No Hackles?

No Hackle Flies,

Or should that be no hackles no flies?

You will be well aware by now that fashion industry has done a bit of a hostile takeover within fly tying circles, pushing up the price of particularly saddle hackles and denuding shelves of the dry fly purist’s most prized possessions. All in the name of the latest fashion fad: feather hair extensions.

Of course fashion is a fickle mistress and it has always amazed me that women around the world will follow the opinion of some unspecified and self appointed luminary who ups and decides what this year’s hem line, fabric  colour or hair style will be.

This lot have managed to convince the fairer sex at different times that outer garments should vary from Islamic propriety to hooker like knicker flashers, somehow they have persuaded that propolis, avocado, soya beans, cucumbers, natural essences, bees wax, or even volcanic mud is good for the hair, complexion or libido.

Over the years women have voluntarily  (frequently at great expense), allowed themselves to be incased in painful whale bone, dipped in volcanic springs or pierced with metal objects in almost every portion of their anatomy. They have primped and preened in front of mirrors ranging from the still reflective surface of the common or garden pond to the burnished metal of a conqueror’s shield.  They have ironed, curled, cut, blown, died and dried their hair, they have permed it, plaited it, woven it and covered it with wigs, hats, ribbons and flowers

And now, NOW! as an affront not only to their own senses of propriety but equally in a declaration of war against fly anglers the world over they are weaving our treasured feathers into their pampered, coloured, conditioned, hot ironed and waxed locks in yet another wanton frenzy of unabashed consumerism. All apparently in the name of beauty.

Mind you even the most callously chauvinistic of us would have to admit that the hair extensions are a tad more comely than plastic curlers and they represent less of a danger to your eyesight should you roll over in bed for that matter. Still it ain’t right, there are any number of animal parts with which the ladies might adorn themselves and one would have to suggest that delving into the fly tying box is just taking things a little too far.

At least hair extensions aren't quite as dreadful or dangerous as curlers.

From now on selecting a date might get even more complicated, no longer enough to pick a curvaceous blond with the aforementioned belt wide mini and a whale tail of black lace, you will now have to ask if her hair extensions are the required light dun size 18’s that you have been seeking out for those essential midges and will have to invite her to stay over that you might pluck the odd feather whilst she snoozes in post coital bliss.

Really not only has the world gone a little mad but it is making things darned inconvenient for those of us wishing to simply whip up a few mayfly patterns and head for the water. Apart from the allure of actually fishing,  being “on the water” is also one of the few means left to avoid the fashion houses, the cosmetics counters and previously mentioned consumerist frenzy undoubtedly occurring right now at a shopping mall near you. Time on the water is sacred, time on the water with sufficient flies is not something that should be messed with, even in the name of beauty.

Anyway enough of the frivolity, what is to be done? Carefully selected genetic roosters have a naturally determined lead time before they produce perfect dry fly saddles and of course it won’t escape your notice that they can only do this once. The upshot being that there is a shortage of feathers and that the shortage is expected to last well into 2012.

With that in mind it is the perfect time for inventive fly tyers to revisit some ideas of no hackle flies and even synthetics which will obviate the need for the products of our slow growing cockerels.

Indeed to my mind it wouldn’t be a bad thing if these became, to borrow a phrase from the fashion fundis  “in vogue” and it would be wonderfully ironic if by the time the sellouts in the feather world have spent their twenty pieces of silver they were to find that demand from trout anglers was at an all time low.

I can understand that in the business world one needs to take the best price, but to leave all of your loyal customers in the lurch for what will surely be a flash in the pan is lacking a bit in terms of customer relations.

Therefore I thought it appropriate to investigate some other fly patterns, devoid of genetic hackle and just as effective.

Comparaduns, Spun duns, F flies and the like will cover a lot of bases on the stream allowing the fly tyer to either do without precious saddles or at least save their stocks for essential patterns only.

A number of flies, like this thread bodied Spun Dun offer alternatives to using hackle

So for those willing to take up the fight, and of course those who have already exhausted their supply of suitable hackle and are now visiting discotheques in the hope of finding the occasional plume on the dance floor here is at least one option.

The Goose Biot Spun Dun,

This is a tremendously effective and highly adaptable mayfly imitation that can be modified to suit almost any hatch and happily requires not a single fibre of hackle, genetic or otherwise.  The spun dun is effectively an offshoot of the Comparadun , the greatly vaunted invention of Caucci and Nastasi and brought to public prominence in their book “Comparahatch”.

To be honest I can’t find who came up with the spun dun, it could indeed been have invented first for all I know. What I can tell you is that it is a little easier to tie than the Comparadun and boasts a far slimmer abdomen than can be obtained with the Comparadun version. It also has the benefit of its own personal life jacket of hollow deer hair butts set about the thorax region that greatly enhances its buoyancy.

To tie:

  • Lay down touching turns of thread preferably 120 Denier or similar, you are going to need some strength when you tie in the hair collar.
  • In my version keep the tag end of the thread on top of the hook to assist in splitting the microfibbet or nylon bristle tails. You can use other materials for the tails if you wish.
  • Tie in two microfibbets or bristles from a Hamilton’s nylon brush (the fibres should be tapered).
  • Pull the tag of the thread up between the tails helping to separate them and splay them apart.
  • Tie in a dampened goose biot of suitable colouration, (you can use just the thread, dubbing or any other abdominal material if you wish, it makes little difference).
  • Wind the thread to just behind the eye of the hook and follow with the body material.
  • Tie in a small amount of dubbing to neaten up the thorax (this is entirely optional)
  • Now select a bunch of deer hair from the skin and remove the under fur before stacking in a hair stacker.
  • Align the hair on top of the hook shank, just behind the eye of the hook and tie in, adjusting the overhanging tips to the length you wish for the hackle
  • Tie down tightly with three or four wraps of thread, don’t allow the hair to spin.
  • Cut off the tag ends of the hair leaving a neat thorax of butt ends.
  • Take the thread to the front, stand up the hair with your thumb nail and build a neat ball of thread in front of the hair to hold the wing vertical.
  • Whip finish or use a super glue whip finish and cut off the thread.
  • Watch the video if you wish to see more clearly the sequence of tying.

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2 Responses to “No Hackles?”

  1. Guide Flies « The Fishing Gene Says:

    […] have written about variations of spun duns on this blog previously, in fact in the article “No Hackles” you can find a link to tying a pretty complicated goose biot spun dun. Most of mine are however […]

  2. Guide Flies | Ghillie Guide|Fly Fishing|Flytying Heaven Says:

    […] have written about variations of spun duns on this blog previously, in fact in the article “No Hackles” you can find a link to tying a pretty complicated goose biot spun dun. Most of mine are however […]

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