Hair Stacking and Other Applicable Stuff

Calf Tail and Bucktail Hair

Understanding hair
Hair scales
Deer, Elk and Moose
Calf Tail and Bucktail
Hand stacking
Uneven stacking
Cleaning hair
Selecting hair
When selecting bucktails and calf tails, it is wise to comb potential purchases to better evaluate hair quality. A matted tail that looks useless on first observation may be just what you are after once combed. Also be sure to comb the tails to untangle the hair before as well as after washing and drying. Finally, comb the hair once again at the tying table just before use. Combing allows the hairs to separate from one another for improved cleaning, drying, and selection of the clump. It also loosens up the clump so that the hairs are more free to stack.
Calf tail and most bucktail hair is crinkled in cross section creating wavy hair. Some tails will have straighter hair than others. Bucktails can sometimes have very straight hair. Some calf tails will have such curly hair that they are useless. (Hair straightening products used on human hair can help, but use with caution since they are caustic enough to actually damage the hairs, particularly near their tips.) Some tails, especially calf, may have as many as five fairly distance weights and lengths of hair in the same clump chosen to stack.
This means that most of the hair is wasted in the process of removing the shorter hairs prior to stacking since these shorter hairs simply do not have the bulk necessary to allow them to align with the others. Thus another reason to choose hair carefully in the fly shop before purchase. Also realize that there is no tail grown that will serve the needs of all flies. Select material that will serve specific purposes and/or fly sizes. Look for a wave in the hair that fits your needs, adequate length (sometimes hair too long is as useless as hair too short,) color (natural white calf and bucktail is often

dull, but can be dyed fluorescent white,) reasonably even with unbroken tips, and does not smell horrible (some especially greasy skins begin to rot over time.)
Cleaning bucktail and calf tail is critical; particularly the former. The process for this is covered under the subheading, Cleaning Hair, but needs to be emphasized once again. Without cleaning, any hair that has a wavy configuration will not stack well or perhaps at all.

The process of stacking both bucktail and calf tail (as well as calf body) is quite similar. First of all, comb the section of the tail that will be used. After selecting and cutting out the clump, comb it both at the base (to remove the shorter, lighter weight hairs) and then, while holding the hair by the root ends, comb the tips. By cleaning the hair you have removed the problem that dirt contributes, but you still have the scales to deal with as well as the more visible problem of the waves in the hair. Combing loosens the hair fibers from one another allowing them to slide more freely. Hand stack the hair a bit, comb once again, cut the root ends evenly to help balance the hair's weight, and place the hair in the stacker. Make the first few taps vertically (to allow more room for each curly hair to move.) Take the hair out, trim the root ends, and return to the stacker. This time turn the stacker to the more conventional plane of 60 degrees and tap a few times. Check the stack and trim the root ends one more time. Now make a final, more gentle series of taps with the stacker at 45 degrees or less. Remove the bottom tube and check to see that the hairs are adequately evened. If so, remove the clump with the hand that it will be applied to the hook with. There may be some need for compacting of the bundle, but often nothing is required since wavy hair tends to cling to adjacent hair.

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User comments
From: William - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted May 12th 2012

I have read your article,which is very interesting,which I itend to try.But can you give me information and advice on"dyeing",I would like to try the fluorescent white,can you tell me where I get this dye,or what to use and how to use it,any information would be greatfully received,thanks. Yours, W M.

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