Wood Duck Tails

In the following sequence of photographs, you will see that I selected a slip from the left-hand side of the wood-duck feather (see the photograph for step 2). This was so that the more distinct markings would face the camera when I placed the tail against the hook to check the proportions. For fishing purposes it does not matter which side the tail comes from, as long as the markings on the fibers are distinct right to the tips.

The technique shown for tying on the wood-duck tail can be used for the tail of any fly pattern that employs a feather slip of the same shape (such as slips of pheasant, turkey, teal, swan, goose, and so on).

• Prepare a well-marked wood-duck flank feather by pulling off all the lightly marked fibers and down, as shown.

  • Prepare the hook by winding the well:waxed tying thread down the shank in close, even, turns to the tail position. (S)
  • Select a slip of wood-duck feather wide enough for the hook size.
  • Hold the slip firmly in your left hand and pull it away from the stalk.
  • Transfer the slip to your right hand and hold it by the butt.
  • Place it on top of the hook shank to determine the length of the tail.

Note for Steps 4 and 5: In the photographs for the next two steps you will see that in step 4 my index finger is vertical (this is correct) but my thumb is angled away; in step 5 both index finger and thumb are angled away. I moved my finger and thumb back to show how the loop is formed. In actual tying, however, both thumb and index finger should be vertical; the loop is gripped between them, and is effectively hidden.

  • Hold the slip and the hook shank firmly between the tips of the thumb and index finger of your left hand.
  • Hold the thread firmly, close to the hook, and draw it up, lightly trapping it between your left thumb and the near side of the hook shank.
  • Maintaining a firm hold on the tail and the hook, complete the loop by taking the thread over the tail and down the other side, lightly trapping it between your left index finger and the far side of the shank.
  • Pull the thread down (not too slowly) so that the loop completely disappears to form the first turn of the returning thread. (Note that, unlike the photograph, the thread coming from the shank should be at the tail position.)
  • Keeping your left hand in place, put at least one more loop over the tail. (S)
  • This photograph shows the tied-on wood-duck tail with the thread starting to be wound back up the shank over the foundation turns.
  • Make sure that the locked thread is as taut as possible.
  • Hold the butts gently in your left hand. (Do not pull them, because the tail might go out of alignment.)
  • Trim the wood-duck butts close to the last turn of thread. (You may prefer to re-grip the tail, rather than the butts, when trimming, especially if your scissors are not sharp.)

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