Sorting Marabou

Marabou is a feather used in fly-tying. Primarily used as wings or tails – and around here it’s the most common tail for saltwater streamers , its soft consistency gives it lifelike movement when the fly is retrieved through the water.

Marabou originally came from an African stork of the same name; now commercially available varieties come from the soft downy underwing of a domestic turkey.

Typically, it is sold with quills that are stitched together then dyed and available in nearly any color a fly tyer could desire.

But it is a natural product; meaning that a good amount of any package of marabou is unusable for tying given the shape and consistency of individual feathers, and there is always a search for the right feather, and in particular the tip of the feather, that’s needed.

Working with marabou creates a mess. Quills, feather webs, and loose feather material are everywhere. And the mess compounds if tying a number of flies using marabou. I wind up with marabou on my desk, the floor, my clothes, and sometimes in my mouth.

To be honest, it’s one of the reasons I’ve resisted using it much when tying some of the more popular flies for Puget Sound beaches.

But I came across a video that demonstrates a sorting process for marabou. By sorting and tossing material, the process leaves a much smaller stack of feathers that provide the needed feather tips. Sure, it’s still a mess – but it’s a one-time mess. And it speeds up the tying process by eliminating the search for the right feather.

Thanks to the Caddis Fly Shop for the video.

Author: Tom

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