Pattern Duck necks?

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
I recently met a guy who ties a soft hackle using duck neck feathers instead of hen or other more traditional materials. He said he favors brandt or teal over mallard. Anyone tried using duck before? Any idea where I might find one/some?


Many wet fly patterns used barred mallard, which looks right and is properly size-scaled for flies of that size. Also good for dry fly wings.


Active Member
The duck feathers that most folks use are flank feathers - usually found under the wings of the bird - not neck feathers. Typically the most useful are from the drakes. I use a lot of mallard flank feathers for sea-run cutthroat flies as well as streamers. Feathers from green wing teal, gadwall, and widgeon all are useful. The teal feathers are smaller and a little darker than mallard. The gadwall is more heavily barred and dark than mallard - one of my favorites. The widgeon have a nice dark brown barred feather -both flank feathers and feathers from the shoulder - I use them in many of my scuplin patterns. Another duck feather is the lemon barred feather from wood ducks that is used in dry fly wings and tails. Finally the mallard drake also has a bronzed feather used in some Altantic salmon flies.

The best source of feather is to have buddies that hunt waterfowl though most fly shops carry at least mallard and wood duck and usually the better shops have the others as well. The mallard flank feather are often dyed and can be found in a wide range of colors other than the natural grey.

Tight lines

Steve Rohrbach

Puget Sound Fly Fisher
Kent, you might want to try Feather Craft on-line. They report extensive inventory of a variety of duck feathers. They too seem to focus on the flanks. Ducks are so oily that it is next to impossible to skin the bird like a pheasant and have anything that isn't rancid and discolored in days. Therefore, plucking individual feathers is the answer. I hope this helps. If you are successful, please post some photos. It is always fun to learn a new technique.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Thanks for all your responses. I'm well aware of flank feathers, CDC, gadwall, teal and other duck feathers which I've tied with for years.

The person I mentioned in the original post is an old-timer who's been a flyfisher and hunter for longer than most of us have been alive. Over the years, he's developed some patterns that have simply outproduced most of the others. As a result, he favors them which in turn means he catches more fish, which makes him favor them even more. He was quite specific about using neck feathers from brandt, widgeon and other barred species palmered to make his favorite soft hackle pattern.

Roger's point about duck feathers being oily makes sense given that this is a subsurface pattern. But it also points to the possibility that duck skins or necks should be kept frozen or otherwise sealed to keep them from spoiling. Any thoughts on the best way to preserve them? Or should I simply remove the feathers and discard the skin?

Thanks again,



Active Member
Kent, are we talking about a certain retired engineer from Long Island who is in our club? I can vouch for his soft hackle pattern.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Cliff said:
Kent, are we talking about a certain retired engineer from Long Island who is in our club? I can vouch for his soft hackle pattern.

Yep! (I didn't realize he was an engineer, but it makes perfect sense now that I think about it!)


Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
Somewhere in my collection a have a series of old pattern books from Veniard.
They are more like 15 - 20 page pamphlets with two center pages of colored illustrations and the rest of the pages filled with the dressings.
I swear I saw duck neck and duck back listed as hackle in one of those.

It certainly makes sense for a soft hackle. You can easily wash the oil out of the plucked feathers using Dawn dish-washing liquid. Dawn cuts oils, fats and grease especially well because it is at the other end of the PH scale from most natural oils and fats.



Active Member
I knew an old timer by the name of Leon Wronski back in the late 60's in Pennsylvania who was a professional fly tyer and very good trout fisherman. Anyhow, Leon tied and fished soft hackle wets with duck neck feathers from several species of duck very effectively. He simply doubled the feather as he wrapped in around the hook making 2 to 2 1/2 turns of the feather.
"Old Timers" catch more fish because they have time to go FISHING! I know because I ARE one! I've been tying soft-hackles from Green Wing Teal that I shot maybe 30 years ago. I've kept the feathers on the skin and they're doing just fine with no special treatment.