo shows the length difference. The Whiting is twice the length of the older Metz.  A Metz cape of similar generation (but, I think it is newer than the saddle) is also included for comparison.
 
Anyway, I was just surprised at how much difference there is between these two saddles. Wow! The quality of the hackles that we have available today is significantly better than previous fly tier's had to work with. Life is good. 😃

 

73537385_10215388994738914_3934067164121

 

75424783_10215388993978895_8273462155882

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1 hour ago, RexW said:
I may be the only person who finds this interesting, but I'm amazed at the colors and quality of today's hackle. Here's a quick comparison of a couple of Cree saddles.
 
One was inherited from another tier. It is a Metz grade 2.  I have no idea how old this saddle is, but the retail price was only $8.00.  It's been a long time since since you could buy a Cree saddle for only $8. 🙂 The other is a current generation Whiting Herbert Miner series Pro grade Cree saddle.  I got it through the shear dumb luck of being at my local shop when it arrived. 
  
Two major differences are color and length. The colors of the new saddle are much brighter with very distinct separation of each color. By itself, the old one looks good, but along side the new one, the colors are more muted and blurred. The first photo shows the old Metz on the left and the new Whiting on the right. The barring appearance on the Whiting is much more defined.
   
The second photo shows the length difference. The Whiting is twice the length of the older Metz.  A Metz cape of similar generation (but, I think it is newer than the saddle) is also included for comparison.
 
Anyway, I was just surprised at how much difference there is between these two saddles. Wow! The quality of the hackles that we have available today is significantly better than previous fly tier's had to work with. Life is good. 😃

Beautiful!
Thanks for sharing!

Kimo

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cree.jpg

I found this one stuck to the side of the hackle drawer

must be 35+ years old. bought it in Colorado when I lived there

good for wooly buggers

Metz cree grade 2 saddle (that's what it says on the cardboard) could have been the same price as mentioned by @RexW

cree-hackle.jpg

not as pronounced as brown/grizzly

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4 hours ago, flytire said:

cree.jpg

I found this one stuck to the side of the hackle drawer

must be 35+ years old. bought it in Colorado when I lived there

good for wooly buggers

Metz cree grade 2 saddle (that's what it says on the cardboard) could have been the same price as mentioned by @RexW

cree-hackle.jpg

not as pronounced as brown/grizzly

There it is.

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I read this whole thread and really enjoyed it. As  a fly tyer who started in the late 60's  the work that has gone into improving hackles is nothing short of fanstastic!  I need a good cree, and will be shopping around for neck that works for me. But that is the key, we as fly tyers have such wonderful selection of materials to create our art, its almost over whelming. A big thank you to all of the folks who go out on a limb and bring us great materials at a reasonable cost.

Mike.

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