So you bought a hackle cape or saddle to tie some of your favorite fly patterns. The only problem is, the hackle feathers on capes and saddles will vary in size to some degree. When tying, you’ll want to ensure that you are using appropriately sized hackle which will ultimately lead to well proportioned flies. Enter hackle gauges. Hackle gauges are tools designed specifically to measure the length of the hackle barbs to ensure you’re using the correct size hackle feather for the hook you’re tying on. Better proportioned flies will not only look better neatly arranged in a fly box, but they’ll be sure to land more fish too.
How to Use a Hackle Gauge
Using a hackle gauge is incredibly simple. Most hackle gauges come with a hole in them to mount on a vise post, however some are designed to lay flat on a table. Simply select the hackle feather that you would like to measure and wrap it around the post on the hackle gauge causing the fibers on the feather to splay apart. The point where the hackle fibers end is where you should take your measurement. Check out the video below from tightlinevideo for more instructions on measuring hackle.
Recommended Hackle Gauges
High quality hackle that’s destined for a well proportioned fly should be measured accurately. Whiting’s anodized aluminum hackle gauge can accurately measure premium hackle in sizes 8-28. The Whiting Hackle Gauge is more accurate than most other gauges on the market.
This high quality gauge has an oval post hole that is designed to fit on most standard ¾” vise posts. The oval hole helps the gauge rest at an angle that’s easy to read and always at the ready. Lastly, the “Nail-Head” post helps prevent the hackle from slipping off of the gauge as you make your measurements.
Another, cheaper, option to consider would be the Griffin Hackle Gauge. This wooden gauge mounts to a tying vise post similarly to the offering from Whiting. This gauge only claims to be accurate for hackle sizes down to 16 due to the positioning of the post having a fair amount of tolerance. If you don’t regularly tie small flies, the Griffin Hackle Gauge will get the job done for you.
Measure Your Hackle
Hackle capes and saddles are some of the most expensive materials when it comes to fly tying so using them to their full potential is advisable. Hackle gauges help ensure you’re using hackle feathers of appropriate size for the application. The options from Whiting and Griffin are sure to help any fly tyer improve the quality of their flies and should be every tying kit.
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.