This can be a big problem depending on what you are using for spey hackle. The stuff they sell in shops as Spey hackle usually has too thick of stems and even when you strip, you end up with a wide flat side that wants to flare out at 90 degrees to teh shank.
A couple of things that help to various degrees.
1) Pay close attention to wrapping it under tension at 45 degrees.
2) Soak the feather in water for a few minutes before wrapping. This also helps brittle stems from breaking.
3) Some people actually strip carefully and use the strip side without the main stem or use a razor blade to spilt the stem.
You can largely get away from this problem if you use higher quality hackle such as Blue Eared Pheasant or the new Whiting Spey capes. Both cost significantly more but the results are very worth it.
for anybody who read this post and has the same problem that i have been having, well i figured it out. i was tieing more speys and trying different ways to wrap the hackle and figured out that if you wrap the hackle away from you instead of towards you then that makes all the difference in the world. suddenly my flies look a hell of a lot better and for some reason i am able to make a really small head that way as well. can somebody tell me why that is?
Sinktip I have to disagree with you. The Whiting Hackles are only $20 for the bronze grade and are a bargain when compared to number of usable feathers. The burnt goose spey hackle tend to go for about $3 per 20. I've gotten plenty of great feathers off a cape to offset the cost. Slightly higher in price but significantly higher quality. Plus they need no soaking. Their also sparse enough not to need splitting.I love 'em!
Tightloops, i have to agree with you. when i wrapped the hackle away from me, i made one extra wrap with the stem and my head seemed so much smaller. that didn't sound very good for myself, but it worked. my flies look so much better.
I don't disagree with you. I was thinking $30 a pop for the Silver grade but yes they are nice. My comment on price was compared to the $3 packs. On a per feather basis the Whiting capes are a great value. As for quality, they are still nowhere near blue eared pheasant but if you double or triple them, you can get as bushy as you like.
The direction that you wrap is relative only to the way you mount the hackle. You can wrap a feather tip first, butt first, clockwise or counter-clockwise, front to back or back to front. You can attach the hackle in different ways to accommodate all these different wraps. That includes stripped or folded. Some feathers do not strip well and dyed feathers will have a white edge when stripped. When using a dyed and stripped feather in a situation where the white edge is objectionable you are better off cutting the unwanted fibers off very close to the stem instead of stripping. A good pair of scissors can do this very cleanly. Just wrap a hook with some floss and start experimenting by mounting and wrapping hackles in different ways.
There are no absolutes unless you are trying to duplicate an existing pattern.
If you are looking for a good spey hackle I highly recommend you check out Speyman's materials at River Run Angler (http://www.speyshop.com). I tried blue-eared and most products and I will not go back to any other manufacture.
The reason I like Speyman's hackles is because (1) the stems are not thick so there is no soaking or splitting (ready to tie); (2) great selection of colors; (3) you can't beat the price (2.25 for 25 feathers); and (4) most important, the material moves really well in the water.
While I agree with a lot of the great tips passed along in this thread - I strongly disagree with the word "quality" when it's used to describe the 'new Whitting Spey Capes'. IMO it's a horrible product in every way, the worst $40 I've ever spent, and my cape is currently residing in a local landfill.