Got lucky the other day and shot three wood ducks. My very first! I’m always hunting for the drake mallard duck. I prefer mallard duck for supper, and I like collecting those bronze mallard feathers from the back. In my estimate, when dressing Spey or Atlantic salmon patterns one can never have a good enough selection of bronze mallard for wings. Now I’m going to have to add the drake wood duck as my other favorite waterfowl. Here’s a look at the location and plucking of those prized black and white tip wood duck flank feathers.
There are not a lot of good quality feathers on one bird. From each side you will get generally only five to seven. That is why when you buy barred wood duck from the fly shop it is kind of expensive. You might also lament on the quantity. I like to keep and store my wood duck barred feathers in two categories, right and left sides. Right and left side feathers are like near mirror images of each other. That then makes it is easier to find and match an equal right side feather with an equal left side feather. For instance, when constructing an Atlantic salmon fly with a married wing that calls for wood duck, you will need a narrow strip from both a right side and a left side feather.
A good old steelhead fly that calls for wood duck is the Orleans Barber. In that summer steelhead pattern a barred black and white wood duck strip is used as the fibers for the tail of the fly. Another example of a steelhead pattern that utilizes barred wood duck is the Coon Muddler. In the Coon Muddler the wood duck is used as an underwing for the main raccoon body hair wing.
I would be neglect, if I fail to mention the plain lemon brown flank feathers from the wood duck. These particular feathers underlie the black and white tips barred feathers. They look very much like plain mallard or teel flank feathers with the faint black vermiculation, but have that destinctive lemon color. These flank feathers have been useful for years to the trout fisherman as the wings for dry fly patterns such as the Light Cahill and Quill Gordon. They should work well as hackles and throats on steelhead flies.