View Full Version : Do I need a cape?

01-25-2011, 12:33 PM
When I first started getting into fly tying I had a couple very knowledgeable guys advise me to invest in a couple good capes. I remember picking a couple up and being somewhat intimidated. Not so much by the price but how to figure out what size feather I should use for a particular fly and what in the world to do with the rest of them. I had a hackle gauge but was still a little unsure about it. Anyway, I never bought a cape. Seemed like it would be easier for me to buy the Whiting 100s and take any guess work out it.

Well I've been tying for a couple years now and the question of a cape has came up again. The patterns that I'm most interested in tying are on sizes 10-14 and maybe down to 16. I mainly fish the park and I'm not really into streamers at this point. It just seems like I might not be able to utilize enough of the feathers on a cape to justify them.

Your job is to sell me on the advantages of capes. I hoping that the experienced guys will offer their opinions.

01-25-2011, 01:23 PM
I tie from capes for my dries. They have about any size hackle you want, so basically there is no limitation to the size fly you can tie. They also have larger hackle for tailing material. There will be some larger feathers that you will probably never use except for tailing material. You may also consider saddles. You can get more than one fly per feather, but the range of sizes is limited on a saddle. Silvercreek

01-25-2011, 07:30 PM
I use capes and for the most part that's all I use. I tie 10' down to 32's. To me the 100 packs although good still leave a lot to be desired. Same with a saddle the usually only have a very limited variation in sizes.

If you wanted 100's which cost about $20.00 and you tie 10-12-14 and 16's then you have spent $80.00 which would buy you a very good cape with the full range of sizes. If you bought a Whiting Hebert cape you could buy two of them for what you spent on the 100's.

01-25-2011, 07:52 PM
For the sizes you list, Look into Indian and Chinese necks. You can get a wider variation of hackles for a decent price. Being the heretic I am, I found that I can use Indian or Chinese necks for larger sizes. (Sizes 10-14) I very seldom pass up decent Chinese or Indian neck. (I still have and use some HERTER'S hackles where you could buy hackle by the ounce.)

If I need to I'll, either, use two hackles or will wind a "good" stiff hackle first then a less stiff one wound through it. I find that the hackle is good enough to float a dry, esp. with todays floatants. I do use the longer saddles for my stimulator type flies. If my memory serves me right, I believe A.K. Best uses "tyer grade" necks. I wonder if in most situations, we have a lot of tying materials where the quality (and cost) has far surpassed the needs.
My $.02.

Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

01-25-2011, 10:25 PM
Jason in the size ranges you tie a saddle may be the better choice. Saddle barb count is usually a little higher, so they are a good choice for heavily hackled attractor dries. The longer feathers lets you make as many wraps as you want without adding a second feather. The bulk of most saddle feathers will be in the 10-16 size range unless you buy one graded 14 and smaller or a midge saddle. The Whiting 1/4 or 1/2 saddles are a much better buy than a few 100 packs. Even with the 100 packs you need to pay attention to the hackle size. Often one end of the feather will be a size smaller or larger than marked on the package.

I like necks for my traditional Catskill type patterns, they traditionally are a little more sparsely dressed. The the barb count isn't quite as high, less problem with twisting stems, thinner stems, and you can use the oversize hackle for stem bodies and tailing material. I trade some of mine with my bass and saltwater fishing friends. Plus I tie dries in a size range from 6's (bream poppers) thru about 22/24. I also like the shorter feather length for tying parachute flies. Buy a 1/2 brown, 1/2 grizzly combo and try them and see what you think.

If nothing else see me at Troutfest and I'll give you some neck hackle.:biggrin:

01-26-2011, 11:55 AM
Grouseman....I know we have talked about this extensively, thanks for remembering to bring it up here for some expert opinions.

I don't have a lot of tying materials, but I do have a Metz grizzly saddle and recently purchased that Keough Cape. I'm having a lot of trouble with the cape. It's hard to select the appropriate feathers from it, and the barb count doesn't seem very high. I'm a little dissapointed with the fact that I spent so much money on it, but since it was held in such high regard with better tiers, I think I will just put it away for use when my skills have improved.

In the meantime, someone recently reccomended I buy a "Whiting Introductory Hackle Pack", with which you can get 4 half saddles in various colors. The guy that reccomended it ties some very nice flies in 12-16. The barb count seems to be good and it would be nice to have an assortment of colors for a decent price ($60). I haven't checked to see if LRO carries such a thing.

01-26-2011, 12:26 PM
I was in the same boat, I didnt want to put out big bucks on the wrong thing, I finally bit the bullet at LRO a few weeks ago, and bought a whiting bronze grade 1/4 saddle in brown and grizzly, and couldnt be happier. Very good quality compared to what I had been using, and they were only $25 each, and I have tied a ton of flies from them already, definitely your moneys worth of feathers.

Contrast that with the dun Metz cape I bought at the same time (they didnt have any whiting saddles in dun), the barbs are soft, low barb count compared to the whiting, and I've almost used all the 14 feathers, seems everything left is an 8 or bigger. I guess Ive got plenty of dun hackle for wet flies now:rolleyes:

One word of caution though, the packs were labeled 14 and larger (thats all they had in stock at the time), and I figured that would be fine, since I mostly tie parachutes, and if the hackle is a little oversized, its not so big a problem, but when I got home and put the feathers to the hackle guage, almost every feather was a size 16! Which is great because that the size I really wanted the most of. If I were tying anything in 12's I would be out of luck though. Im tying smaller parachutes, 16 neversink caddis, and using the few truly size 14 hackles for my para-adams.

so from a newb, I say the whiting bronze grade quarter saddle is a great place to start without breaking the bank.

01-26-2011, 12:59 PM
I have a writer friend who claims to be "Often in error, never in doubt". I guess that applies to me. So be forewarned! I would think for the larger sizes you are tying saddle hackle would be fine. In the last couple of years I started to use saddle hackle and like it for for flies down to size 14 or 16. I have limited experience with saddles but it seems to me the stems are too thick and not as thin as neck hackles in the smaller sizes. I bought some saddle hackle that was suppose to be for size 20 and 22. I really did not care for them. In my opinion high quality neck hackle seemed better for the smaller flies. Has anyone else noted this or is my experience the exception?

01-26-2011, 01:14 PM
Usually in a neck the racius (stem) is fairly consistent in good necks.

01-27-2011, 07:36 PM
Thanks for the input guys. Lots of really good information.

01-29-2011, 08:31 PM
I use both capes and saddles; depends on what I'm tying.

I prefer parachutes to traditional dries and for these I prefer saddles as I can whip off many with a single feather... they seem to be less "stiff" when wrapping the feather around the vertical wing.

For smaller & traditional dries I like capes as barb length is more critical; too big a hackle and the fly rides on it's side or even upside down.

With any piece of feather or fur don't be afraid to take it out of the package and look it over before you buy.

For Elk hair caddis flies I have often looked at 50 or more chunks before I found one with fine "non too hollow" hairs I prefer as it won't "splay" too much.

For hackle feathers Indians are cheap and in my experience not as stiff a fiber but I have used them and caught fish.... you may want to look at them carefully as many have "webbing" between the barbs instead of "clean" barbs.

Many years ago one of our kids went in my fly tying room and left the dog behind... that retriever is now 13 years old and doesn't know how close he came to death... the necks he ate were priceless.

01-29-2011, 11:32 PM
Having started with lesser saddles I have learned that grade one and two necks provide superior hackles for 12 to 22 and beyond drys. They are more expensive but I seem to get good milage from them. A less expensive option I use is to buy 1/2 necks when I can find them for colors I use less often.


01-26-2012, 03:09 PM
Hey guys I wanted to open this one back up and see if anyone had any experience with whiting capes. I need something in ginger color, and with the feather hair craze just now winding down, most stores still don't have an assortment of saddle colors. I am mainly concerned with getting a pretty high barb count and was curious if the whiting saddles have a higher barb count than other brands. Thanks, Cody.

01-26-2012, 06:00 PM
Hey guys I wanted to open this one back up and see if anyone had any experience with whiting capes. I need something in ginger color, and with the feather hair craze just now winding down, most stores still don't have an assortment of saddle colors. I am mainly concerned with getting a pretty high barb count and was curious if the whiting saddles have a higher barb count than other brands. Thanks, Cody.

No, several good growers Metz ,Conranch and others, I prefer saddles over capes ,stems are not as stiff wrap easier on the hook, good barb count, but I have not ever counted the barbs, I have been very pleased with what I have gotten from other growers , I thought that Whiting was the best until I started to look close at other growers , In the last year I have bought several capes and saddles from other growers have been surprised with their quality and colors .