When I first started tying flies, I found myself overwhelmed with the amount of tools and equipment I could use to tie flies. After a year or so of tying, I was finally able to learn what tools were necessary and others that I didn’t need to use. One tool I learned I couldn’t live without was a hair stacker. It helped me be precise and keep my flies looking professional. I struggle with the minute details in fly tying and the hair stacker fills this role.
What is a Hair Stacker?
A Hair Stacker performs exactly how the name suggests. A Hair Stacker is a tool created to align and smooth out fur/hair before you end up attaching it to your fly. Place the fur into the stacker, hit it on a hard surface to align everything, and it’ll be ready to attach to your fly.
Do I Have to Use a Hair Stacker?
The answer to this question, it mainly depends on your experience and fly tying ability. Fly tiers of all levels use them. Unless your fine motor skills are exceptional or you aren’t as worried about the fur on your fly being aligned, then you don’t need to use one.
Otherwise, the hair stacker is a helpful tool that’s going to give your flies a more full and professional look. You can line up the material on your flies exactly how and where you would like.
Remember, fish don’t always need a precise fly. Buggier looking flies are successful especially in waters that are heavily pressured. A more unique appearance will be a welcomed sight for the fish. The goal with any fly you tie should be to keep it precise and neat and the hair stacker will help accomplish that!
How to Use a Hair Stacker
To use a hair stacker, drop the tips of fur or hair in the stacker. Most hair stackers will have a rubber or corked bottom that you should hit a few times onto a hard surface. By hitting the bottom onto a hard surface, you’re putting all the tips of fur/hair at the bottom. This aligns everything how you would like.
As you tap the stacker on a hard surface, make sure you can see the hair adjusting and becoming more even. Once you’ve finished this, make sure you have the tips of your hair (cow, squirrel, etc) facing the direction you would like to tie. By keeping the tips facing the way you’re tying, you’re avoiding the possibility of having to readjust and mess with your perfectly aligned material. Many anglers find themselves making this mistake and lose patience as a result.
Fly tying can be time consuming and making the most of your efforts is important for your own sanity. Continuing to mess up can drive anyone crazy! Keep focused and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a successful fly tying session.
What Size Hair Stacker is Best?
There are three sizes of hair stackers that people most often use. You’ll find them in 1.75 inches, 2 inches and 2.75 inches. Depending on the size of flies you tie, you’ll need to use different sizes of stackers. The 2.75 inch stacker is ideal if you’re tying large trout, bass or pike flies. It will hold quite a bit of fur/hair and ensure that you receive the proper alignment.
If you’re tying small dry flies, the 1.75 inch stacker is going to make your life easiest. It’s simple to manuever and you don’t have to worry about being unable to handle everything.
For an overall happy medium, use the 2-inch stacker. This stacker can handle more amounts of fur/hair and still perform well when you’re using minimal amounts for the smaller flies. I’ve used a 2-inch stacker for a few years and have tied all different types of flies with it.
If you are using the 2-inch stacker and have a few inches of material you’re trying to use, make sure you keep your hand over the opening to ensure that the fur/hair doesn’t fly all over the place and you lose your progress.
What Hair Stacker do I Recommend?
The best hair stackers are created by Dr. Slick. The Dr. Slick Hair Stacker is tried and true. I’ve received plenty of dirty looks over the years because of the harm I could do to the table by banging my old, unpadded stacker on it. The brass will do damage to almost every kind of surface!
I recommend the Dr. Slick Hair Stacker nice machined brass with a cork bottom. I’ve used mine for years and am super happy with it. Even better get the Dr. Slick Fly Tying Kit <Amazon Link for price and reviews. The neat thing about the tying kit is the case is a fly box!
Dr. Slicks Hair Stacker has a nice thick piece of cork on the bottom and the others in your house won’t be able to tell when you’re using it. You can find these stackers anywhere from $12 to $24. As long as you don’t lose it, this Hair Stacker will last you multiple lifetimes. Pass it down to your children and they can pass it down to your children’s’ children.
Best Flies that have Stacked Hair
Anglers have quite a few options when it comes to choosing flies to tie that require hair stackers. Stimulators, Dun patterns along with numerous other types of flies require this tool. My two personal favorites, however, are the Elk Hair Caddis and Mickey Finn. These flies are not only extremely successful, but they’re a blast to tie.