WON Landing Page OCT 2022

DamselFly Fisher: Fashion feathers fluster fly fishers

Last time I was at the salon getting a haircut, I noticed some lovely saddle hackle in the hair of my stylist.  I complimented her and told her that it looked great and that you could tie flies with those feathers.  She offered to put one in my hair and I agreed … thinking it would be cool to have something in my hair that could also express my love of fly fishing.  Little did I know that I was contributing to a shortage in premium fly-tying feathers and inadvertently hurting my fellow fly fishing and fly-tying enthusiasts. 

Katherine Browne and a quick photo of a beautiful 'bow. Photo by Eric Grand.

I live in my own little fashion vortex.  I have no idea what’s going on in the fashion word and tend to dress mostly in camo, outdoor apparel, and often shove my hair under a baseball cap to help cut down on glare and see fish while out on the water.  My main concerns are comfort in the elements and practicality.  The things I do wear that are frivolous, I pick based on what I like, not what everyone else is doing.  I already own a pair of hackle earrings and I thought my hair feather would simply speak of my love of fly fishing to those who could recognize the material.  However, after getting my feather I began to see them everywhere and felt as though I fell victim to a fashion fad and was in no way expressing my individuality.  This was my first disappointment with my feather.

The next disappointment and the most heartbreaking was hearing about the devastating shortage in fly tying materials that this trend was creating.  I learned lot about the fly tying feathers and the special roosters they come from in the process of investigating this shortage.  Apparently the feathers that have become so popular for fashion come from specially roosters that are selectively bred to produce long slender tail feathers.  These feathers are required to tie the majority of traditional dry fly patterns and tons of popular nymph and streamer patterns as well.  These roosters take full year to raise before slaughter – unlike meat birds which can be slaughtered at six weeks old. And, they are rare.  Only a few dozen breeders of these birds exist in American, most of which are small operations.

DamselFly’s Promise of Penance

I promise to make up for my transgressions to my fly-fishing brothers and sisters by tying flies with my feather.  I am also considering clipping feathers from women’s hair as I thank them for their donations to the cause and mailing them to fly shops and manufactures in dire straits.  The good news is fashion trends tend to be short lived and this, too, shall pass.  Fly tying material that was gathering dust in shops is flying off the shelves and creating some good business for fly shops.  In no time things will be back to the status quo and something else will be in demand.  You can bet I will be doing my research in the future to ensure no fly fishers or trout will be harmed by my fashion choices.  Tight lines and thanks for reading!

Katherine Browne works as Pro-Staff and Dealer Relations Coordinator for Prois Hunting and Field Apparel in Gunnison, Colo.  She also works part-time as a fly-fishing guide for Willowfly Anglers at Three Rivers Resort . And, if that is not enough, this active outdoorswoman is an avid photographer, falconer, huntress and freelance outdoor writer.

  • About Katherine Grand

    Katherine Grand pens "DamselFly Fisher" and works as Pro-Staff and Dealer Relations Coordinator at Prois Hunting and Field Apparel in Gunnison, Colo. She also guides in fly-fishing waters near Gunnison.


The Conversation

  • Kelly Heard says: August 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Feathers, feathers everywhere. I loved them at first but everyone has them now. And then you have folks weaving the glitter/tensil in their hair. Not my cup of tea, but whatever floats ones boat, eh?

    Also, It’s amazing how little it takes some to get some folks’ feathers ruffled these days. Nice, light hearted blog, Katherine! Bobby jo jim bob…take a chill pill, dude! That comment was totally out of line!

  • Teri Lancaster says: August 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Katherine I say THANK YOU for providing the information. I have to admit I wouldnt put a feather in my hair – only bc the dress code at work would Not allow. To each her own. 🙂 i LIKE the fact that you mentioned that as soon as you realized the impact on fly feathers you wanted to see how you could make a positive change! (and way to go Kirstie for taking one for the team!). Keep up the good work – whether is feathers in your hair or on your hook!!

  • scott says: August 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

    As a stylist, I think feathers are a great thing. I have made lots of income from them. As fad as people not liking that we use them, get in line. Nobody has a monoploy on them.. if people tried synthetic fibers there would not be an issue. We all need to learn to share people.

  • bobby jo jim bo says: August 21, 2011 at 3:35 am

    I love my feathers in my her and I think “fly fishermen are over reacting. You said it yourself “Fly tying material that was gathering dust in shops is flying off the shelves ” So at least the shops are making money instead of shutting down like most businesses. You also talk about clipping the feathers out of women’s hair and a thanking them for their donation. Yeah I’m sure that will go over well. The shop owners don’t care what the people are using the feathers for they just know that are making money to pay their bills and feed their family. Moral of the story is to mind your own business you hypocrite.

    • Kirstie Pike says: August 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

      Wow! Bobi jo jim bo…a fairly hostile comment for a lighthearted blog. You know…when Katherine held me down and clipped my feathers…it went over just fine! Chuckle…it is all good and I do believe that Katherine is simply giving a second perspective to the ties between fashion and flyfishing…

    • Katherine Browne says: August 22, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Wow Bobby Jo Jim Bo. You read this blog as a serious one rather than a comical one as I intended. I obviously (or maybe not obviously to some) have no intention of clipping feathers out of other women’s hair (except for Kirstie). I also don’t understand how I was being a hypocrite. Thank you for reading my blog but in the future if you can’t say something nice then find another blog to read.


      You’re mean, you meany!

    • Alicia Jensen says: August 22, 2011 at 11:19 am

      Dear Bobby Jo…

      When I read this blog the first time round, I laughed. Just read it again and laughed even harder. Sometimes humor and sarcasm are the best way to deal with frustration. Lighten up!

    • Jim Kissane says: August 22, 2011 at 11:52 am

      Holy guacamole! No need to get hostile here. The problem stems from unprecedented demand in a market that cannot produce additional supply that rapidly. There are only about a half-dozen hackle producers in the United States, and it takes a year or more to raise a rooster from hatch to hackle. Their production schedules have been based on demand primarily from fly tyers, who are probably outnumbered 10-to-1 by hair salon clients. Hackle suppliers have tried different ways of allocating their current supplies while attempting to produce more hackles, but some already report that it will be 2012 or beyond before the supply really meets the demand. And there’s some inherent risk in that because fads end just as quickly as they begin, and when the hair extension craze wanes there may be a glut of hackles on the market. Fly shops need to be mindful of the clientele that keeps them in business – fly tyers – because at the end of this fad there will be millions of women who won’t care if they ever set foot in another fly shop. In the meantime, fly tyers have seen an essential fly tying material increase in price by as much as 1000% (yes, one thousand percent). Katherine’s humor was intended to lighten the situation a little so let’s cut her some slack.

    • Morgan Billy Ray Bob says: August 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Relax Bobby Jo Jim Bob…
      How about instead of attacking a pretty young fly fishing person, how about you and I spend a little time figuring out a way to shorten up our names…ok?
      Have a great day!!

    • Stacey Huston says: August 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Looks like somebody needs a little fresh air.. or a bowl of milk.. (and probably a real name and Id 🙂
      Bobby jo Jim Bo~ lighten up..! We all love Katherine and her fantastic sense of humor.
      feather’s or not.

    • NancyWillette says: August 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Lighten up Jim Bo. There was nothing hypocritical in what I read. Enjoyable blog– thanks DamselFly!

  • Jess Outside says: July 18, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Oh my gosh, I have seen those feathers everywhere — it’s one of those trends that just explode. I didn’t even think about the impact on fly fishing.

  • Colleen Grand says: May 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the info. This “fashion fad” hasn’t hit Wisconsin that I know of, but if it does I’ll know just what to do ! Colleen

  • Katherine Browne says: May 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Nice one Jim!

  • Jim Kissane says: May 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Shopper: “I’m looking for horse feathers, um, I mean saddle feathers.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “You mean saddle hackles?”

    Shopper: “Yeah, that’s what I meant. Do you have any?”

    Fly Shop Owner: “We really don’t have many saddle hackles right now. Truth is, hair stylists have been buying them as fast as we get them in. I have to save what I’ve got for my fly tying customers.”

    Shopper: “Oh…sure…I appreciate that.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “I hear stylists use them for hair extensions. Charge like $25 per feather.”

    Shopper: “Who’s charging that, er, I mean, there oughta be a law!”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Anyhow, what are you going to use them for?”

    Shopper: “I’m going to make some fishing bug thingies.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “You’re going to tie flies with them?”

    Shopper: “Yeah, that’s it! I’m a tie flyer”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Right. Are you making dry flies or wet flies?”

    Shopper: “Oh, they’ll be dry, except for when I shampoo them…I mean when I throw them in the water. Then I guess they’ll get wet.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “I see. Do you have a vise?”

    Shopper: “I’ve got several. Don’t we all?”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Excuse me?”

    Shopper: “I mean, I smoke, but I’m trying to quit.”

    Fly Shop Owner. “Oh, I see. You have a vice.”

    Shopper: “No need to get personal. I mean, nobody’s perfect, you know.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Of course. Do you have a fishing license?”

    Shopper: “Er, yeah, sure.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “May I see it, please?”

    Shopper: “I left it in my…my…my fishing case.”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Your tackle box?”

    Shopper: “Right!”

    Fly Shop Owner: “You don’t happen to know who Helen Shaw is, do you?”

    Shopper: “Doesn’t she own Clip ‘n’ Curl over on Eighth Street?”

    Fly Shop Owner: “Uh, never mind. You probably learned to tie flies from a friend of mine…Steven Tyler.”

    Shopper: “Oh, he’s my idol!”

    Fly Shop Owner: “I bet he is.”

  • Katherine Browne says: May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Thanks Gretchen! I clipped my feather out last night. Are there any requests on flies I should tie out of it?

  • Gretchen Steele says: May 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Katherine I am so glad you wrote about and this and wrote about it so perfectly! I had heard of this new “trend” …which is amazing because I am like you when it comes to fashion. Practical and durable 🙂 We have a custom here that the first turkey feather you find each spring goes in your hair/ hat – no turkey feather in your hair/hat no morel mushrooms 🙂

    Barb – my guess on the turkey feathers would be bobcat. Last spring season we had to sit and watch a bobcat completely destroy a decoy as we can’t shoot them it in IL. the next a song dog destroyed another one. He has passed to the pelt pile.

    I can just about envision what the pile of feathers looked like 🙂

  • Women's Outdoor News says: May 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Kirstie, I have a turkey feather for you. In fact, I could have used someone with medical knowledge at the ranch to do a little CSI on the patch of turkey feathers I found in the road and bushes, and I knew it wasn’t from my efforts!

    Stacey … don’t you put bones or something in your hair, Lady? With all that primitive stuff going on at your house? 😉

    Jeff, Stay tuned because our DamselFly will be back in fine form at the new WON, to be launched on June 1. Thanks for checking in here with us!


  • Jeff says: May 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    If I hadn’t read (and heard it from you sis) I wouldn’t have believed it!!
    I will try to get you some feathers tomorrow and best of luck you in Durango!

  • Katherine Browne says: May 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Hahaha Stacey. I could see you doing that. I only let people pick things out of my hair if they eat it afterwards. It’s the primate code.

  • Stacey Huston says: May 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I think I need to go to town more. and I am glad I saw your article first because If I had seen this in someones hair I would have stopped them and said.. Hang on a second You have something stuck in your hair.. let me get that for you ~

  • Kirstie Pike says: May 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I suppose this will now give you absolution… this brings a whole new meaning to fashion faux paux. I suppose I will not be getting my feather now for fear that I will awaken one night with you clipping something off my head. : )