Whiting farm hackles quality

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by yuhina, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Hey Guys...

    need some help here...

    I am on the market of buying dryfly hackle now... saw some PRO grade hackle from whiting farm, are they old hackles? I can't remember they still using Pro-grade? I thought everything now is Bronze, Silver and Gold?
    I only interested in fresh hackles... (recent prepared pelts)

    Also I heard there are NO difference in hackle quality between grades... the difference is total numbers each pelt can tie... is this true?

    Thanks in advance!

    Mark
  2. Ron Eagle Elk Active Member

    Posts: 1,742
    Yelm, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +110 / 0
    Yuhina, I don't tie many dry flies, but my buddy who runs a fly shop says the Pro Grade hackles could be fresh, depending on where you buy them. Two independent breeders I know say that there is no marked difference in hackle quality between the grades, what your paying for is usable feathers.
    yuhina likes this.
  3. NewTyer1 Banned or Parked

    Posts: 560
    Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
    Ratings: +29 / 1
    There is also Conranch to buy your hackle and each company sells by the feather quality and quantity
    yuhina likes this.
  4. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Thanks Ron,

    I appreciate the great information. That's great to know there are some fresh Pro grades available. I have bought some Pro grade hackles before, and they are old (cheap). I can tell from the feather and the pelt (a little bit oily).
  5. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Hey New Tyer1

    Thanks for the information! I just checked their website and remember this family owned business... What caught my eyes are those whole rooster pelt... very interesting and nice! http://www.conranch.com/specials.html

    I do tie wetflies and streamers also, I am really interested to have one. I wonder do you have any experience with those hackle? Thanks!

    Mark
  6. Big E Moderator

    Posts: 1,431
    Coon Bay
    Ratings: +364 / 0
    I'll vouch for the quality of Conranch, great stuff. Denny is retiring soon and is tranferring his flock to someone else. He is selling off his inventory and may not have the colors or grade of what you want. The specials on that page were gone soon after they were posted (couple years ago) and it was just left there for pics of interest. He is a small time outfit so there is sometimes a wait for what you wanted and it is best to call or email him to discuss what you want.

    The new breeder plans to continue selling capes and saddles just as Denny did but it may be awhile before the new website is up and they are cranking them out.
    yuhina likes this.
  7. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Thanks Big_E

    Great information! I will talk to them...
  8. NewTyer1 Banned or Parked

    Posts: 560
    Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
    Ratings: +29 / 1
    I have spoken to Denny on a number of occasions and he is a really great guy but, I was given a bunch of materials from an old farmer friend of mine and don't think I will have to any hackles or turkey biots for the rest of my tying career and there is more yet to come. You can't go wrong with him though, top grade stuff all around
  9. silvercreek Active Member

    Posts: 363
    Ratings: +207 / 0
    Not true.

    Hackles are an agricultural product, and agricultural products whether beef or feathers need to be graded.

    Tell who ever told you that to look at siblings in a large family. They have the same mother and father but each will have different physical attributes.

    Pro quality hackles are the pelts that do not meet the standard for bronze.
  10. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Thanks everyone's contribution...

    I just did a little bit research about the genetic hackle and found a very interesting history about the hackle bloodlines ... really a nice read from the cgtu.org http://cgtu.org/
    see line below... (thought you might be interested to see this... and if you have a bit extra more history... I will be all eared! )

    http://cgtu.org/documents/publications/genetic_hackle.pdf

    The most important genetic work of the early period of hackle raising in the United States came from Catskill fly tier - Harry Darbee, who produced the best available stock of the day. Though others in both the United States and England had been experimenting with raising birds for their hackle, his efforts in the 1940s and 50s built the foundation for much of the commercial hackle we use today. Darbee selected his stock based mainly on color, but he was also a commercial fly tier and considered factors like hackle length, barbule stiffness, and the amount of webbing. Harry Darbee started with Thompson Barred Rock roosters (an American breed), and mixed them with Old English Game, Blue Andalusians, and several other breeds. Darbee used what he called a "shotgun approach" for his breeding program, crossing a dozen different colored hens with a single duncolored rooster to produce colors like blue dun, bronze dun, rusty dun, honey dun, and many others....

  11. Ron Eagle Elk Active Member

    Posts: 1,742
    Yelm, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +110 / 0
    Denny Conrad has some very nice feathers. He and I have been fishing buddies for some years now. If you can get your hands on one of his full skins, let's just say I have two of them and they are so pretty I hate plucking a feather from them. I hate it, but I do it. Denny is in his 70's now and taking care of his breeding stock is a lot of work. He deserves his retirement.
  12. Rob Ast Active Member

    Posts: 1,916
    West Pugetopolis WA
    Ratings: +237 / 3
    This may be true, but in this case the item being graded is not the individual feather, but the whole pelt. A size 16 hackle from each of these pelts will be the same, but the higher graded pelt will have either longer or a greater number of the more desireable sizes - hence the different grades.
  13. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,494
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 0
    If I understand the grading correctly, in addition to feather length and density on the skin, there are a couple other characteristics that are looked at in grading a dry fly skin: 1) the amount of secondary barbs on each lateral barb; these make a feather hydrophilic, so the fewer the better, and 2) the degree of cupping or concavity on each feather; the flatter the feather the better. Genetic breeding also has given us thinner more flexible quills, so that they wrap more easily.

    It may be the Fly Tiers Benchtop Reference that has a good discussion of hackle parameters. Reading it was eye opening. My first dry-fly hackle purchases were made blind. Pick it off the rack, pay for it, go home and tie flies. After a little while I was struck by how different the feathers were on the brown and grizzly capes that I had bought at the same time and paid the same price for.

    Now I always pull capes/saddles from their package and carefully examine the skins, the feather density, and individual feathers. Grading at the manufacturer is, no doubt, a pretty quick and dirty affair, and I've been rewarded by finding a few very nice skins that were undergraded. I talked with a fly shop owner a number of years ago who told me that he personally assesses every skin they get into their shop and pulls the undergraded ones to either use for himself or to sell to shop employees and friends. He suggested that most shops do this, so that it will be uncommon to find undergraded skins for sale. Somehow, I don't think all shops do this, however, and I've found some bargains in local shops here in the Seattle area.

    D
  14. yuhina Tropical member

    Posts: 2,320
    Boston-Idaho
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    Richard,

    I agree , always inspect the pelt before purchase!

    But I am not sure if whiting farm use that many characters for grading...
    I thought they use that detailed characters only for breeding program...
  15. Richard Olmstead BigDog

    Posts: 2,494
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +791 / 0
    Hm-m-m-m-m, if they are breeding for those traits, why wouldn't they grade for them, as well, when pricing their products?

    D
  16. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,242
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +102 / 0
    Ron and Rob are correct. The difference between a Whiting Pro Grade and a Whiting Bronze Grade cape is the number of hackles is the smaller sizes with the #18 to #24 hackles being in very short supply on the Pro Grade necks. Most of the hackles on the Pro Grade necks are in the #10-#14 size range, with a decent number of #8's and #16's, but not nearly as many #16's as with higher grade necks. Also, the Pro Grade necks may have hackles that aren't as long in stem length as the higher grades.

    The reason they are called Pro Grade is because the vast majority of professional tyers (unless they are tying a lot of small flies in the #18-#24 range) buy Pro Grade necks. Why they do so is precisely because they are lower priced and have the size hackles most used (#10-#16). I'm aware that this information contradicts the perceptions of most non-professional fly tyers, but seriously, pro tyers don't make a lot of money on a dozen flies and they hate to buy hackle necks that have a lot of hackle on them in sizes they don't use very often, so they use the best quality hackle they can get for the lowest price, which means they buy and tie with Whiting Pro Grade and other similar genetic hackles. I know back in the 80's when I was living in Montana and tying flies commercially, I always bought Grade 3 or Pro Grade necks for dry flies unless I has orders for #20 and #24 flies, then I'd buy a Grade 1.

    For wet flies (other than steelhead or salmon flies), the best hackle is good genetic hen neck. It is more mobile, denser (means it takes fewer turns to hackle the fly), and has more web, all of which are good and desireable for wet flies.
    yuhina likes this.