Choosing a Cape
Hackle feathers may be bought loose or, more conveniently, on a cape (the neck of the bird). The best j capes are densely hackled - the more hackles, the better. Remember that the longer the hackle, the more ' turns you can wind on; the narrower the hackle, the smaller the fly that can be tied with it. When buying capes for dry-fly hackles, look for cock capes with dense, springy, glossy feathers.
The photograph shows a cock cape (right) and a hen cape (left). The cock cape is a good example of what not to buy: the hackles are uneven in size, sparse, and damaged. The hen cape is of good quality.
- Lay the prepared hackle along the near side of the hook shank, with its outside surface toward you and the waist in line with the tying thread. Note that the prepared hackle stalk must not extend beyond the hook eye.
- Holding the hackle in place with the left-hand thumb and index finger as shown, tie it in with two turns of thread.
- Wind close, firm turns of tying thread to the eye. (S)
- Grip the tip of the hackle with a pair of hackle pliers.
- Place the nail of your left-hand index finger directly behind, and at the base of, the hackle. Bring the hackle up to the vertical position, twisting it if necessary so that its outside surface is nearest the hook eye, as shown.
- Keep the left-hand index finger in position as you wind the hackle over the shank, then remove it.
- If you cannot "start" the hackle after two attempts, untie it and use another prepared hackle.
- Wind on the hackle in close non-overlapping turns, working toward the hook eye. As shown in the photograph, the hackle should have a twist at the top, which must be maintained during winding-on. This keeps the hackle stalk at right angles to the hook.
- Just before reaching the eye, tie off the hackle tip by bringing it in front of the tying thread and trapping it with two turns of thread around the shank. (S)
- Cut off the surplus hackle tip.
- To finish off the fly, without accidentally tying in any hackle fibers, first form a wrap-knot loop. Then, before making the first wrap-knot turn, pull back all the hackle fibers with the thumb and first two fingers of your left hand, holding the tying thread with the last two fingers.
- Complete the wrap-knot turns as usual. Release the hackle fibers so that the dubbing needle can be placed in the loop, then tighten the loop, taking care not to trap any hackle fibers. (If any fibers are trapped, cut them off together with the tying thread.)
- Lacquer the head of the fly, then use the dubbing needle to clear the hook eye of lacquer while it is still wet.
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