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Davie McPhail shows us how to dye strung hackle feathers Sunburst in this fly tying video tutorial. If you have not ventured into the world of dyeing your own fly tying material (yet), this video by Davie McPhail is a good introduction into the Art and Alchemy of dyeing fly tying material.

Dyeing Feathers

In a nut shell, here are the basic steps:

  1. Wash feathers in soapy water. Davie recommends Johnsons Baby Shampoo. This removes oils from the feathers and helps dye penetration.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 pints water to near boiling. For best results use distilled water.
  3. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dye, stir to dissolve.
  4. Add feathers, heat and stir for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add 4 to 5 tablespoons vinegar to set dye.
  6. Rinse feathers in cold water.
  7. Allow to dry (can blow dry).

What Dye To Use

Acid dyes are one of the best for dyeing natural fly tying material such as hackle feathers. Acid dyes sound scary but they are safe to use and are so named for the mild acid (such as vinegar or citric acid) used in the dyeing process.

Davie recommends Veniard's dyes, which is an acid dye commonly used by fly tyers in Europe. Veniard dye is hard to come by in the states, and an excellent alternative is Jacquard acid dyes which are more readily available in the US.


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  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi jimthetelemech1977,

    I’ll probably not be in the GAC over the next couple of weeks..
    Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family…

    All the best Davie

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi mrflyfishingak,

    With capes just do as I did in the video and you should be fine, dying hair I keep it in the dye a lot longer just do as before but don’t rinse straight away leave it to steep overnight and then rinse and allow it to dry naturally, you’ve just got to be patient with it…

    All the best Davie

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi Daniel,

    It’s about a pint and a half of water then as you can see a couple of glugs of vinegar to set the dye…

    All the best Davie

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi shanksi105,

    The dyes I use are from Veniards which are the only ones that I have ever used..

    All the best Davie

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi tonysurface1,

    I may do this next year, but I have nothing really special, glad you enjoyed the video..

    Have a wonderful Christmas..

    All the best Davie

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi Kenny,

    Hair can be a lot harder for the colour to set just do everything that I did then take the pot off the heat and put it somewhere out the way overnight, then rinse in cold water taking out the excess dye and allow it to dry naturally, Sometimes you may have to keep it in longer to get the correct colour you want, you just have to take your time and be patient..

    All the best Davie

  • TheDarzea 3 years ago

    Thanks Davie, Now to go annoy the mother until I’m allowed full acess to the sink. Wait till she smells the vinegar! I pretty much talked myself into salmon fishing next year from tying the your salmon flies as they looked liked a challenge! Cant wait for the 1st Feb, the start of the Irish Salmon season! The Munster Blackwater is a 2min walk from the back door. Thanks for the video, I’m sure I’ll have another request for you by next week! Darragh

  • jimthetelemech1977 3 years ago

    smashin Davie, I’ve not had the confidence to give this a try yet but in the new year I’ll be giving this a bash with the old stand by pot that hasn’t seen teh light of day for years.
    If your up in the Glasgow Angling center between Christmas and the new year I’ll see you there.
    Hope you and the family have a fantastic Chrismas and a brilliant new year.

  • molley3268 3 years ago

    Daniel……the liquid in the pot is water ..the Vinegar is added ( from the bottle) at the end to set the dye

  • mrflyfishingak 3 years ago

    Hi Davie,
    Thanks for th video, it really helped. I am guessing you can do it with most capes and furs so now I can add my own colours and hopefuly make better flys.
    happy holidays, Adam

  • 1968drum 3 years ago

    Hi davie, is the liquid all vinegar, or is it mixed with water.

    peace love fish,Daniel

  • DavieMcPhail 3 years ago

    Hi GreyBuzzer,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the video, and believe it or not but I have had that pot for more than 20 years it’s a part of the family, but the kids hate it as they can’t stand the smell of the boiling vinegar that’s the main reason I’m always home alone when I dye materials..

    Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes..

    All the best Davie

  • smithmccrum 3 years ago

    great salmon fly davie, sorry i havent been on site, but pc crashed and it was a bugger to sort it out, but im back, happy wrappings davey, antrim.

  • mick7662492 3 years ago

    Thanks Davie, great stuff as always. You are teaching a lot of people how to tie and your videos are a fantastic source of information and inspiration for beginners and skilled flytyers alike. Always something new or some little trick to make things easier. Keep up the good work. Best wishes to you and yours this christmas.