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Home->Articles->Fly Fishing Tips->Archives->How to Strip Peacock Herl-The Traffic Buzzer   
Fly Fishing
How to Strip Peacock Herl-The Traffic Buzzer

Traffic Light Buzzer

Hook:        Daiichi 1120, 1260, 1760, 1530, or 1550 #12-#16 
Thread:     MFC  8/0 or UTC 70, Black
Rib:           Stripped Peacock Herl
Body:        MFC 8/0 or UTC 70, Black
Wingcase: Mirage Opal Mylar over Red Holographic Mylar
Wingpads: Goose Biots, Sunburst Orange
Thorax:     MFC 8/0 or UTC 70, Black
Gills:         UV2 Sparkle Yarn, White

Tying Note:  Use thin diameter 8/0 tying thread to secure gills in place once the body and thorax has been coated.

The Traffic Light Buzzer is an English pattern, named for its distinct shimmering red holographic Mylar and mirage opal Mylar overlay wingcase.  Depending upon how the light reflects off the wingcase it is always changing, like a traffic light.  Another key pattern trait is the traditional stripped peacock herl rib.  The stripped herl rib provides both a natural sheen and realistic body segmentation, convincing triggers for any trout initially drawn to the pattern by its flickering wingcase.

The best herl for any pattern calling for stripped peacock comes from a full peacock eye.  Eyes provide lighter quills whereas regular strung peacock herl taken further down the tail feather, tend to be darker.  Herl choice depends upon personal preference and what looks best for the particular pattern.  I prefer stripped herl from a peacock eye.

There are number of methods you can use to strip peacock herl. If you plan on tying a limited number of flies the herl fibers can be removed using your thumbnail or an eraser.  Hold the herl by the tip.  Using your thumbnail or an eraser, stroke the fibers in one direction from the tip of the herl to the butt.  It may take a number of strokes to completely remove most or all of the herl fibers.

The thumbnail or eraser method works well enough on a small scale but if you want to strip and number of herls there are more efficient methods.  Using a bleach solution is my favorite.  Track down two glass cooking trays, a small testing bottle (an empty bottled water bottle works well), bleach, baking soda and paper towels.  Dollar stores are great places to find glass cooking trays without drawing the ire of the cook in the house.
In one tray add three parts warm water to one part bleach.  I usually use one cup increments.  Add the water to the bleach to ensure proper mixing.  Fill the test bottle with luke warm tap water.  Fill the other glass tray with a mixture of luke warm water and a few healthy sprinkles of baking soda.  The baking soda bath neutralizes the bleach.  Finally, spread out a few paper towels so your stripped herl has a place to dry. 

Place a peacock eye into the bleach bath.  Lay the butt of the feather on the edge of the glass tray so it is easy to grab without getting bleach on your hands.  Only add as many feathers you can manage at any one time.  I strip no more than two feathers at a time.  Let the feather sit still in the bleach bath for first minute or so.  After sitting still, hold the feather by the butt and begin gently moving and swirling it around the tray to open up the individual herls.  Within two to three minutes of adding the feather to the bleach bath the fibers fall of the quills.  Nothing seems to happen at first but once the first fibers begin to fall they all follow suit.  Dip the stripped feather into the test bottle.  Looking through the bottle, sway the feather back and forth to confirm that all the herl fibers are gone.  If you aren’t satisfied, place the feather back into the bleach bath and remove them.  The tip fibers take the longest to strip.  Don’t over bleach, as the bleaching process renders stripped herl brittle.
Place the stripped feather into the neutralizing water/baking soda bath for a couple of minutes. Once neutralized, lay the feather on the paper towel and allow it to dry.  At first the feather looks skinny and anaemic as all the herls stick together.  As the feather dries the fibers begin to separate.  You can blow on the fibers to separate them after they have air dried for a while.  From the initial bleach bath to final drying takes no more than five minutes per peacock eye.

Another stripping method I saw on the Internet involves using women’s hair removal cream and hair conditioner.  Place a drop of hair removal cream onto your forefinger.  Work the hair removal cream into the herl for a few minutes using your thumb and forefinger.  Next, rinse the stripped herl in a bowl of water to remove and neutralize the hair remover.  Place a dab of hair conditioner on the forefinger. Stroke the conditioner into stripped herl to soften it.  Set the stripped herl aside to dry.

Stripped herls are brittle. Moisten stripped herl prior to tie in to avoid breakage as you wind the stripped herl forward.  Tie in the herl by the butt with the dark leading edge facing up.  A smooth level underbody, most often thread, is essential for a slender stripped herl body or rib.  I prefer tying threads that you can flatten by spinning the bobbin counter clockwise. Once the body or ribbing is complete use your thumbnail to smooth the herl.  Coat the finished body with varnish, superglue or thin formula UV resin for additional durability and to further accent the natural shine of the stripped herl.

Stripped peacock herl bodies and ribs are nothing new but for some reason they have slipped out of favor with many who prefer modern synthetics.  Traditional materials such as stripped peacock still have their place.  Make a point of blending them into your tying repertoire.  Chironomid pupa patterns in particular such as the Traffic Light Buzzer are ideal stripped herl candidates.

Tying Instructions

  1. Place the de-barbed hook into the vise.  Attach the tying thread one third back from the hook eye.  Wind the tying thread back down the hook shank slightly into the bend.  To keep the wraps smooth and adjacent to one another, wrap the thread back against the tag remaining from the initial tie in.  Remove the tag just before winding the tying thread down into the hook bend.

  2. Tie in the moistened stripped peacock rib, by the butt, at the hook bend.  Wind the tying thread forward using close touching turns forming a slender body.  Spin the bobbin counter clockwise to remove any thread twist to ensure flat smooth thread wraps.  The finished body should occupy 2/3rds of the hook.  Wind the stripped peacock rib forward in close but open turns to create a natural segmented look.  Tie off the stripped peacock and remove the excess.

  3. Tie in the wingcase materials just back from the hook eye.  Secure the wingcase materials back along the top of the shank a few thread turns past the tie off point for the stripped peacock herl rib. Tie in a single goose biot near the tip along each side of the hook.  The natural curvature of each biot should run away from the hook.  Spin the bobbin to remove any thread twist and build up a slender cigar shaped thorax.  Do not crowd the head area.  Leave at least an eye width of the hook shank clear directly behind the hook eye.

  4. Pull the red holographic mylar over the top of the thorax and tie off.  Do not trim the excess.  Pull the Mirage Opal Mylar over top of the holographic Mylar and tie off.  Fold both pieces of Mylar back and secure with 2-3 additional wraps of thread.  Using your scissors, nip both pieces of Mylar simultaneously. Carefully tear the remaining Mylar ends away.  Cover the tie off area with 2-3 covering wraps of thread.  Pull each goose biot along the sides of the thorax.  Pinch and hold the biots in place.  The biots should cross each other on top of the hook at the tie off point.  Tie off the goose biots using 2-3 firm thread wraps.  Pull down on the bobbin to maintain thread tension and gently tear the excess goose biots away one at a time.  Cover the tie off area with an additional 2-3 wraps of tying thread.  Whip finish and remove the tying thread.

  5. Coat the body and thorax area of the fly using Loon's UV Fly Finish-Flow.  Use sparse applications to keep the overall profile thin.  Use your dubbing needle as necessary to evenly distribute the resin.  Be sure to coat the biot wingpads and Mylar wingcase.  Cure the UV resin with the appropriate curing lamp.  Additional thin coats of Loon's Hard Head can be added for increased durability and shine.

  6. Attach the fine diameter 8/0 tying thread at the hook eye using a minimum of wraps.  Tie in a tuft of UV2 Sparkle Yarn on top of the shank immediately behind the hook eye, 2-3 wraps should be sufficient.  There should be equal lengths of material on each side of the tie in point.  Fold the rear facing portion of the Sparkle Yarn forward over the front section and secure in place.  Raise both sections up, whip finish the fly at the hook eye and remove the tying thread.  Trim the gills to length, about half the length of the thorax is ample.  Secure the thread wraps with brushable superglue or head cement.

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