Why you might want to shampoo your bucktails – Tying Tips from Jay

Listen Up - Artwork by Lisa

Well, why might anyone want to shampoo their bucktails.

This is something I discovered after working with bucktail for nearly six decades. Slow learner I am.

Some bucktails fresh from the package are perfect and a washing would not benefit them at all.

But some bucktails have always, always been a disappointment to me. Fresh from the package, some are or seem to be greasy, are in some degree matted dull or/and lifeless with odd twists and turns in the long fibers. I have never been pleased with these bucktails, but that is the norm to expect that not every package of hair, feathers, and such forth, where natural animal products are concerned will be pleasant to work with. I’m like every tyer in the respect that I get what I can get and some bucktails are better than others.

A month ago, that all changed.

I had set aside a pile of various bucktails for the discard pile and I was on the cusp of discarding them – when I considered the long shot that a wash might help.

So I went to the utility sink, put the stopper in, and threw in the bucktails, added several liberal shots of dishwashing soap, and began to work them around in the sudsy hot water with my hands. I probably devoted ten minutes to squeezing, swirling, wringing and otherwise agitating the bucktails in the soapy water. I considered using shampoo but decided for this experiment liquid dishwashing soap should tell me something.

Another 5 10 minutes devoted to rinsing revealed that the bucktails had been retaining a lot of dye. But eventually the rinse water from each tail ran rather clear and I set them aside to dry on the warm concrete in the back yard.

Jay Nicholas why shampoo bucktails

I occasionally flipped the bucktails over to make sure that each side was exposed to warm dry air, and at night moved them into the garage to continue drying on newspaper.

This experiment was spectacular in the sense that every one of the bucktails I had been on the cusp of discarding now looked and felt suitable for use in my various tying ventures. Naturally some had shorter or longer hair, more or less crinkled hair, and thicker or thinner hair with more or less ability to flare.

Take home from this exploration is that every one of these bucktails now rests in my ready to tie with bin, and I have been entirely pleased with the flies I tied with hair from these tails.

Of course I am not saying that every dubious bucktail will be salvageable by a simple wash and dry.

But in my opinion the wash and dry process literally moved a nice pile of tails from my discard pile to my use-for-sure depending on the individual tail hair’s properties versus the fly I am about to tie.

Whether this process works for the tails you are disappointed with is a matter that each of you may decide to experiment with and make your own decision.
Now, while i return to a two-cat nap, I’ll conclude by saying that I hope this helps someone spruce-up their bucktails.

August 2019

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