How to Remove a Peacock Herl or Flue

Written by lucy a. fazely
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How to Remove a Peacock Herl or Flue
Peacock feathers have a downy covered herl. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Peacock herl (flue) is the downy barb of a peacock feather. The herl is sought after for use in tying fishing flies and in making hair pieces for costuming. Herl can be purchased, in craft stores and online. Fly fisherman also strip some of the herls to use bare quills to wrap flies. There are two main techniques used to remove the herl, preserving a usable quill.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Foam sheet (8 1/2" x 11")
  • Eraser
  • Straws
  • Glass jar
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Wire thread
  • Paper towel

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    Stripping the Herl

  1. 1

    Lay the peacock herl on a clean work surface. Working on a firm foam sheet, like those used in crafts, helps keep the herl from slipping as you work.

  2. 2

    Rub the eraser firmly down one side of the quill, starting at the tip and working your way down to the base. Repeat on same side until all the barbs and fibres are removed. Experiment with a variety of erasers to see what works the best for you. Some types of erasers to try include large pink pencil erasers, pen erasers and soft gum white drafter erasers.

  3. 3

    Turn the herl over and rub the eraser down the other side. Repeat as needed.

  4. 4

    Store unused herl in narrow tubes, such as drinking straws, to keep them from breaking.

    Burning the Herl

  1. 1

    Fill a glass jar with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water.

  2. 2

    Tie herls together at their base with a wire thread.

  3. 3

    Dunk the herls in the burning (bleach) solution for 20 to 30 seconds. Swirl the herls around slightly in the solution, being careful not to splash it.

  4. 4

    Rinse the quills under cold water. Pat dry between paper towels.

  5. 5

    If any fibres remain, return to the bleach solution for 10 seconds, rinse and pat dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Experienced fly fisherman can strip a herl by pre-soaking them in water and then running their fingernail down each side. This technique, although quick and easy, takes a great deal of practice to do well.
  • Use caution when using the burn solution containing bleach. Use of eye protection is recommended. Keep the solution away from children.

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