It happens everyday. A perfectly good fly is mercilessly mutilated by trimming down its hackle, leaving nothing but horrific, ungodly stumps of barbules. These poor victims are scarred for life and nothing can reintegrate them back into mainstream fly box culture. They become the “untouchables” of their fly box compartments.
You might think hackle clipping isn’t a big problem but it’s actually very common–it’s just not widely reported. Some analysts say as many as 100 flies are “clipped” per day worldwide while others put the number much higher. But because of the stigma associated with it, it’s impossible to know for sure. Welcome to the seedy underbelly of the fly tying world.
It starts out innocently enough. A tier finishes a fly and realizes the hackle they used was too long. “Why not just trim it down to size with scissors?”, they think. After the first one, they’re hooked and it becomes a slippery slope into clipping addiction. Suddenly, no hackle is too big–just cut it down to size later.
Luckily, Hackle Clipping Syndrome (HCS) is easily treatable in most cases. A tier simply needs to get a prescription of the correct-sized hackle from a fly shop and follow a strict regimen of using it for 3-4 weeks until they feel comfortable with the right proportions.
With support from their family, local fly shop, and a little will power, a fly tier can tie beautiful flies without feeling the urge to clip. And before you say “you don’t know what it’s like”, I’ll admit that I’m a former clipper myself. 20 years of recovery. So all I’ll say to you is that there is life beyond CHS. And it’s good.