Capes and Hackles

by Jonathan

The types of cape which you will come across are cock and hen capes from domestic poultry.

Hen capes are smaller and softer with denser fibres , and are usually used for wet flies , nymphs and lures. The hackle fibres are more mobile in the water. They can be wrapped around the hook in the conventional way or bearded , sometimes referred to as a false hackle.

Cock capes are larger and the hackles much stiffer and shiny.  Occasionally you will come across a cock cape which is softer and duller , usually a lower grade cape , these are known as henny capes.  These are very useful for lures or palmered patterns which need to be longer and give some kick to the lure.  Cock capes are used mainly for dry flies , the stiffer fibres make the fly float better and are wound round the hook more times.  Matching fibres can be used for the tail of the fly.

The standard capes are usually available in a wide range of natural and dyed colours.  They are graded , number one being the best , and most expensive. These are not necessary until you become proficient , ( and have a big fat wallet ).  Lower grades catch just as many fish.  Most of these capes are now imported from India and China.

There are ranges of capes which are  from poultry specially bred in the United Kingdom, just for their feathers.  The range of Metz capes is probably the best known.  These have nice long hackles and are great to work with but are expensive.  They are used mainly for dry flies. You should get more than one fly per hackle.

Hackles for north country spider patterns are usually from wild birds , many of which are now more difficult to obtain. Partridge hackles , brown and grey , are probably the best known and dye well. Others to look out for are woodcock , snipe , moorhen , cock and hen pheasants. If you know any shooting people ask for their help as many of them fish as well. If they do a lot of wildfowling , ( shooting ducks and geese ) they could help to get you CDC , teal flank and bronze mallard flank ………. all very useful. This range in itself would be an interesting lesson to put together.

Once you start collecting fly tying materials no walk along the river , or lakeside will ever be the same again. You will find yourself gathering feathers and anything else which ‘ just might be useful’ . On a recent trip my colleague could not believe I was collecting sheep’s wool off the barbed wire. Now that it has been washed in detergent in boiling water it will be dyed.

 

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