I tie with a lot of ostrich and realize that things I take for granted might not be understood by all fly tyers. The fly tying industry competes with the fashion industry, the costume industry, and the auto industry to get the best ostrich at the best prices possible. Over time, I have seen quality and availability vary considerably. All ostrich is useful but the fact remains that individual plumes have different properties that affect the performance of the flies we tie. The various commercial providers of ostrich get the best plumes they can, but the raw feathers they are able to obtain are not the same from week to week, month to month and so on.
If I want to tie with ostrich – I take the best I can get through time, and adapt to a shifting playing field. Many beginning tyers do not understand how much ostrich can vary, and may blame the commercial providers for differences they see. In my experience, every commercial distributor is doing the best they can to provide first quality feathers – but from time to time they must pass on whatever is the best they can get in order to provide any ostrich at all.
The preferences of individual fly artisans vary too, with some wanting fluffy ostrich and some wanting slender strands on the plume that are similar to Rhea.
The following photos will illustrate a few points to consider. I tie with the following brands, and will limit my remarks to these.
Other distributors of ostrich probably deal with the same issues I will discuss. I encourage anyone who loves ostrich to stock up when you are in your local fly shop and find the PERFECT ostrich. Of course, your tastes for ostrich may shift over time, but it is unlikely to imagine a future when ostrich is more available or higher quality than we see today.
Here goes – – – – – -
This photo shows a closer view of the slender MFC barred ostrich compared to the fully fluffy Hareline ostrich. I use both in my flies and simply want to let the novice tyers understand that these differences are normal and in fact useful to our creative palate.
This is by no means the full story of ostrich, but I hope these photos and notes help many of my fellow fly artisans understand the variability and usefulness of these fine feathers.
I have no way of knowing what we will have in the way of ostrich a year from now or five years from now. Same goes for every natural feather we use.
Jay Nicholas February 2016