Mandarin Duck FlyTying Feathers
Mandarin Duck, Woodduck and Summer Duck regularly used interchangeably in American fly tying texts, most often in the context of the buff colored barred flank feathers. Summer duck is a nickname that has been used for both the Mandarin Duck and the Woodduck, there are in fact two distinct birds behind all these feathers. The Woodduck, Aix sponsa, is native to North America while the mandarin duck, Aix galericulata, is native to Asia.
Undoubtedly the most common and well known use for Mandarin flank feathers is the wings of dry flies. Most tyers use a single feather for winging their dry flies, some use a pair of feathers, especially on larger flies like a size 12 Quill Gordon. In the early days of Catskill fly fishing, it seemed that each classic dry fly had a matching wet fly. While mainly out of fashion these days, a few of these old patterns remain quite effective in our trout streams including the Light Cahill, the Dark Cahill, the Hendrickson, and the Quill Gordon. If you look at a classic Rangeley style New England Streamer, you'll see one of the key features that separates these streamers from all other types of baitfish imitations. That is the use of a "shoulder" feather that simulates the head and gill plate of a baitfish. While many feathers are used for this purposes, there is little doubt that the Silver Pheasant is the most common. Mandarin Duck flank is used on quite a few very beautiful streamers. The mottling and coloration of Mandarin Duck flank feathers make them very appropriate for tails and legs on mayfly nymphs and emergers. Since you only need a few fibers per tail or set of legs, it's a shame to waste a full feather for these purposes. When preparing flank feathers for dry fly wings or wet fly wings, there always seems to be some leftover feather that can either be thrown away or saved for nymph tails and legs.