Bucktail or deer tail is a common material that comes from both bucks and does. The hair is inexpensive and often used in big game flies like pike streamers, and jigs. The hair is commonly used is saltwater flies, as a wing in streamer flies and “bucktail” streamers. It may also be used to create tails, bellies, collars and evens heads of flies (see Thundercreek patterns). Bucktails are sold as full tails with various sizes available such as jumbo or
Tails are two-toned and natural tails have a white outer area with a brown center. So when you purchase a tail, you are getting a bit of a bonus natural brown hair. The hair can be dyed as well in any color, and the brown section will take on a different color than the white. Hair taken near the tip is the best for streamers as it isn’t as hollow and therefore doesn’t flare as much as hair taken from the base which can contain some body hair.
Look for hairs that are long (3-4″) and straight. A little bit of crinkle or wave is okay. The tips of the hairs should be tapered to a fine natural point. Over processed tails or improperly handled tails may have hairs with excessive broken tips. Be sure to give the tail a sniff before you buy. Some tails can have a strong odor which is hard to get rid of. If you can find a soft tanned tail, it should be almost odor free, but hard tanned tails (hard skin portions) tend to be smellier and can curl when they dry. Superfly brand bucktails from Canada are a favorite because of the way they process the tails. Once they dye the tails, they are nailed onto boards and allowed to dry. The extra money ($1 or so) is worth it if you can find them.