For several years now I have been raising chickens, mainly for the eggs and a little help around the homestead producing high-quality compost and keeping the local tick population in check. If you look at my flock, you can see that the birds were hand selected by a fly tier. There are no run of the mill Tractor Supply birds running around on my property. All of my birds were chosen for their plumage more than their egg-laying capabilities!
A few months back I harvested my first hen neck from my backyard flock. She was an old bird that died of natural causes. Even though we could not use the meat, there was no sense letting her feathers go to waste. She was a Silver Laced Wyandotte who had beautiful black and white feathers. Although I have processed many game birds for the table over the years, I have never skinned one out for the feathers. Preparing the skin for the tying bench was pretty straightforward. After the cape was removed, I removed the excess fat and tissue and set it out to dry with a little Borax rubbed into the skin. In a couple of weeks, the skin was entirely cured. I took an extra strep and washed the cape with mild soap and thoroughly dried it a second time. The washing restored a beautiful shine to the feathers and removed all traces of dirt and debris from the cape.
Looking at the feathers, it appeared to me that they would make a fantastic dark variation of the classic Hornberg Special. Once the cape was cured, the Black and White Hornberg variant was the first pattern I tied with it. To keep with the dark theme I used black bucktail for the inner wing. The Allen 3x long, barbless, S402BL seemed like the perfect hook for this pattern. This hook has been finding its way into a lot of my fly patterns lately. Flies like my variations of the James Wood Bucktail and my Triangle Bug to name a few. It is a relatively inexpensive hook that has impressed me with its performance, and the fact that it is barbless saves me the step of pinching down the barb at the vise. The addition of the jungle cock eyes is a little ritzy for the local bluegills. I'll likely keep them on the patterns I tie for trout, but panfish will get the plastic imitations. Besides, the imitation jungle cock will hold up a lot better. One can always expect to catch dozens of fish on a single fly when fly rodding for panfish!
I like the way this pattern came out and based on early tests in the local trout streams and bluegill ponds it is a keeper. I will be giving it a try on some landlocked salmon on my trip to Grand Lake Stream, Maine next week as well! This fly has earned a permanent spot in my panfish fly boxes!
Hook: Allen S402BL size 8 (3x long, barbless)
Body: Medium silver tinsel
Inner wing: Black bucktail
Wing: *White and black hen feather
Hackle: *Black and white hen feather
*The Silver Laced Wyandotte has two types of feathers. Short, broad feathers with a white center and black edges and long narrow feathers with black center and white borders.