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Simple Technique to Strip Peacock Herl

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5 replies to this topic

#1 letumgo


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Posted 04 December 2009 - 02:15 PM

The following description of a Peacock Stripping tool as described in the 1946 Edition of "The Art of Tying the Wet Fly" by James Leisenring (Pages 27 & 28):

"Before your Peacock Herl quill is ready to be used as a quill body you must strip it, that is remove the tiny fibers which are on the black edge. The best way to my knowledge of stripping quill came to me from my fishing partner, Mr. Albert Kraft, at true angler ant a fine flytyer. One day while driving to the Poconos to tempt some of those educated brown trout with out flies, after several miles of the usual conversation two fly-fishermen will carry on, I said "Pete, don't you know of anything new to talk about?"

Why yes, "he answered, " I know of a new way to strip peacock quill." He then told me to get a fine sewing needle, a fairly thin one, and stick it into the end of a small, thin piece of wood for a handle. This is best done by gripping the needle with a pair of pliers in order to force it securely into the wood. Insert the needle eye-first into the wood about 3/8 of an inch, leaving about 7/8" protruding. This is your quill stripper. Now take a piece of smooth cardboard such as the ones politicians had around at election time and lay it on the edge of your work table. Take up the small end of the peacock herl quill, grip it in you hackle pliers in order to turn it side to side easily, and lay it on the smooth card. Take up the quill stripper tool now and press it firmly down on the peacock herl quill near the hackle pliers, being careful to hold the needle squarely across the quill, not at an angle.

Now simply pull the quill through under the needle, keeping an even pressure with the needle against the quill. After that, turn the quill over and repeat if neccesary, and it is ready for use, thoroughly cleaned and undamaged. I do not know where Pete picked up this useful trick, but it is a very good one and I am certainly glad to know about it."

The book includes a photo of the tool (between pages 4 and 5). Basically the herl stripping tool looks very similar to modern bodkin. A small round wooden handle with a thin needle sticking out of the end of it. The needle is roughly 1" long. According to the description in the book, the herl is drawn between the stripping tool and a piece of cardboard stock. By pulling the herl against the grain of the little fibers, they are stripped off the herl and the needle helps prepare the herl by flattening it during the stripping process.

I've tried making a herl stripping tool and found that very thin needles are prone to snapping when applying pressure to them. I would recommend using a needle which is thick enough so that it doesn't easily snap when pressure is applied to it. I then tried my normal bodkin and it strips herl like a charm. Very cool technique! Now I need to learn to tye quill bodied flies.

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Ray (letumgo) <)((((><<

#2 ChuckingFluff


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Posted 04 December 2009 - 03:12 PM

Same technique but now take a large pencil erasers (the pink ones) and run it from the top of the herl to the bottom. Try it cause nothing strips herl as fast as this.
><)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))( >> ><))(>

#3 DaddyO


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Posted 04 December 2009 - 03:28 PM

My fly tying is less than a year old. I learn new things every day. I've never used stripped peacock herl. What kind of fly would you use this on?

#4 rockworm


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Posted 04 December 2009 - 05:12 PM

Stripped peacock herl makes an excellent "segmented" body for nymphs, emergers and dry flies. Most of us were introduced to this style of body in the Quill Gordon. The best stripped PH come from the lower eye portion of the feather.

#5 Ed Gallop

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 06:05 PM

Can't get easier or quicker than a pencil eraser and they make great quill bodies. For those that don't know, you can use the same hair removal cream ladies use to make their legs smooth and beautiful. Spread it on, wait a minute or less, then wash the fibers off in the bathroom sink. Good if doing several at a time. Also works on all other feathers and is harmless to the quill. Don't scratch your head with it on your fingers though. ;-) If doing large quantities I'll use A.K. Best's bleach method. If misused it could damage the quills though. I rarely strip more than 6 to 12 quills since I don't tie commercially. Ed.

Moose Pass, Alaska (pictured with moose in Trail lake) was one of my favorite places on earth, especially in the 70s and 80s before it became a tourist attraction. I discovered the true meaning of a breathless view and fishing ecstasy that I wouldn't trade for all the tea in China. 

#6 Arkansas Mike

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 08:00 PM

Thanks for the technique, Ray. I've always used an eraser, but
I'll have to try this needle method.