View Full Version : Wings

02-03-2009, 10:37 PM
If I've asked this before, I apologize, but: How important are wings to catching trout? It's so hard to get enough wing material off of a saddle. It seems like I run out of wing material long before I run out of hackle material. I could use duck feathers I suppose, but a lot of recipes call for wing material from hackle feathers.

02-03-2009, 11:42 PM
A question I have asked before, as well...

If you are using the tips from saddle hackle (like from the whiting 100s) to make your wings, you will have a hard time collecting enough tips to make many flies (ie. Adams). Here are a couple of ideas:
- You could pick up a cheap hen hackle cape that will have lots of feathers you could use for wings (or soft hackles) and cost less than $20
- Try other materials (use Elk hair or Calf Body/Tail for a Thunderhead or Adams Wulff - instead of an Adams)
- As you noted, you could you many different types of feathers to get a similar result to the hackle tips
- You could go without wings, especially if you are fishing in fast choppy waters
- Tie parachute style instead of winged - using any number of different materials
- Tie in comparadun style with Elk hair or Deer hair for the wing (fan shaped)

I'm sure others have some good suggestions.

Back to your question: I think it is important to have some form of a wing if for no other reason than to have a proper profile/silhouette. The fish may not be able to see the top of your fly (and what its constructed of, or what color it is), but the fly will cast shadows and may spin in the current so the little bit of impressionism that having a wing imparts is more important than the material that its made of...

I don't like using hackle tips because they seem like a lot of work and can be substituted with something easier (and less costly...)


02-04-2009, 10:46 AM
Pete, thanks for the advice. I have been leaning toward duck feathers for wings. I'll have to try a few things and see what works.

David Knapp
02-04-2009, 02:11 PM
Not sure what you're specifically tying but I'll add that poly yarn makes a fine wing...

02-04-2009, 02:53 PM
Here are some ideas to ponder:
1. Well marked TEAL (rolled like Catskill ties) is a good sub for Grizzly tips on Adams
2. Turkey flats fibers can be subbed for Duck quill wings. Again (roll them)I use a lot.
3. Calf body hair is a lot more managable than Calf Tail, I use it for Wulff type patterns
4. I, also, keep my eyes open for hen necks especially for wings. I picked up a grizzly hen that makes excellent wings. I buy necks based upon price and availability rather than trying to find one when I need it.
5. I vaguely remember an article in Outdoor Life in the 60's where the author was advocating using "a variant" for fishing in low light and broken water. Everything was tied one size larger, (#12 tied on #14 Hook) just a tail hackle and body had no wings.
6. I tie various colors of "wing" on some of my dries (cheap feather dusters have pink, red, turkey flats etc) to help me see the fly at times.

Hope this helps

Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

02-04-2009, 08:08 PM
Interesting stuff. I'll check into it. When you guys talk of using hen necks for wings, do you use the tips like off of a saddle, or just pull some off the feather and tie it like a wing?

02-04-2009, 08:53 PM
I don't use saddle tips they are too thin, especially the 100's packs. I get a hen or webby chinese neck and use the small feathers off the top. You can get genetically bred necks for winging. But they are expensive. I have bought hen necks at LRO for around $5, use them for nymphs, soft hackles and for winging materials. Personally, I don't think a trout knows the difference in a teal wing fibers and grizzly hackle tips for winging an adams. The impression given to the trout is more important.

I've seen flies in the "big box" stores that are tied with the proper materials but don't look like the original patterns I would see in West Yellowstone fly shops which were tied to represent the real fly.

One of the fly tying "notatables" has made the comment that Commerical tyers sell their good flies and fish with their mistakes.

Came across this site, just scanned through it- might help. After pulling it up, click on video repositary and type in fly tying http://www.flytyingforum.com/index.php?showtopic=39720.
Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

02-04-2009, 10:13 PM
I don't mean to be the contrarian here but I've seen little if any difference in fish catching ability wings or no wings. (fish can ignore my flies equally well either way).

Seriously, I have caught fish just as well on flies tied without wings as with wings. I've cut a lot of time off of tying by eliminating wings on flies I actually intend for fishing.

I still tie some with wings when I want to make a pretty fly, or just to tie a few up to remember how to do it, but for the most part, I have eliminated wings from most of my patterns except for parachute style.


02-05-2009, 01:14 AM
Jeff - I don't think you're being contrarian at all. I think we're all kind of saying the same thing. Wing are impressionistic, at best. Improvisation is what make fly tying most interesting for me. I enjoy trying new materials and approaches (including not using wings, at times).

The one caveat to that is: picky fish. There are times when the water is moving really slow. In those instances, outline, color, size and proportion will matter (of course presentation will still matter the most!). For most other times in choppy water, it probably doesn't matter at all...