Whiskey Creek Fly Fishing

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Pursuing Peacock Perfection

December 30th, 2008 · 6 Comments

I did some playing around with peacock herl last night. Here are the results. The pictures show 3 strands of herl tied in a bare hook ( I started by tying soft hackle, but for picture clarity cut off the hackle on a couple.

Best overall looking method
Use peacock herl from close to the eye. Tie the herl in by the tips, with the concave side up (away from the hook).   This method provides the fullest, best looking, flies. The disadvantage, there are only a few herls close to the eyes. I would use this method for “special” flies (gifts, contests, etc.)

Most consistent outcome
If using strung peacock, tie it in by the tips (not butts), then spin a rope with a dubbing loop. The spinning causes the herl to flare outwards and makes a consistently even rope.  This has the advantage also of reinforcing the herl with the doubled up thread core, which removes the need to rib the fly with wire.  I used 70 denier tan thread on this one. Also, please excuse the cut off hackle barbs; this fly sacrificed, not for a fish, but for a photograph.

Most inconsistent outcome
Tying in the strung herl by the butts had had the worst looking flies, the shaft of the herl sometimes covers up the fuzz. Look for gaps in the coverage.

Peacock comes packaged like nature made it, attached to the stalk (but removed from the bird), or by individual herls strung together.

The best herl comes from the stalk, closest to the eye.

The front side of the herl is convex, the back side is concave. The concave side should be pointing up when you tie in, to get the best flaring when you wind the herl on.

Look closely at the back side of the herl, the stem is much more visible. By tying in with this stem up (concave up), when you wrap, the stem portion gets buried against the hook shank.

Compare the herl coming from the eye and from a string. Notice how the eye herl has even fuzz on both sides of the stem. For the strung herl, one side is better than the other. For strung herl, its best to twist it into a rope, so that the best sides come forward. The eye herl is on top, strung on the bottom (but you could tell that already). These are photos of the “back side” or concave side of the herl.

Tags: Fly Tying

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 winonaflyfactory // Dec 30, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Very nice, I was playing with peacock herl this evening.

  • 2 John LeJeune // Jan 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Interesting. Charlie Craven says he always likes to use the herl near the eye since it is finer and consistent. I just finished his book “Basic Fly Tying.” I read it cover to cover. (unusual for me with a recipe book) He points out things no one ever talks about. I liked his thoroughness and the step by step photo’s are excellent. I like your idea of always spinning the hurl to produce consistent results.

  • 3 WhiskeyCreek // Jan 1, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the comments. I’ll have to check out Charlie’s book. I love his website, the step by step tutorials are the best on the web. http://www.charliesflyboxinc.com/

    Happy New Year,


  • 4 Cutthroat Stalker // Jan 3, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I love using peacock herl to create a nice body for several patterns I tie. approximately how many times do you spin it to get your rope?

    Do you have problems with brittleness? Is the brittleness from old herl, or strands that aren’t close to the eye? Do you ever soak the herl first?

    Thanks for the nice post/pictures/research!

    – scott c

  • 5 WhiskeyCreek // Jan 4, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Hi Scott,

    Sometimes the herl does break off while wrapping or spinning the loop. Usually I can cut off the broken piece and continue. I forgot to mention in the blog entry that I usually trim the first inch or so off the tips, mainly to even up the tips, but that may help with the brittleness.
    My guess, I get a broken herl 1 out of 10 times.

    The herl that I use is pretty old. I don’t soak it.

    Try trimming the first inch off off the tip.

    Good luck,


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