Fly Tying Recipe:
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Hook: #14 Daiichi 1160
Beads: Purple and red 7/64″ Umpqua Radiant Tungsten Beads
Thread: Red 14/0 Veevus
Tag: Thread coated with Solarez Bone Dry
Tail: Purple Turkey Biot
Ribbing: 1/100″ Opal Mirage Lateral Scale
Abdomen: Purple Nature’s Spirit Emergence Dubbing
Collar: Whiting coq de León hen saddle fibers, spun in a loop using the same dubbing as the abdomen
Horns: Purple turkey biot
It’s no secret that I am inspired by great materials, whether it’s a beautiful piece of deer or elk hair, an exciting new dubbing blend, or a patch of feathers. Some materials just beg to be used, and it’s my job to figure out how to best use them.
When I first encountered Whiting Farms coq de León hen saddles, I was blown away by their outstanding mottling, perfect shape, huge color range, and extreme webbiness. These hen feathers share no traits with the long, stiff, glassy fibered feathers from coq de León roosters.
Coq de León hen saddles are about three or four times the size of Indian hen saddles, and the feathers themselves are much larger as well.
The longer length of the fibers makes them a lot easier to work with for the somewhat obvious uses of tails and legs on nymph patterns, but the downside to this large size and long length is I’ve always felt like I was missing out on using them on a conventionally wrapped soft-hackle collar. While the webbiness, fiber thickness, and variegation all hit the top of the list for a nice soft hackle feather, their extreme fiber length ruled them out for anything except fairly large streamer patterns.
I brewed this conundrum around in my head for a long time before I discovered a method that would allow me to use these perfect fibers in a downsized application.
As it turns out, the answer to using these longer-fibered feathers in smaller patterns was right in front of me—steelheaders have been doing it forever. Many modern steelhead flies are tied using dubbing loops loaded with long ostrich, rhea, and pheasant fibers to create a wrappable thread loop in lieu of the inherently thick and stiff center quill these larger feathers all share.
Extrapolating this idea to smaller flies—where I wanted to downsize the fiber length and collar size to match the hooks—was, I thought, an easy transference. My idea was to simply cut some of the coq de León hen fibers to the proper length, and insert them into a dubbing loop to create my own thread-centered feather, custom cut to size and density.
In practice, this process turned out to be a test of steadiness and patience, and in the end it’s just too complicated to be viable. Only when I inadvertently placed some of the cut-to-length fibers on top of a small trace of dubbing did I discover the healing powers of this adapted compound loop trick.
The dubbing fibers act as a vehicle to help transfer the tenuously married hackle fibers into the dubbing loop without allowing them to separate or fall out. The tiny amount of dubbing that ends up in the actual loop also adds density and color to the collar of the pattern without being overwhelming.
Further experimentation resulted in collars made with mixed colors, the ability to vary the length of the fibers in the same loop, and carefully selected dubbing colors and textures to add to the finished effect.