Long hackle fibers (intruders/spey flies)

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Thanks again Stewart Dee and Constructeur. Visual helps a lot. I was wondering if the materials were dyed if the bleaching and burning process will affect the coloration. Am I opening pandoras box into modifying or customizing materials, dying and all that jazz. One never knows what kind of things I'll try.


Active Member
The best feathrs for ease of use, availability, and long-mobile hackle fibers with thin stems are in no particular order:

1) Blue-eared pheasant for natural blue-grey heron substitute.

2) Whiting Spey Hackle (not Whiting Bird Fur) preferably rooster neck due to the range of hackle size on the rooster neck. But Whiting Spey Hackle saddles are great if only tying larger spey and dee flies, and Whiting Spey Hackle Hen Necks are terrific for smaller spey flies.

3) Good quality schlappen. This means that you will be tossing out 15%-20% of the feathers in a package of schlappen. However, it is readily available in a huge number of colors and when prepared properly makes a very good spey hackle.

4) Coche feathers. These are long, thin-stemmed, side-tail feathers from roosters. They are availabe is a large number of colors, including the very hard to find 'bronze black' some of the old spey flies used. Many of the antique spey flies were tied with this feather as hackle. It is not easy to find though it is worth looking for.

5) Rhea has very long fibers, but most of its stem is rather thick. This means that the feather has to be split to be able to use most of this rather expensive feather. To split it soak it for a few hours in room temperature water that has some hair conditioner added to it. Then bend the feather right where the stem starts to thicken and bend it far enough to break the stem. Grab both sides of the split stem and gently, firmly, and carefully pull it apart all the way down the stem. Clean some of the pith from each side of the stem by rubbeing it with the inside edge of your scissors and you now can use nearly the complete rhea feather. Rhea also has fibers that are much too long for all but the largest flies.

6) Large Chinese Pheasant (ring-neck pheasant) rump feathers. Hareline Dubbing has offered white Chinese Pheasant skins for several years and they make for very good spey hackle in brighter colors.

7) Turkey tail, ostrich, Amhearst tail, Golden Pheasant Tail, Chinese pheasant tail, heck pretty much any individual feather fiber can be used for spey hackle. They need to be bleached as per the directions provided before by another poster and they have to be put into a dubbing loop, tied around the body as spread out fibers at each body ribbing point, or make into a "hackle" by placing between 2 strands of very fine brass wire which are then spun to form the "hackle".

8) Bleached goose shoulder. This feathers has a rather thick stem so it is difficult to work with. Splitting it will help.

9) Duck flank feathers from any species of duck natural or dyed.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
I've begun to acquire a few of these mentioned items. Thank you greatly. I had some, now I have more. More is almost always better...almost.
OK Mumbles take your Ostrich and mix 50/50 bleach and cold water. Drop the Ostrich in and swirl it around for 3 min. (you will find the exact time you like). Then as soon as you remove the feathers, then dip them in white vinegar mixed with some water = that kills the burn of the bleach from further damage. Then rinse in cold water, dry for a while and brush it gentle with a soft toothbrush on a flat surface. The barbs will be gone and the remaining feather IMO looks and flows better that Rhea for a third of the price.
Awesome! And thanks for the video Constructeur.

Any idea if I can do this with some of the webbyer schlappen? Love the size of it but it seems like the barbs stick together a lot and don't come out as clean looking. Afraid with something as thin as that it might weaken the stem too much. Maybe just toss it in for a few seconds like the mallard?

Cool thread.
Don't limit yourself to just peacock herl and eye, man. Peacock is the most underrated cape out there. Very irredescent feathers. Think, being able to palmer micro herl into a body like hackel. There are also all white varieties of peacocks out there that take dye very well. I'd pick up a cape of each if you can find one. I sourced mine from a buddies back yard coup so I don't know who if anyone sells them commercially. Not sure about your living situation but peachicks are usually under 5 bucks a piece at market. They are freaking loud tho so if you have close neighbors, I'd find some already skinned and processed.