April Vokey dispenses some great advise on how to handle, prepare and of course how to tie with rhea feathers. April has a ton of experience tying with rhea as can be seen in the fly patterns she ties in pursuit of steelhead and salmon. She is also the force behind flygal.ca, which happens to sell a range of the feathers dyed in mainly steelhead colors with a few trout colors in the mix.
There have been tons of steelhead and salmon flies requiring rhea feathers which are similar to ostrich, but the barbules on each herl are much smaller, giving the rhea herls a much slimmer profile. They are also stiffer and so the tend not to collapse into the fly as much once it is dunked. Flies such as Intruders, Hoh Bo Spey and a myriad of custom locals only patterns.
Buying rhea can be tricky, as not many retailers carry them, and the feathers can cost $10-15 each depending on the quality. Ask around for a good reliable source. Online is even trickier as you may get the lesser quality feathers (yes, this has happened to me). Have a peak at the video for some advise on how to go about tying with rhea and maintaining durability in your flies.
Phil always put together great step-by-step tutorials and goes the extra mile to provide information about the fly and materials used. This pattern was born in the vise of fly tyer Trevor Nowak and uses a big helping of Rhea tendrils to impart action into the streamer. Rhea has become quite popular in steelhead and salmon flies over the past decade thanks in no small part to tyers like Nowak rhea guru Todd Scharf. Phil has some extras in the article about preparing the feathers to use in patterns so the herls are wrapped and paltered easily.
You can find the full step-by-step tutorial on Phil’s website http://flycraftangling.com, and get some insights to tying with rhea.
Here is a pretty sweet looking Steelie fly from the west coast. Grizzly hackle just finishes off a Steelhead fly nicely and the rhea on this one makes for a wispy fly ready to get in the steelie’s face and piss them off. Rhea is nice, but at 15-20 buck a stem, you’ll want to invest in scuba gear to retrieve snagged flies. Tied to a tune I haven’t heard in like 20 years…. Bang on!