November 11, 2016

My Favorite Hackle Pliers

I've been tying flies since 1974. When I was a kid, I took piano lessons, clarinet lessons and fly tying lessons. Once a week I'd go to a house in my home town and there, for an hour, an old man (I thought he was old) taught me how to tie flies of various patterns. I had assignments - home work, daily practice time, the whole bit. When I got older I tied commercially for fly shops around the west.

As you might expect after tying flies for 42 years, I've learned what I like in tying tools and what I don't like. I've used all sorts of vises, scissors, bobbins, and hackle pliers.

Like most tools, when it comes to hackle pliers we all have different needs and demands. Different sized fingers and hands, type of flies we produce, feather types, and fly quality aesthetics all determine whether we like a certain plier or not. Some hackle pliers are too small, some are too large. Some drop the hackle too often, others break the hackle stem too often. Some hackle pliers are too heavy and others just plain don't work. I have used inexpensive ones, cheaply made ones, ones on a handle, ones that have a stretchy segment, ones that are just electronic test connectors. I've tried them all. Here are a few I've used over the years:




Classic English style

I prefer a hackle plier that holds the hackle securely without breaking or cutting the stem, but not too loose so to drop the hackle tip. It must be lightweight, have a finger loop and be just the right size to work with large feathers as well as small. It also must not be too expensive.

My current favorite plier is the Stonfo Soft Touch Ring Hackle Plier. This little tool is so light, flexible, and easy to use. It holds the hackle perfectly, from long saddle and cape dry fly hackles to little starling feathers. For me, it works better than hackle pliers costing 6 times as much (like the C&F CTF-120). I bought mine directly from Italy years ago, long before they were imported to US retailers. I like it so much that I just ordered another one for use at my cabin.

So there's a hackle plier to consider: a tool that is designed for tying, is inexpensive, works like a charm and can help you be a better tier. Try one out. You can get one from Anthony at Three Rivers Tenkara.

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