I recently purchased a pack of partridge feathers and most of them only had about a half inch of usable feather. The rest was like fuzz. The rest weren't even usable, they barely had any feather on them at all. Is this normal?
It is way easier to get them straight off the skin, so if you hunt or have the 20 bucks to buy a skin, thats the way to go in my opinion. I hate going thru loose feathers trying to find a good one. But it is way cheaper...
I just looked at what I have, not so bad an investment of 3 bucks, on todays market maybe a hundred bucks worth of feathers. You got to remember it only takes one or two turns of hackle, three at the most.
Feathers on the skin tend to stay flexible longer than loose feathers. You get a greater size range on the skin than with loose feathers. I've been tying from the same skin for two years now and still have plenty of feathers to tie with. With a skin you also get all those great under feathers (can't remember what they're called). Not a bad investment.
There's a fly shop in Boise that processes many of their own tying materials for sale under their brand. I bought a complete partridge skin there a few years back of under $10 and a grouse for about $12. If you're interested, send me a PM and I'll dig up their name. They're happy to do telephone or mail orders.
Enough to spin a soft hackle fly is all it takes, and with those, lay it over and stroke it till each side lays against each other and palmer, it doesn't take too many fibers to soft hackle a pattern, and laying a few wraps aft of the head bfore you whip finish, will lay them back
You can also just strip a few fibers roll them into a tube and spin it on the head like you would deer hair. With a little practice they'll flair around the hook evenly, then just overwrap them a little, if necessary to get them to lay back. You only need about a dozen or so fibers- most soft hackles are intended to be tied very sparsely