October 18, 2011

Soft Hackle Heaven

Whether you call it a partridge, thunderbird, thunder chicken, or a ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbellus is among the tastiest of all upland birds and game. It is also prized for its hackle in my fly tying stash. Fortunately, living in Minnesota provides me with the nation's premier grouse habitat and population, with over half a million birds harvested annually, making it Minnesota's top game bird. Life is good in the Great White North.

Ruffed Grouse
The rump feathers, while used to determine the sex of a ruffed grouse, are also a vital component of the venerable Carp Crack pattern. The ruff feathers, located on the sides of the necks of both genders, are used to form the collar on the Mustache Ride and Landing Strip patterns, as they are long and wispy, providing lots of movement in the water. They are the ultimate soft hackle for those larger streamer fly patterns.

ruff feathers
rump feathers
Regardless of how you obtain a ruffed grouse skin, whether it be a a retail acquisition, roadkill salvage, harvested bird, or a donation from a fellow hunter, consider yourself blessed. The ruffed grouse is the pinnacle prize of keen fly tyers.