Dry fly capes

Looking for information on dry fly capes. I am going to start trying my hand at tying dries, but unsure which brand to lean towards or which quality of feather. How much to the capes differ when it comes to the grade of the cape? Should I purchase premium capes because they say premium, or could I get the same results from a cape that is in the moderate quality range? I will be doing the purchase online so I won't be able to actually look at the feathers until they arrive by mail, I am a novice fly tyer at best so I probably wouldn't know what to look for even if I was to look at the capes before I did the purchase. I like tying small flies when it come to nymphs and have recently tied size 18,16, and 24 CDC caddis's. any information will be greatly appritiated, I look forward to hearing from you all...
Bitterroot just ordered a bunch of whiting hackle over the phone from Jim's fly co in West Yellowstone. Member Ron eagle elk works there. I'd feel comfortable giving him a call and asking him questions about what you want to know and having him select your hackles. At least that way you know somebody got to take a look at your feathers.

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There is something to be said for having a local brick and mortar store staffed by knowledgeable folks you trust. They can put different materials in your hands so you can see (and learn) the differences. I found when I factor in the information and advice I get to the price that shows up on the register I get more value from shops vs online. Been tying for 15 years and there is always something to learn, which is a huge part of the enjoyment I get from tying. It did take some time to find "the shop" but was worth the search.
James, I spending the summer working in a fly shop that handles Whiting only. I've got some pro-grade capes that are dynamite. Good straight stems, high barb count and a huge sweet spot. You have a message on Facebook.


Active Member
The biggest factor is what size flies you are going to be tying the most. If you are going to be tying #18 or smaller flies most of the time, the grade #1 genetic necks are best for the simple reason that they have the greatest number of hackles on them for small flies.

However, if most of the flies you are going to be tying are in the #12-#16 size range, the best hackle to get are the #3 necks because most of the hackles are in that size range (and #3 necks have #18-24 hackles just not nearly as many as a #1 neck), and they have the best price/hackle.

Quality genetic saddles are great for the "normal trout sizes of #12-18 flies provided you get one with the proper size hackle on them. This is important because genetic saddles have very limited hackle sizes on them. A neck will have all size hackles on them, but saddles very rarely have more than 2 or at most 3 sizes of hackle on them. Saddles can be a very good value if you buy them with the proper size hackles you need.

I know this advice is contrary to what an awful lot of folks think and that a lot of shops advise; however, when such well-known and famous tyers as Al Troth and A,K, Best tied most of their dries with #3 necks. Therefore, it is obvious there is nothing wrong with buying and using them.

And like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, if you are going to be tying mostly if not exclusively small flies (i.e. #18 and smaller), you need to buy #1 genetic necks to get the greatest number of small hackles suitable for those small size flies.
I tie down to #24 dries for midge hatches and have carefully selected Whiting gold to do the job. When you're planning to tie small, the advice re quality people telling you what's up and having some idea of how to apprise the stems will pay dividends. Don't go cheap. And, go Whiting. Get the silver or gold depending on what you'll tie. It will last and last, so price is a distant memory.

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
Certainly for consistency genetic hackles are best and Whiting is best for genetics. However, consistency is both their strength and their weakness in regards to color. If you enjoy feathers with a higher sheen and more interesting color you want to talk to Charley Collins. This is entirely subjective so your mileage may vary but the natural (not dyed) Collins capes that I have show more depth of color and more highlights than the genetics. Plus, when you buy a Collins hackle you also get the saddle from the same bird for about the same price or less than the genetic capes alone.

I have some really nice genetics but most of them are Hebert Miner hen hackles. For many dry flies good quality hen hackles are just fine as here in the west we tend to hackle our flies pretty heavy to suit our water. We really don't need ultimate stiffness to float our flies. There are many fly types that can use hen hackles, Parachutes come to mind.


I have always been and continue to be a major proponent of calling to discuss any purchase when I am not exactly sure what I want or when I want something very particular. A few minutes on the phone can put you miles ahead for insuring that you get what you need as opposed to ordering from a picture online and hoping for the best. The key is to talk to people who are really intimate with their materials.

I have been purchasing hackles, game bird skins and other more obscure materials fro Jim Slattery for quite a few years. Long before he opened the shop in West Jellystone. With the addition of Ron you now have at least two guys who really know their feathers. They have an outstanding selection. Some of my favorite capes in regards to color and fiber characteristics have come form Jim. I could care less how many flies I can tie with one feather. IMHO there are more important aspects of feathers to be concerned about.

Call them up. Take your time and tell them what you are tying and what you think you're looking for. You won't be disappointed.


Whiting sells half capes (split lengthwise down the middle), which is a good way to go on a budget when getting started. For +/- the same price you can get half capes of two different feather colors (e.g., a brown and a grizzly). You can tie plenty of flies with a half cape, and by the time you run out of usable feathers on one you will have a much better understanding of what to look for in feathers and will probably want to buy full capes then.
I suggest Jim's Fly Company. I've known Jim & Wendy Slattery for over 20 years. His fly shop is not actually in West Yellowstone al all. That is their closest post office. He is as honest as the day is long.

The fly shop is in the Campfire Lodge Resort Restaurant/Office on the banks of the Madison River between Hebgen and Quake Lakes. It is only a few miles upriver from Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn.

Jim has an amazing selection of Whiting Farms Hackle. When folks think Whiting, they think of Whiting hackle from the Hoffman genetic line, but Whiting also produces Hebert Miner genetic line of hackle.

I actually prefer saddles to capes for my dry fly tying. Saddles are cheaper and most tie 2 to 3 sizes of flies. So if you are going to tie just a few sizes like 12-14 or 14-16s; consider a saddle.

I also find the best deals in the Hebert Miner and Whiting Pro Grade of hackle. You literally can get 4 Whiting Prograde capes ($30) or 4 Hebert Miner Pro Grade Saddles ($30) for the price of one Whiting gold cape ($130).

These Prograde lines are down graded because they don't contain the length of hackle, or fewer feathers, or some broken feathers, etc. I have found some amazing prograde saddles for $30 BUT you need to be able to grade hackle.

Unfortunately the hackle hair extensions have made saddles, even the pro grades scarce. Fortunately, the hair folks like many tyers only think of Whiting and not Herbert Miner. The Hebert Miner line of saddles run larger than the the Whiting which is great if you want to tie flies in the size 12-14-16 range.

Call Jim and tell him exactly what you want. Don't go by what is on the web site as available. When I was at the Campfire Lodge in July, they had colors that were not on the web site so it is best to call and tell him what you need.


Map of Campfire Lodge

You are also familiar with Jim since he was on [email protected] while you were there. He would post about soft hackles, which is his passion.


Remember to time you visit for breakfast. Breakfast at Campfire Lodge is not to be missed. You will find Jim at the stove cooking up a storm.

PS: for Gene, no chicken on the menu for breakfast but you can have all the eggs you want!;)

PSS: For those of you that need a place to learn how to nymph or to teach nymphing, go to the end of Ghost Village Road on the Google map below.


There will be some picnic tables and a porta potty at the small parking lot. Walk to the Madison River and start to nymph. This section is loaded with white fish and is a great place to teach nymphing. If you get the nymph near the bottom, you are just about guaranteed to catch fish.