All about Hackle
Thought I would take a moment and try to best explain the differences in hackle feathers. There is a lot of information out there. Your hackle for sure can be either from a rooster or a hen and yes that can make a difference on the feather. Normally the cape from a hen chicken will be narrow and partially webby and the saddle will be more webby than the cape. These feathers from the hen are best used on wet flies or nymphs, due to the water absorbency of the webbing. The rooster has more dense barb count and are stiffer making them ideal for dry flies. They won't go down as easily like the hackle feathers from a hen will. The neck feathers tend to have a higher range of sizes (i.e. size 6-20) while the saddle feathers have a narrow range (i.e. size 14-20).
Now, if you are just starting out with fly tying you maybe asking yourself, just what the hell does guy mean neck and saddle feathers. The neck or cape feathers starting at the top of the bird come down the head and runs down the middle of the back. Saddle feathers are those that come off where you would put a saddle on the bird as if you were going to ride it off into the sunset. Now as you may see online there is feathers for genetic fly capes, in fact we sell some from Nature's Spirit Fly Tying here on our website. So what's the big deal with having genetic in the name of the product? Well genetic fly capes are to signify that those feathers came from a chicken that was raised for the sole purpose of harvesting the feathers from them for use in fly tying. One last interesting tidbit about chickens, their feathers unlike human hair, stop growing at a certain length. The feather will not regrow until the previous feather is molted.
Hope this answers any questions you may have on the differences in hackle. Until next time, happy tying and we will catch you on the fly!