Last week, I took advantage of the snowy weather which has kept me off the river and and said “yes” to an opportunity. A friend of mine who is a duck hunter gave me a call to see if I wanted any feathers. How could I say no? So this week’s post will be about preparing mallard wings for soft hackle flies. For the non-fly tyer, check out a few great fly patterns below to add to your fly box. You won’t be sorry!

I asked him to save the mallard wings along with a few breast feathers. 

Mallard Wings | www.johnkreft.com

I hoped he would keep the matching wings from each bird separate so I could use them for dry fly upright wings and wet fly wings used in some of the classic Ray Bergman flies you see occasionally in Throw Back Thursday Flies.

Pink Lady

Pink Lady | www.johnkreft.com

Blue Bottle

Blue Bottle | www.johnkreft.com

He did a great job removing as much meat as possible, but I needed to wash them to remove a little blood on some of the wings. I used a few drops of dish-washing soap in warm water and dropped in a pair of wings. After soaking for a few minutes, I used my fingers to gently rub the feathers and removed blood and dirt. The wings were placed on a cotton towel to dry, making sure I didn’t mix wings from another bird.

After washing all the wings and allowing them to air dry for a few hours, I brought out the hair dryer to finish drying them.

Drying Mallard Wings | www.johnkreft.com

I’m very pleased how they turned out. (Update: After allowing them to air dry, I may use a little Borax on the remaining muscle I’m unable to remove. The will be stored in plastic Ziploc bags.)

Here is a picture of the primary flight feathers.

Mallard Wing - Primary Feather | www.johnkreft.com

Here is a picture of the wing with a bobbin holder pointing towards the covert feathers.

Mallard Wing and Covert Feathers | www.johnkreft.com

And a closeup of the covert feathers I use for RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple flies.

Mallard Wing - Covert Feathers | www.johnkreft.com

This picture shows a covert feather prepped to tie a RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple.

Covert Feather Prep | www.johnkreft.com

I’ll use these mallard covert feathers for any mayfly that has dun (gray) colored wings. How many mayflies can you think of that have dun colored wings? How about a Blue Wing Olive (BWO), Pale Morning Dun (PMD), Caudatella, Lesser Green Drakes (Drunella flavilinea), and the Green Drakes (Drunella grandis).

This picture show a variety of RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple flies.

RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple Flies | www.johnkreft.com

From top to bottom:

  • Green Drake #8
  • Green Drake – Flav – #12
  • Caudatella #15
  • PMD #15
  • BWO #19

These flies are very important to the fish and will cause some of the greatest hatches of the year.

The RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple is designed to imitate a mayfly caught in the surface film. I find imitating this stage of mayfly can be deadly.

Mayflies in Film | www.johnkreft.com

So tie up a few of these flies or contact me and I’ll tie them for you!

Lastly, it’s still hunting season and there’s time for preparing mallard wings for soft hackle flies of your own. You can always purchase a pair of mallard wings at your local fly shop for around $5.

Enjoy…go fish!

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5 Comments

  1. What? You mean that I spent over a $1,000 for shotgun, decoys, and camo clothes when I could have bought the wings for $5.00?

    1. Dennis

      Go back and read the fly pattern sheet for my RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple. I explain why I’ve settled on mallard for many of these dry flies.

      Hungarian Partridge is a great feather for classic soft hackle wet flies. I still use it for the March Brown RiverKeeper Soft Hackle Cripple.

      John

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