We all have some difficulty from time to time finding good quality hackles for streamers. And for the record, the feathers we use for featherwing streamers can be anything suitable. (The WordPress spell check says featherwing isn’t a word but I’m going with the manual over-ride, which is me. Hey people make up new words everyday, so I’m going with my artistic interpretation, unless the default dictionary just needs to add the word. Streamer feathers are not saddles exclusively, or neck hackles exclusively, just whatever is the right shape for the specific type of fly we are tying. When we do find a good package of say, strung saddle, which are normally the best feathers for featherwing streamers, there are often many “perfect” feathers that we deem unusable only because the stems are twisted, crooked, bent, and basically not what we desire for tying passable fishing flies that we would be proud to show off to our fishing buddies, much less presentation or collector’s specimens.
I wrote a topic a while back about steaming feathers, especially hackles for streamers – and I believe this is a technique so beneficial to our feather restoration efforts that more tiers should be informed of its benefits. Hence my followup post on the topic.
These three photos illustrate a feather that I “fixed” last week, taking a basically unusable saddle and transforming it into a prime example of what we want. This specimen was in worse need of “correction” than the other example I posted.
When steaming saddle hackle feathers it is imperative to avoid getting burned. Steam can scald in an instant. After stripping the fluff, I hold the butt end with my tweezers, and I grasp the tip end with my left hand. Three seconds under the steaming spout of a small teakettle opening while holding the feather stretched taut will yield straight stems. Solves a lot of the tying difficulties we encounter trying to make maximum use of available feather resources. It does require some effort, but what in life that is worthwhile does not require at least some effort?
Hope this technique helps, streamer tiers.