Peacock Bodies

The herls (individual feather fibers) from the peacock's spectacular tail feathers are used in two main ways to make fly bodies. The herl can be wound on in its natural state, with the iridescent green "flue" (the herl's furry coating) providing a unique texture. Or the flue can be stripped from the herl to leave a "quill" that, when wound on, imitates natural segmented bodies.

For the bushiest natural herl bodies, choose herls with the densest flue; these are found directly below the "eye" of the tail feather. The best herls for stripping come from the eye itself where the quills, each with a dark and a light edge, provide the finished body with a distinctly segmented appearance. The stripped quills with the most contrast between light and dark edges come from those peacock eyes that are lightest in color when turned dull side uppermost. For some patterns, the quills need to be dyed; this is best done by dyeing the whole eye, and stripping the quills later. Again, choose the lightest-colored eyes.

Peacock quills are normally stripped individually with a knife. All the quills in a peacock eye may be stripped at once, however, by coating the whole eye with hair-removing cream! Leave the cream for no longer than suggested in the instructions, then scrape off the flue, rinse the eye thoroughly in cold water, and allow it to dry slowly.

Peacock herl is a fragile material, and trout can soon damage a fly made from it. To protect the fly, lacquer or glue the underbody before winding on the quill or herl, and rib the body with an invisible (inconspicuous) thread. Peacock herls are sometimes used together with floss (as in the Royal Coachman and Californian Coachman) to form colorful bodies. The tying-in, winding-on, and tying-off for such bodies are the same as already described for the Western Bee under "Wool and Chenille" in this chapter. In some palmered fly patterns, peacock is used as a ribbing over floss.

Ostrich herls can be prepared and tied in in the same way as peacock but, when stripped, the quills do not have a dark and a light edge.

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