Hackle Primer - Why Buy Expensive Hackle?

Good hackle = good flies

Royal Wulffs tied with Whiting hackle

Whiting Euro Saddle
I can still remember the first hackle that I bought.  It was a dun colored neck hackle that I had to save my pennies for, and it was definitely put to good use.  As much as that hackle served a purpose, it also caused a lot of frustration when I was trying to tie certain types of flies.  I can remember almost giving up on tying parachutes because the stems would twist, and I remember having to tie in two to three feathers to get the hackle bushy enough to work for some attractor patterns.  Yes, it was useful... but I think I would have been far better off buying a better neck or saddle.  It took me a while to realize that I was better off saving my money to get better hackle, so I decided I'd put my experience and opinions on hackle on the site.

Buying a top of the line piece of rooster won't guarantee that you will tie just like the "pros," but it sure does put you on the right track.  I remember about 8 or 9 years ago when Curtis and I were talking about parachutes.  He told me that he had pretty much sworn off parachutes  because of how much of a pain in the butt they were to tie.  I found out later that he hadn't upgraded his hackle for a while and that was the cause of his frustrations.  Once he upgraded to top notch hackle, it made all the difference in tying "clean" flies more easily.  This especially holds true if you are tying hackled dry flies in size 18 or smaller.

One piece of good saddle hackle can tie 4 to 5 of these.
Like all fly tying materials, cost is a determining factor when considering hackle.  One of the things that I hear all the time is that hackle is "WAY too expensive" and this especially goes for Whiting dry fly hackle.  Sure you can get an inferior piece of hackle for a little bit less money, but if you look at it from my point of view, Whiting hackle is cheaper than all other brands!!! The reason I say this is the quantity of usable feathers on a saddle/cape.  A lot of patches of feathers really look the same until you start pulling off webby fibers at the base of the feather so you can tie with the "sweet spot."  On a whiting feather, the web is very minimal, and it's very possible to get more than one fly out of a feather (depending on what I'm tying).  My point is that you will be able to tie MANY more flies out of a whiting cape/saddle than you would with an inferior cape/saddle.

This was tied with bronze cape feathers.
As far as the grading system with Whiting, I mostly tie with bronze or pro grade hackles.  Some of my favorites are the Hebert Miner pro grades because they come in some really buggy colors, and they are probably the best bang for the buck when it comes to good dry fly hackle.  I would buy silver, gold, and platinum if the bronze and pro grade weren't so good...  

Check out the video for more information on capes, saddles, and a comparison between modern hackle and the hackle from 15 years ago. And don't forget we carry some awesome Whiting products, including dry fly capes, saddles, soft hackles and etc etc. We even have the elusive Euro Saddles in the store.
~ Cheech

For more videos showing Whiting hackle in use:
Royal Wulff
Amphibious Damsel
Fripple Green Drake
Grumpy Frumpy
2 minute Mayfly

Hackle Primer video...