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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Importance of Good Soft Hackle

Hungarian Partridge: Grade #1

Hungarian Partridge Skin, Grade #1 (Natural)


I'm not quite sure what it is, but I love to wrap soft hackle. Just something graceful about how those fibers lay when tied in and preened back with a nice clean head and tie-off. But don't settle for just any feathers when you're tying soft hackles or tying flies that call for Partridge. Pay close attention to the quality of feather to get the most bang for your buck. I'll try to lay down the reasoning here and explain why I sometimes have an inexplicable urge to cuddle with my Hun skins for warmth and comfort.

For the past few years, I've lived on a steady diet of a few Hungarian Partridge #1 olive and brown dyed skins from Hareline. They are, in a word -- exquisite. Because I'd been given a "natural" colored skin a few years ago by a good friend, I initially stuck to the olive and brown colors purchased from Hareline and used the natural color "wild" skin only when needed. The shot-in-the-wild bird was good, but nowhere near the quality of these skins from Hareline. Further, if you compare the quality of the bagged loose feather crap they sell in stores, it's an even bigger difference. In the end, I eventually broke down and relegated the wild bird to the left-over bin and bought the natural skin from Hareline.

Hungarian Partridge Skin, Grade #1 (Olive & Brown)
So why spend $30 on a full grade #1 skin? First off, I truly believe you get a much wider variety of feather than you do from a wild bird or lesser quality skins. The variety comes in both color variation as well as size variation. With these grade #1 skins you can tie very small to large flies and you can also pick the stiffer longer fibers along the wings and tail for other purposes (tails, legs, wings etc). Plus, the finer feathers on the neck are really fine. You can tie very small and clean soft hackles in larger numbers than what you'd get from a bag or an uglier bird. Plus, in a pinch, you can use them for a nice pillow if you're banished to your tying man-cave for misbehavior.

Here's an example of a feather from a Grade #1 skin. The colors and mottled aspect of the feather are more to my liking, the fibers are the perfect length and they're not as stiff so as to give better movement in the water.



 Using this feather, I tied up a nice classic "Partridge and Orange" soft hackle. You'll note the length is spot-on and the feathers lay nicely back without sticking out at right angles. It makes for a much more enjoyable tying session with good feathers. Spring for the nicer skins...you won't be disappointed.

Partridge and Orange Soft Hackle

Hook: Allen N205 BL #12 << Buy from our store --
Thread: Pearsall's Gossamer Silk, Orange
Body: Thread
Hackle. Grade #1, Hungarian Partridge Hackle, Natural


2 comments:

  1. Question: I am going partridge hunting soon and I am curious about which feathers I should keep and how to clean them (if I need to) so that I can tie with them. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Typically, we've not found the wild birds to be as high quality, but I'm sure you can find some good feathers. My favorites are on the neck and shoulders, but you'll find use for most all of the feathers. Just skin it and slap some borax on the skin to preserve it. Google it and you'll find better info on specifics...

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