Yes, I have a problem…feathers, feathers, feathers! I’ve been known to say you can never have enough feathers, but even I must admit my collection has grown substantially over the years. And I might have added to it this summer during our time on the Madison River, MT.

Whiting Hackle | www.riverkeeperflies.com

No, I didn’t buy all these a couple of months ago. I only purchased #$##%.

Feathers seem to be one of my vices. And I think photography gear is fast becoming another (My Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Cameras).

Perhaps I have too many feathers! Oops, did I think that out loud?

You might be asking, why do I need so many? Good question!

Besides just wanting them, a fly tyer is always looking for the perfect color. And if you are a custom fly tyer like me, I’m able to provide my customers with options for them to choose different shades of feathers for their flies.

Feather size is the next answer. Capes have the widest size range, but are limited in the number of feathers for each size. Saddles on the other hand are limited to only a couple of sizes, like 16 & 18 or 12 & 14, and can tie several hundred flies.

One of the best values in hackle today is from Charlie Collins of Collins Hackle Farm. Unfortunately for us, he recently decided to end raising these beautiful natural colored feathers after 30-plus years. So, you better act fast if you are interested in Charlie’s hackle.

Collins Hackle | www.riverkeeperflies.com

What I love about Collins hackle are the natural colors and larger hackle sizes. These capes produce wonderful hackle for the Catskill-style flies like these Dark Hendrickson flies. If you tie lots of size 18 and 20 flies, these capes are not for you. Instead, you’ll find more feathers in the 12 and 14 range, and larger.

Dark Hendrickson - size 18 | www.johnkreft.com

Here are three standard colors all fly tyers need – grizzly, brown, and barred ginger.

Collins Hackle 2 | www.riverkeeperflies.com

The colors of these dun capes are spectacular!

Collins Hackle 3 | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Notice how few feathers remain on the Barred Dun cape below (far left)? It’s one of my favorite colors, especially for Green Drake imitations.

Collins Hackle 4 | www.riverkeeperflies.com

That isn’t to say you can’t find these colors from Whiting Hackle. Their Hebert/Miner line of feathers can be found in a wide range of natural colors too. And the newest Whiting line is their Heritage hackle. I recently purchased my first Heritage hackle from Jims FlyCo during our time fishing the Madison River. I placed the saddle next to a variety of dun shades for comparison purposes.

Compare Whiting Heritage Hackle to Collins Hackle | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Check out Jim Slattery’s website HERE. I think he might be the largest Whiting dealer in the country!

And just to prove I am in fact a feather junkie, this image of me selecting the exact cape I wanted kinda proves the point. Here I am at Campfire Lodge in 2019.

Selecting Feathers at Campfire Lodge | www.johnkreft.com

If you purchase enough capes and saddles, perhaps you’ll be lucky to find one of these…the holy grail…cree hackle.

Whiting Cree Hackle | www.riverkeeperflies.com

Enjoy…go fish!

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3 Comments

  1. I’m a little bit of a feather junkie myself. I know exactly how you feel. But around here we call Brown and grizzly “Takin” hackle – as in any fly you put brown & grizzly on is “takin” by the trout. – – – “Hey Bob what color hackle are you putting on that fly?” Answer: “ you wanna catch fish don’t you? Takin hackle, of course.”

  2. Charlie Collins is surely going to be missed in retirement. Speaking of Cree. He had the best 20 dollar saddles on the planet.
    New York is losing a legend.

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