Dry Fly Body Hackles


Palmering is the technique of winding cock hackles down the whole length of the body, from head to tail. Most palmered flies are only lightly palmered, with a single body hackle. To make a rather more densely hackled fly, wind on two body hackles at the same time or add a simple dry-fly hackle at the head. For a method of tying very dense and bushy body hackles, see "Bivisibles," later in this chapter.

Palmered flies are more buoyant than conventionally hackled ones and,- because their outlines are bigger, are more easily seen on the water. A palmered fly is even more conspicuous if it has a head hackle of a contrasting color.

  • Form the body of the fly but do not rib it. (S) Trim off any surplus material. (For tinsel bodies, a palmered hackle is held more securely if the ribbing is tied in after the tinsel.)
  • Select a cock hackle with fibers 1 Vi to 2 times the depth of the hook gape, and prepare the butt as for a simple dry-fly hackle.
  • For a winged dry fly: Tie in the hackle like a simple dry-fly hackle behind the wings, leaving room for a head hackle. (S)

For a lightly palmered fly, as shown: Tie in the hackle at the head. (S) Then wind on one or two dose turns of hackle.

  • Wind the hackle in wide turns down to the tail position.
  • Tie off the hackle with the ribbing material.
  • Rib the body in wide turns toward the head. Wiggle the ribbing material from side to side through the hackle fibers to avoid trapping them.
  • Tie off the ribbing material, then cut off the surplus ribbing and the hackle tip.
  • Complete the fly with a wrap knot, then use the dubbing needle to draw out any trapped fibers.


The head hackles of a bivisible fly always contrast in color with the body hackles, which makes the fly conspicuous on the water. All the body hackles may be palmered (wound toward the tail) if desired, but the tapered shape of hackle feathers can give the fly an uneven outline. I prefer to palmer some of the hackles and then wind others of the same color back through them, as shown here.

The fly shown in the following photographs has ten hackles tied in - more than would be used in most bivisible patterns. Extra hackle makes the fly more complicated to tie, but adds considerably to its buoyancy. The tying thread and ribbing that I chose for the photographs are brighter-colored than would normally be used.

  • Prepare the hook shank by winding close turns of foundation thread to the tail position. Then tie in an inconspicuous (not as shown) ribbing material with one or two securing turns. (S)
  • Prepare six black cock hackles in the same way as described earlier for a simple dry-fly hackle. The photograph shows the correct proportion of hackle length to hook size.
  • Tie in four of the black hackles a pair at a time, outside surfaces away from you, at the tail position.
  • Bind in the hackle butts, then continue to wind close turns of thread two-thirds of the way along the shank. (S)
  • Using hackle pliers, wind on the first pair of black hackles together, in close turns.
  • Bring the hackle tips down in front of the secured tying thread and trap them with three turns of thread. (S)
  • Wind on the second pair of black hackles, wiggling them from side to side through the first pair, as shown.
  • Trap the second pair of black hackles in the same way as the first pair. (S) Cut off the surplus hackle tips.
  • Tie in the last pair of black hackles as shown (outside surfaces toward you), at the point where the first four were tied off. (S)
  • Wind the last two hackles to the tail position (that is, palmer them), wiggling them through the fibers of the first two pairs to be wound on.
  • Bring the tips of the last pair of black hackles down in front of the ribbing material.
  • Trap the hackle tips with the first turn of ribbing, as shown.
  • Wind the ribbing through the hackled part of the body, wiggling it to avoid trapping the hackle fibers.
  • Tie off the ribbing with the tying thread. (S) Cut off the surplus ribbing material, also the hackle tips at the tail position.
  • Prepare four light-colored cock hackles (white or cream) as before.
  • Tie in the light hackles, two at a time, with the outside surfaces toward you, as shown.
  • Bind in the hackle butts, then continue winding the thread in close turns to the hook eye. (S)
  • Wind on the first pair of light hackles, and tie off the tips with the tying thread. (S)
  • Wind the second pair of light hackles through the first pair, wiggling them as before. Secure the tips with the tying thread. (S)
  • Trim off the hackle tips, taking care not to cut the tying thread.
  • Complete the fly with a wrap knot.
  • Cut off any badly angled fibers at the tail of the fly (see the difference between photographs 7 and 8). If desired, lightly trim the longest fibers.
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  • tuula
    How to avoid trapping hackle fibers?
    5 years ago
  • taimi
    What order do you add tail body material hackle tinsel why?
    4 years ago

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