Duck Feathers and Winging

This tutorial is written by Robert Verkerk, with photography and demonstration by Peter de Coensel.


We can safely assume that people have been struggling with Duck feathers since the dawn of time. Even the old masters that some of us try to attain to, write that Duck feathers are among the best fishing materials, but are the hardest to handle and mount properly.

That said, there are a few simple techniques and tricks that we can use, to make these feathers behave as we desire. In this step-by-step tutorial, Peter de Coensel will show us how to reverse the taper on slips of Bronze Mallard flank feathers, and mount them as part of a traditional wing.

First, we need some good quality materials, a matching pair.

Meassure up the length. The material has to reach the entire length of the wing on your fly.

Cut out a section from each feather, leaving the rachis on. The rachis will keep the fibers oriented correctly, so that they don’t become unmarried while we change the curve.

Meassure the slips on the fly and adjust their thickness. When they are of the right size, it is time to reverse the taper.

Take the slips into your hands, one at a time.

Bend the fibers against the curve, and stroke them between your fingers until they are solid and married in their new position.

Try the slips on the fly to see if the taper is as desired.

When all is as desired, grab the slips tight between your fingers, and tie them on. Securing the tying thread with the bits of rachis still on the slips, will affect the taper a little bit, but the rachis keeps the fibers in position, so that the slips will remain solid in their position, even after a few turns in the river.

Here is Peter’s fly finished, and ready for a swim.