Working on dry flies is working my tying skills and I think one major area I’m having issue with is the hackle portion of most dries. I have been working with capes and necks not the pre-sized expensive hackles I see in shops/internet. I found this hackle gauge a while back and never printed it off, tonight while trying to tie para-bwo’s I decided I needed to print it out and check to see. I did so and used a bare size 14 dry fly hook to compare the measure on the gauge and it was pretty much spot on. So I pose the question between the two BWO’s seen in the pictures below. Is the size 14 the right size or does it look too big? Should I tie the para’s in size 16? Does the size matter that much with this particular fly or should it matter more with the non-Para dries? Oh, and forgive the poor tail position on the size 16 BWO, I wish I would have noticed that before I took the shots. Oh well…

     Size 14 Hook on Gauge     Size 14 Hackle     Size 16 Hackle


  1. Okay, you opened a gigantic can of worms with this simple question.

    When you are learning to tie flies – it’s best to stick with the rigid guidelines of your favorite pal or author. Do exactly what he says, with no deviation.

    When you’ve tied flies long enough so you lose them before they fall apart – you’re in the “journeyman” category… You are allowed to tell the rest of us we suck – and can’t tie flies for love nor money.

    When you’ve tied flies long enough so you can watch TV, pat the dog’s arse, and make pleasant conversation with the spouse – all at the same time – you’ll have the answer to the above question:

    “Both of the above flies are hackled perfectly.”

    Right now, it’s all a big enigma, wrapped in a mystery, then dipped in a riddle, and it will take a number of seasons before you have the “lightbulb” moment.

    Here’s a hint at what you’ll see (in that brief moment of clarity):

    If I want a parachute to ride high and dry, with a pronounced Mayfly silouette, I can oversize the hackle a bit, and call the sumbitch the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

    … but if I want it to ride lower in the water, and make the bug “smallish” – as in, “it ain’t really a 16, it’s more like a 15” – I can use a slightly smaller hackle and call it, “Little Brown Lowriding SOB.”

    In summary: You’re doing just fine. If I was to assist I’d say you’re crowding the eye with your wing – it’s too close to the eye. Us California tiers (there is regional variation) mount the wing about 1/3 down the shank from the eye. This gets the hackle out of the eye area – so you don’t grab a third of it with your clinch knot. It also makes the hackle tie off – a level spot on the hook shank – so your hackle doesn’t tilt towards the eye.

    The “chute” appearance (hackle comes up from the body rather than level) is because you’re taking too many turns at the bottom. Post the wing with plenty of thread to give the hackle a firm support base, take the first turn of hackle at the top – winding each turn closer to the body.

  2. Hello Winonaflyfactory, congratulations for the blog, with great information and great photos. I’m starting at fly Tying and I also faced the same doubts as you, open the box of worms.
    I will put a link to your blog on my blog, ok?

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