BUYING AND SELECTING FEATHERS
FLY TYING FEATHERS
FLY TYING INSTRUCTION
http://www.flytyinginstruction.com
Fly tying equipment and materials
reference guide. Learn how to tie
flies for fishing and display.

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BUYING AND SELECTING FEATHERS
What to look for when buying fly tying feathers. As a beginner we bought a lot of worthless and damaged feathers. This page will help in the selection of good quality feathers.

When tying flies for general fishing purposes, you won't need to be as critical of the feather quality as when tying a Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly, where the smallest detail is important and perfection is the goal. 

FLY TYING FEATHER QUALITY
Most fly tying shops just have average quality feathers. When placing orders from their distributor, the feathers are already packaged and they have limited control in the selection process. If searching for the best quality fly tying feathers, you will need to find a source that specializes in materials for Classic Atlantic Salmon Flies.


There is no governing body concerning feather quality control and rating systems are based on a loose set of terms as determined by individual producers. Ultimately you need to personally determine if the feathers meet the standards required for the intended application. Most feathers sold through the local fly shop will be decent quality, but that is not always guaranteed. A inspection of the feathers should be performed before buying, that includes pulling them out of the package. When buying feathers from the big chain stores, it should be assumed they are low quality until inspected and proven otherwise. Buying feathers online can be a risk. Read the description closely and make sure that any photos are of the actual feathers. It is a common practice for online sellers to use stock photos.


This feathers has what is called Stress Marks.
You want to avoid feathers with Stress Marks

DYING COLORED FEATHERS
Has the feather been totally saturated with the dye and the color consistent throughout the fibers? Most commercial feathers are professionally dyed and the color is even and completely saturated throughout the complete feather, but there are always exceptions and with a quick visual inspection you should avoid any problems. (We have had feathers that were poorly dyed, but still used them for less important applications.)

Feather Barbs
Use barbs that are married all the way to
the tips. These barbs have ragged unmarried
tips and should not be used when constructing
a set of feather wings.

BARBS MARRIED TO THE TIPS
When tying a set of feather wings a factor that needs to be taken into consideration will be if the barbs are married all the way to the tips or are they ragged. In some cases you can steam the feather and the rejuvenated barbs can then be married to the tips. The sweet spot of a is usually towards the middle section of the feather and the downy barbs near the bottom would be discarded when constructing a set of wings. For applications such as hackle, if the barbs marry together, then it will produce a clumpy appearance, which might not be desired, especially when tying dry flies.

DRY AND BRITTLE FEATHERS
One of the first symptoms of a dry and brittle feather is that the stem will easily break when working with them. Maybe from age or improper storage conditions the oils in the feather can dry out and cause them to be brittle. By the time most feathers are in this condition it will be obvious that something is wrong with the general appearance of the feather, but that might not always be the case. Once we bought a package of great looking jungle cock nails, but when you tried stripping off the lower barbs or applied to much thread pressure the stems would break, but with most commercial feathers there won't be any problems.


Matched Pair of Feathers
Feathers have a curvature and when tying
feather wings, you want to use barbs from
a matched set of feathers.

CURVATURE OF FEATHER STEMS
The stems of most feathers have a curvature and when tying feather wings, you want to use barbs from the left and right side feathers of the bird.

MATCHING FEATHERS

BARB CURVATURE
When looking at a feather from the front, the barbs should have an upward continuous arch shape.

Feather Reverse Curves
Feather barbs with Reverse Curve
It is hard to photograph clearly the curves
of the barbs. In this photo the barbs on the
right side have an upward arch, but the barbs
on the left side of the stem have a downward
arch shape that curl back up near the tips.
Feather Reverse Curves
The good side of the the feather should have
a continuous upward arch.

Feathers with reverse curves should be avoided. While you could use feathers with reverse curves in some applications, they will look awkward on most flies and should be avoided. An exception are turkey tail feathers which normally have a reverse curve. When tying a set of wedded wings you would mix the turkey barbs with barbs from other feathers that are stronger and have a continuous curvature.

GOOSE SHOULDER FEATHERS
Goose shoulder feathers are probably the most common feathers used for wings, as they are cheap and readily available at any fly tying shop. When buying a package of goose shoulder feathers normally there are about half a dozen feathers. Hopefully there would be three matched pairs, but more often than not, there will be more feathers from one side of the goose than the other. We have bought packages of goose shoulder feathers that were all from the same side of the goose and had to buy extra packages to find any matched sets before they could be used for feather wings.


The tips of these barbs are ragged and unmarried.
When tying a set of feather wings, you want to use
barbs that are married all the way to the tips.


This is an example of a bad quality Goose
Shoulder Feather. When buying packages
of goose shoulder feathers, there always seems
to be a couple good quality feathers mixed with
others that are low quality. This goose shoulder
feather in the above photo is worthless and we
threw it in the garbage. (The photo makes this
feather look better than it actually is.)


This feather is damaged and should not be
used. It appears to have been infested with
bugs at some point and somehow passed quality
control. Most of the feathers in the package where
decent condition, but these bad quality feathers
were mixed among them.

When constructing feather wing flies, you want to select feathers with sufficient barb length for the pattern and hook size. The barbs should be married to the tips.

When purchasing select pairs of matched feathers, it will cost a little extra, but for serious fly tyers the benefits will prove to be a good investment. Most exotic and the more expensive feathers are usually sold in matched pairs with feathers from opposite sides of the bird.

Wedded Feather Wings
A Set of Wedded Feather Wings
Used for a Fancy Steelhead Fly or
Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly.

MARRIED WINGS
When designing a set of married wings, the quality of the feathers need to be scrutinized more than normal. The barbs need to be married completely to the tips and length of barbs will be some of the considerations to be factored when selecting feathers for married wings.

MARRIED WINGS

Jungle Cock Nail Feather
Good quality Jungle Cock Feather
The best quality jungle cock feathers are
expensive and are used mostly in the construction
of show quality flies that will never be fished, but
framed and hung on the wall for display purposes.

Split Jungle Cock Nail Feathers
Jungle Cock nails with multiple splits. These
low quality jungle cock nails would be used
for flies meant for fishing and will be abused.
The splits could be repaired with some adhesive
on the back of the nail, but for display purposes
it is preferable to use an undamaged nail.

SPECIALTY FEATHERS
Specialty feathers will have their individual quirks.

BUYING COMPLETE BIRD SKINS
When buying complete or partial bird skins start with a visual inspection. Do all the feathers look to be in good condition. Does the underside of the skin look and smell clean. Skins that have been stretched and stored flat will offer the best chances of matching feathers from opposite sides of the bird.

When buying a complete skin there is often a cardboard insert to help keep the plastic bag squared and the skin in a flattened position. It is important that any paper or cardboard inserts have been sealed to prevent absorbing the oil and moisture from the feathers. Most cardboard and paper use chemicals in the manufacturing process that will damage feathers and speed up the deterioration rate.

When buying fly tying feathers from the big chain stores the prices might be cheaper, but tend to be lower quality. Also you might notice there are less feathers per package, so while it might be a dollar less than at the local fly tying shop, after factoring the cost per feather could actually be more expensive. It is possible to sometimes find good deals at the big chain stores, but that quality control thing can prove to be a nuisance.

FEATHER CARE AND STORAGE
Some general advice about cleaning and storage of feathers.

ANATOMY OF A FEATHER
Description and parts of a feather.

MATCHING FEATHERS
How to match and pair feathers when tying feather wings on a fly.

FLY TYING FEATHERS:
AM-GOLD PHEASANT
ARGUS BODY FEATHERS
ARGUS HEN QUILL FEATHERS
ARGUS PRIMARY TAIL FEATHERS
ARGUS SECONDARY WING
BANKSIAN COCKATOO
BARRED WOOD DUCK FEATHERS
BIOTS (GOOSE / TURKEY)
BLUE EARED PHEASANT
BLUE EDGED MANTLE BODY
BRONZE MALLARD FEATHERS
BUSTARD FLORICAN FEATHERS
BUSTARD KORI FEATHERS

CDC FEATHERS

CHATTERER
CHUKAR SKINS
COQ DE LEON
COTINGA
CRANE FEATHERS
EMU FEATHERS
GADWALL DUCK FLANK
GOLDEN PHEASANT SKINS
GOLDEN PHEASANT CREST
GOLDEN PHEASANT TAIL
GOLDEN PHEASANT TIPPETS
GOOSE SHOULDER FEATHERS
GRAY PEACOCK SINGLE EYES
GUINEA FOWL FEATHERS
HUNGARIAN PARTRIDGE
INDIAN CROW
JAY
JUNGLE COCK
KINGFISHER
LADY AMHERST CENTER TAIL
LADY AMHERST TIPPETS
LEMON DUCK FEATHERS
MACAW TAIL FEATHERS
MALAY PEACOCK SINGLE EYE
MALLARD SIDE FEATHERS
MALLARD WINGS
OSTRICH HERL
PARROT FEATHERS
PEACOCK FEATHERS
PEACOCK HERL
PEACOCK NECK FEATHERS
PEACOCK QUILL FEATHERS
PEACOCK SWORD FEATHERS
RINGNECK PHEASANT
SCARLET MACAW
SILVER PHEASANT
STARLING SKIN
SWAN FEATHERS
TEAL FEATHERS
TURKEY FEATHERS

WOOD DUCK FEATHERS

HACKLE FEATHERS
Hackle feathers are a complete subject in themselves and these pages will sort through some of the confusion.

MARABOU FEATHERS
Marabou are fluffy feathers that have a breathing action in the water.

FLY TYING INSTRUCTION
http://www.flytyinginstruction.com
Fly tying equipment and materials
reference guide. Learn how to tie
flies for fishing and display.

FLY TYING FEATHES
BUYING AND SELECTING FEATHERS