Fashion Hackle and the retail impact

Articles, featured — By on March 5, 2011 7:20 am

With the “feather hair extension” craze, many fly shops and tying material retailers have seen a HUGE increase in business. We ran a previous article on the impact at the supplier level (“Whiting EuroHackle- Fashion killer the Fly Tyer).

This topic has left the retail shops in a hard spot. As the economy put the squeeze on small businesses, the fashion market was placing single orders that we equal to a half month’s sales. But there has been some push back from tiers. Here are some comments from our last article

“This really sucks! Is nothing sacred anymore?…”
“This is just a fad. Your beauty supply and hair salons will be a great place to find cheap feather, once, the fad is gone. Most will over buy and will be stuck with the extra. Keep a eye on ebay.”
“…The hackle producers will breed more birds and when fickle fashion falls from favor fellow fly fishers find feathers frugally priced…”

We reached out to J.Stockard, a fly fishing/tying retail shop (and major Hatches sponsor)… and here is their thoughts.

“Thought you might be interested to hear my thoughts on the current hackle situation. While Whiting is creating smaller packs to address the ‘hobbyist’ demand for hackle, from our vantage point, the real demand is coming, not from hobbyists, but big time buyers. For the last few weeks, we’ve been getting $500 – $1000 orders regularly (most we can no longer fill). Two weeks ago, we got 2 calls in succession, the first caller purchased all our full (all grades) Whiting saddle hackle. The 2nd took all our ½ and ¼ saddles. There are plenty of hobbyists around too, they are not where the volume is.

In my view, this is not great business for fly shops (us included). None of these buyers are long-term, loyal customers like the fly tyers we want to attract and serve. The hobbyists are really HIGH maintenance and many are now ordering hackle that won’t work for them. We’ve stopped shipping unless we confirm the order and explain exactly what types of feathers they’ll be getting. They’ve now moved onto bugger packs, steamer deceiver packs, etc. It’s crazy…

Unrelated to this winter’s hackle fad, I thought you might light to see the attached picture. We sold these feathers (shipped overnight to Paris) to a major fashion designer last fall. We thought it was fun! Little did we know what was to come.” –

… so it sounds like Capes aren’t the only thing being scooped up? bugger packs… deciever packs…. yak…. Lady Amhurst tails? Everyone involved knows this is just a fad, and will be far behind us a year from now. But with unhappy tiers being turned off by manufactures and retailers, the lasting effects could have impact well after the last extension is strung.

Are there any Hatches readers out there plucking there saddles and running down to the hair salon?

Is your fly shop now evaluating a customer with questions like, “what patterns do you need these feathers to tie?

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Fashion Hackle and the retail impact, 2.7 out of 10 based on 7 ratings


  1. Robert Bruch says:

    Hey HACKLE Companies who is your real bread & butter customers. Where does the majority of your sales go to. IS SELLING TO FASION ELITE IN THE END WORTH COMPERMISING THAT RELATIONSHIP WITH FLY TIERS. In the end this fashion will die like all do. What will be left is a bunch of ticked off fly tiers. Your sales should focous on us first & formost. Let them have our scraps. Because we were here first & last when this thing dies. And it will to.

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  2. Don Bastian says:

    I have two things to say, well actually more, but here is what I want to say about this topic:

    1) As fly tiers, we might need to go bar-hopping to “pluck” our dry fly hackles. Not such a bad option…And,

    2) Comments to your friends at the bar about the women in view may very well change from traditional expressions regarding female anatomy to: “Holy-moly, would you look at the hackles on that!”

    It might be a serious problem, but I – personally – can’t do anything to change it – so I am taking the humorous angle. A year from now, the situation will be different, we don’t know how, but it will be different.
    If Whiting increases production for 2012, and the fad dies, just think how CHEAP hackles will be…it’s the economy, stupid…to paraphrase someone else…was that a politician?

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  3. reelfly says:

    Personally I think the fly shops and retailers should be the ones trying to find a solution. The hackle companies wont loose a penny, however this could hurt business for those selling fly materials.

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  4. NYCflyangler says:

    Whining about how we (fly tyers) are their bread and butter and because of that, they should pass up a great business opportunity is idiotic.

    If you’re in the hackle business and someone is willing to buy at wildly inflated prices, you sell at those prices. Why would you do anything else? They damn well know after the fad passes the fly tyers are still going to be there. Where else are they going to go for hackle? It’s not like there’s a substitute.

    There may be an opportunity to buy hackle at bargain prices when the fad ends. Stock up if and when that happens. That should be a no brainer.

    Most people who tie for their own fishing probably have enough hackle that this won’t affect them. It’s the commercial tyers who are going to have a problem because of this.

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  5. Kavca says:

    I have a lot, and I mean a lot of hackles for sale. We produced them here on our farm. Where do I start?? I would love to sell the whole lot.

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  6. fishingbob says:

    If anyone thinks the price will go back down after this fad, they’re nuts. Think gasoline….
    My fly shop suggested that I learn how to tie with foam.

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  7. Jim Slattery says:

    There a tons of capes ( necks) available. The statement that capes are being scooped up is false.

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  8. jerry parker says:

    there should be a “fashion” grade of hackles and a “select” grade for fishermen…

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  9. JIM says:


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  10. Gary Lore says:

    It’s a fad. Fads fade. Perhaps we should remind the fashion mavens that feathers attract moths that lay their eggs, the eggs then turn into disgusting protein-eating larvae that could easily be mistaken for lice. Then the hair requires special treatment — maybe even a note from your child’s school requiring that you take drastic measures to control those so-called lice, and so forth … Our aim (duty, if you will) is to be there when the feathers (which appear to be lower-grade saddle hackles to begin with) are rudely ripped from the fair damsel’s hairdo. We can rescue the fair damsel for only a small fee. We can then recycle those awful lice-infested feathers. Either that, or we can simply turn to the woven-hair hackles of yore. Oh, and we should suggest that if the fair damsel plans on swimming, Gink is the only product that will protect those precious feathers. I guess if you come across one of these hairdos at the local pub, you have to wonder if that turns the fair maiden into a Dry Bar Fly?

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  11. Samantha Anne says:

    Well, this may be a bit awkward, but I happen to be one of those “fair maidens” you guys keep talking about. And I have to admit, I agree that the price for hackle is ridiculous. I have been wearing hackle extensions for 3 years… but I do them myself. In the past 3 years I have only bought one pack of cape feathers… 1 in 3 years! I live in a community where fly fishing is very popular, and unfortunately, my job has made me the victim of verbal abuse from fishers who don’t realize that if we’re installing the extensions ourselves, rather than going to salons and paying 5 times the regular price, we are not the bad guys. Just thought I’d have a say in the matter. A lot of fishers are blaming the whole group of fashion hackle users without really thinking that maybe some of us aren’t the problem. It’s unfair to condemn every person for the wrong-doings of only a few people.

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  12. Julianne says:

    I recently had a request from my 10 year old to have feather extensions put in all of her little friends hair for her Birthday party. I said okay, but little did I know that these feathers would be impossible to find and when I did finally find some hackle that was poor quality and fairly short I paid more than I should have only to find out later that the store was holding out on its customers, the store had lots of saddles available in “the back room” for $150.00-$750.00!!!!! I’m sure the fly guys will never see these……so who is creating the problem? Its all about the money, as soon as the owners of these stores found out what they could get they started hoarding the saddles for the beauty industry!

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  13. Gina says:

    My dad, at 71 has a lifetime collection of high quality hackle. He says he’s going to glue a full hackle to his bald head! He could be on to something…feather toupes! (FYI, I am guilty, I had 2 feathers put in at a salon and had to pay for them…I am forbidden from touching my dad’s cache!)

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  14. Steven says:

    I personally laugh at all this, and agree with Don Bastian… I’m also guilty of taking advantage of this though… I have a nice grisly cape that I did pluck a few good feather from and took down to my local salon, whom then paid be $20 for 10 feathers! And that was just for some natural ones! You shoulda seen their faces when I came back in an hour later with some coloured one… let’s just say I won’t be paying for a hair cut for a VERY long time to come…

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  15. Cliff says:

    Irritating as it is folks, this is free-market capitalism at work.

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  16. geoff rimmer says:

    i think this craze was started by the breeders of genetic feathers and publicised by them, they upped theyre breeding progamme almost to cope with demand and made a killing, capes and saddles have risen hugely in price now and if the few breeders get together and price fix they will remain expensive. no one can blame them, its just free market and good business, if it doesnt backfire. ( but where have all the hackles gone? ive never seen a girl with feathers in her hair? they must only go out late when im already in bed!)

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  17. Christian Rosales N. says:

    There is a little problem about fashion.. 1 year or 2 and then the breeders eyes are going turning again over fly Tyers. Now in my country cant find 1 saddle.. sad but true.

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  18. Doug says:

    I thought about selling some for a new fly rod but didn’t. In my 2 local shops prices have only risen, of course I do some dye work for one of them and he gives me a great break on it. I’ve got plenty for myself but I keep hearing everyone say prices will come down! I just don’t believe it.

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