View Full Version : Peacock Herl

04-26-2010, 08:49 AM
From a beginner:
Whats the best way to get a nice tight wrap of peacock herl? Say on a BHPT. I get mine almost to the point where I am about to tie it in and it snaps (not always, but 8 out of 10 times).

Is this common?
Do I need the super expensive hackle pliers?

04-26-2010, 09:23 AM
I never use a hackle pliers unless I really need to. 1) Is your peacock old and brittle? I've found some packs I had a while are. 2) Are you nicking the point of the hook? Using a hackle pliers, that's a possibility. 3) When I wrap my peacock herls, I twist my tying thread around it and wrap both herl and thread at same time. It seems to eliminate herl breakage while wrapping, it strengthens the fly's body and I find I can skip using wire. Look at my suggestion for adding a little red dubbing to the thread in the Prince Nymph thread, it works.

Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

04-26-2010, 09:25 AM
GK, I'm by no means an expert but I have developed a different approach from most folks.... Most books, etc tell you to create a rope of Herl with 3 strand or more and then wrap those. But to be honest, I have never had much success making those wraps look all that good. What I do instead, is take one strand, tie it in by the tip, but about 1/4 to 1/3 from the very tip. The tip is usually the best looking but the most fragile...so if you go down just a little ways on the herl is more stable and still has most of the look of the very tip.

I then wind the herl (without pliers) so that the fibers are all nice and close to each other. It gives a nice bushy effect to the herl section...give it a try.

04-26-2010, 10:16 AM
PeteCz has it right. Tie in a ways from the tip, wind from tip end on first. I only use one or two herls when I wind mine since I dub my thread.

04-26-2010, 10:16 AM
soak it in a glass of water for a few minutes to soften the herl stem just like you would for a stripped herl fly. ex... quill gordon, before tying in and wrapping. less likely to break. Its gonna get wet anyways.

04-26-2010, 02:00 PM
Thanks everyone. I will try some of these tips tonight and see what happens.

04-26-2010, 08:49 PM
Tie it off several times during the process. Leave the thread at the rear of the thorax and let the wraps of peacock push the thread and bobbin forward as you wrap it forward. I've tried to wrap it with thread to reenforce it and I just don't like the way it looks. Tie it off with thread every 2 o4 3 wraps of peacock. That way if it come loose, it will still be tied off and you can just trim the loose ends. I will also say this, not all peacock herl is created equal, if you find a good source buy it bulk.

04-26-2010, 09:15 PM
I usually tie in 2 or 3 strands and then put a couple drops of head cement on the thread wraps before wrapping the peacock hurl. I find it helps hold things together and makes the flies last longer.

I tie quite a few soft hackles with peacock bodies (fish like these by the way, especially with starling for the hackle).


04-26-2010, 09:38 PM
Thanks for the help everyone. I used a little bit of everyone's advice tonight practicing with peacock herl. Give me some constructive criticism of what I've done.

Here is a Pheasant Tail rendition I have been working on. It is actually tied with some old ring neck feathers, and the heads always look a little odd, because by the time I get there, I am just happy the whole thing hasn't slung apart. Also, I am terrible at whip finishing.



Below is the first Prince Nymph I have ever tied. I feel like I did ok, except that I learned that it might have been easier to use a bead head to hide my ugly whip finish and tie offs. I know I didn't use the right hackle, this was all I had in my small collection of materials.



Please let me know what you think I could have done differently to make them better. Thanks.

04-27-2010, 12:17 AM
I toss them as far as I can and then check for damage...I guess you could call it a herl.

04-27-2010, 08:55 AM
The Pheasant tail looks good. A couple questions for you to consider.
1) Both flies are bulky. Are you using toothick a lead wire? The thickness of the wire should only be the thickness of the hook shank. If you need more weight, add shot to your tippet or as I would do, place a 'Tungsten' bead in the thorax.If need more weight, add a second for the head. (I am not a fan of beads for beadheads sake, I employ them usually as part of weighting the fly while stay true to body shape.) Both these flies are imitating mayflies so you need to be 'true' to there body shape. A Stonefly can be bulkier. I squeeze the wire on my abdomen of them to get it 'thicker' on them. (I darken my nickel beads most times).
2)Look at your tails (mayflies). Are they tied off on the bare shank or very slightly dubbed shank? The extra couple wire wraps making you tie off on the wire, if you do. aren't worth it?Are your tails tied above the barb?
3) Are you you leaving enough space for the head? The early Catskill tiers actually tied the heads on their Drys and had almost an eyes thickness of bare shank to tie thier tippet.
4) Are you substituting wraps for tightness, esp. on the whip finish? Use only enough wraps to do the job. I do two whip finishes of three wraps each. Don't trust your whip finishes, after a tying session carefully put a small drop of Loctite glue on them.

Two additional comments, Look at the patterns of the Yellowstone flytyers Craig Mathews as an example. They are rough looking!! Most of the flies are currently tied by folks who have never seen a trout or a real mayfly!! Both those flies will catch trout in Little River as well as one out of a fly bin! I think it was Walter Dette who said that Fly tiers SELL their good flies and FISH with their mistakes.

Try this, tie a dozen of one pattern. Work on the little things proportion, tight thread wraps etc. on everyone. You'll see a great improvement from fly 1 to fly 12.

Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

04-27-2010, 01:05 PM
1) Both flies are bulky. Are you using toothick a lead wire? The thickness of the wire should only be the thickness of the hook shank.

I don't think they are actually as bulky as they look in those camera shots, but I probably could have used a few less wraps of thread in securing the wire weight. I compared them to some flies I bought and they are of similar size. I'll try to keep the bulkiness to a minimum on the next ones I tie.

2)Look at your tails (mayflies). Are they tied off on the bare shank or very slightly dubbed shank? The extra couple wire wraps making you tie off on the wire, if you do. aren't worth it?Are your tails tied above the barb?

They aren't tied on the bare shank, but on top of a few wraps of thread (no dubbing). I'm not sure I understand the part about the "extra couple wire wraps".

3) Are you you leaving enough space for the head?

I might not be. I am going to try again on the prince nymph with a bead head.

4) Are you substituting wraps for tightness, esp. on the whip finish? Use only enough wraps to do the job. I do two whip finishes of three wraps each. Don't trust your whip finishes, after a tying session carefully put a small drop of Loctite glue on them.

I am probably guilty of this. I do put head cement on my whip finishes.

Thanks for taking the time do do such a comprehensive review Randall.

04-27-2010, 03:39 PM
GK, Thanks for posting pics and more importantly opening yourself up to constructive criticism, its always the best way to learn, good job.

I think what Randall was trying to say (forgive him, he wasn't an English Teacher...I believe Math/Science were his strong suit:biggrin:...plus now he is fishing all over the country and not talking to normal people much anymore....just fish...[I know, I know we all are jealous...but after years of teaching he deserves to have some fun...]). What he was getting at was that the diameter of the lead you were using was probably too thick on top of using too many wraps. Ideally, you want to use as few wraps of, and as thin a lead, as possible.

If you give yourself some room at the hook eye (at least 1/16"?) and then only take the lead to about halfway up the shank, you can then fill in with thread wraps to give yourself a more tapered underbody to dub over. That will also give you more room to work with when you are whip finishing...

Also by using a very small ball of thread/dubbing at the tail tie in point you can flare out the tails without adding much bulk.

Here is a good tutorial on tying the Prince. Check out the lead wraps and gaps, etc

And even more to the point, fish are not as concerned about scruffiness as fly tyers are. Did you ever notice that the flies that catch the most trout are the ones that have been hammered and torn up? Don't be too concerned if you have it perfect. That PT in particular is already very good, a few tweaks and we won't be able to tell them apart from Walter Babb's...

04-27-2010, 08:16 PM
I tied this one after work today. Hopefully there is some improvement. The bead made things a little easier.


04-27-2010, 10:03 PM
Lookout Walter Babb!!

04-28-2010, 08:12 AM

Nice looking fly. You've done very well indeed. Now go out and slay the trout!

04-28-2010, 08:43 AM
Thanks fellas. I've really been enjoying tying lately. I've been learning some other nymphs too like the Tellico, march brown, & various stoneflies. I might look for some help on those in the next few days.

I would like to start modeling my flies after Hugh Hartstell's. I really like the way his flies look.

04-28-2010, 11:02 AM
Clarifications- I hope(:>). My reply was done while feeding Princess Jasmine and Aerial the Little Mermaid (aka. Hannah and Mallory my granddaughters) along with a flawed word processing program. In the first two photos, the flies "appeared" to be bulky. The second one "appears" thinner. (Good Tie, by the way)Two beginner mistakes that usually result in bulkiness are using lead too thick or winding too much lead or thread. The biot tail on the Prince appeared to tilt downward making me assume you had lead or extra wraps too far back.
I found that it works for me if I dub a very little fur at the base of nymph where I want to "control" the position of the tail-ex. biot tails on stoneflies or Prince. This similar to the how you tie the tails on dry fly spinners as PeteCz said.
The "Don't trust your whip finishes,". Should have read "If" you don't trust your whip finishes, after a tying session carefully put a small drop of Loctite glue on them. I picked up the whip finish tip from Deke Meyer. Try whip finishing with a tight wrap of 3 winds the repeat it. You "should" be able to get away from cementing the head (If you wish). I actually don't use head cement at times on some of my smaller flies.
I have personally still have problems with "crowding the head". Try moving your thread tie in point forward to where the head should start. Allow nothing to go forward of that point until you start your whip finish.
I phrased my points as questions you need to ask yourself as you tie. YOU have to be the one satisfied by your Fly. You probably will care more than the fish!! I'm in the process to tying 1 1/2 dozen Turck's Tarantula's for my time in the West. I used to be good spinning deer hair but haven't done it in a couple years. I've tied them up to placing the calf tail and deer hair, where I go to a heavier thread. I can guarantee I'll have to use my razor blade and do several "start overs" at the beginning. Most of them will not look pretty but the Cutt's will not care.
I would suggest sticking with a pattern or couple of patterns until you are consistently satisfied with it, then attempting a different style. I find that I do a better job of tying (and quicker) if I tie a couple dozen of one pattern at a time. I've seen several new tiers go from one pattern to the next then give up on tying as being "too hard" when they are not satisfied with their patterns.
Also, check out FlyfishOhio.com and Flyanglersonline.com, Flyanglersonline has a lot of excellent tutorials and Flyfishohio has some good video.
I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say. I didn't mean to come across as being negative. Those ties will do the job!
PeteCz- It was Science! I used to teach with some uptight English teachers.

Randall (I ain't got no good English) Sale
the Kytroutbum (:>)

05-03-2010, 08:38 PM
Peacock herl can be tough to work with sometimes. I've found that if you take two strands (or as many as you need) of herl and twist them together on your thread exactly like you would with dubbing, it's much easier to work with. Not only does it make the herl stronger, it helps towards keeping it secure when you wrap it around the hook shank.

Keep at it!! That's the best advice I can give you. It took me awhile to get used to tying. Tying can be frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's the complete opposite...

06-21-2010, 02:31 PM
Soaking the herl does help soften it so you can wrap, but it does not strengthen it. Spinning it in a dubbing loop with your thread helps immensely.
Does anyone use a synthetic peacock herl? Which? I have some Kreinik material that has the right colors, but no fibers. Is there a peacock chenille out there?

06-23-2010, 12:41 AM
I notice a lot of 'mistakes' in your first few posted flies. Mind you if the fish eat the fly they don't matter one little bit, but they are more syndromic of issues related to inexperience with 'better' ways to construct a fly that lead to better proportions, improved durability, and often more caught fish.

One thing that has helped me a lot is to watch videos of others tying flies. Not because I can't copy a pattern by seeing it or reading a recipe in a book, but because I get to learn about 50 new ways to skin a cat such as ways to attach wire used for ribbing, how to tie in pheasant tail, how to whip finish the head of a fly.

This video off you tube is not the best quality but is rather good for tying a basic pheasant tail nymph. I am sure LRO has some great videos, as does netflicks, and your local library.


Same fly pattern but little different technique:

The quality of herl varies greatly along the length of any one feather. This variation is important to different flies for different reasons, and depending upon how you construct that specific pattern. I like to use two or three pieces tied on at the same time and only make two or three wraps with it to get the 'body' I need from the herl. More wraps often reduces the effectiveness of the herl and wastes herl in some cases.

Good luck,

06-23-2010, 10:46 AM
Never have found any synthetic herl that I liked, but I do like to use a couple types of synthetic peacock dubbing. I like the Ice brand in peacock for larger flies, it has a nice sparkle and great highlights. Arizona Synthetic Peacock Natural dubbing makes a nice substitute for smaller flies. It's cut up much finer and you can touch dub it onto the thread.