Feather Fiber Wings

Feather-fiber wings, made from a bunch of fibers stripped from a large cock hackle, or a duck flank feather, make interesting and durable alternatives to conventional wings in many kinds of dry-fly dressings. Hackle feather fibers are suitable for sedge-wing, spent-wing, and upright-wing dry-fly dressings; duck flank feather fibers are widely used for the wings of both dry and wet flies (such as the Light Cahill).

Feather fibers used for wet-fly wings can be prepared as shown in Step 1, but they must be tied on as a simple bunch (and not subsequently split).

  • Wind close turns of foundation thread halfway down the hook shank, then return the thread in wide turns halfway back again to the wing position. (S)
  • Select a large hackle or flank feather (the one shown is a wood-duck flank feather).
  • Pull off as many fibers as required (remember that the wing can be split into two). As you pull off each bunch of fibers, align the tips with the tips of the bunches already removed. Alternatively, take a flank feather and remove the lower fibers that do not align across the tip. Compress the remaining fibers into a bunch and then the whole feather can be tied on (see Step 2).
  • With the fiber tips pointing over the hook eye, tie on the prepared bunch at the wing position, using the wood-duck (tails) method.
  • Wind on two more securing turns. (S)
  • To force the wing upright, first grip all the fibers securely in your left hand and pull them back.
  • Wind three or four horizontal (clockwise) turns of tying thread around the base of the wing, as shown, releasing the wing momentarily on each turn to take the thread behind it. Secure the thread in front of the wing. (S)
  • The wing may be left as a single bunch, or split into two. For instructions on splitting the wing, see Step 4; otherwise go straight to Step 5.
  • Split the wing by evenly dividing it with the dubbing needle.
  • Pull the near wing toward you, and take the tying thread between the two wings, as shown.
  • Take the thread down behind the far wing, under the shank, up behind the near wing, and between the wings again. Then take it down in front of the far wing and under the shank.
  • Repeat as many times as necessary to keep the wings apart, finishing with the tying thread in front of the wings. (S)
  • Trim the surplus wing material in tapered layers.
  • Bind down the surplus with close turns of tying thread. (S)
  • Complete the rest of the fly as the pattern requires.

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