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How To Make Custom Turkey Biots

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Turkey biots are on of the greatest materials to use to make incredible body segments on dries, wetflies, and nymphs. They can also be used as wing cases, as seen in the prince nymph. 

A versatile fly tying material that every angler should be using in some form. In Maine and around the country, turkey 

hunters take to fields in search of male gobblers. With their abundance, finding turkeys is usually no problem. However, what do you do with all the feathers? Turkey biots come from the leading edge of the primary flight feathers on turkeys (Figure 1).

The turkey biots are stiff feather fibers that are incredibly durable, making them desirable for fly anglers. Flies tied with turkey biots are resilient and will last a long time (Fly tied with turkey biot). However, natural turkey biots are white and black, sometimes with a brownish hue. The the sides of the biots are dark, while the broad side of the biots are typically a whitish color, which allows them to be dyed into custom colors. In this article, I explain how to create custom colored turkey biots to make unique and custom flies! 

 

1. Collecting the feathers

 

Once you have a turkey wing in your possession (or your buddy has one), find and remove those primary flight feathers. I will put my feathers in a plastic baggie and keep them in the freezer for 1-2 weeks to kill any bugs that may be living on the feathers. 

You’ll notice the fibers on one side are shorter. Both sides can be used to tie flies, however, the shorter fibers that lay vertical are primarily used for wing cases, tails, or legs. The fibers that are laying horizontal are great for making body segments as they are longer and thinner.

 

Figure 1

2. Splitting the feather

After selecting your feather, split the feather down the middle of the stem using a knife. They come apart easily so you only need to start the splitting the top of the feather. After you get a cut down the stem, you can use your hands to split the rest of the feather apart

3. Clean your feathers

 

After splitting your feathers, you need to thoroughly clean each piece with warm water and dawn soap. This part is incredibly important! You need to remove any dirt/grime/oil that may reside on the feathers. If you do not do this, your dye will not set properly and your biots will come out with an uneven coloring. Wash, rinse, repeat until you feel the feathers are clean.

4. Dye time

 

Now it is time to get the dye bath ready. You’ll want to use a stainless steel pot. You’ll need enough water in the pot to completely submerge all the feathers (usually 2 cups of water will do). Heat your water up to 140-150 F before adding anything to the pot. 

5. Prepping feathers

While your water is heating up, you should prep your feathers. The long horizontal fibers don’t need any prep, but the horizontal fibers do. You need to loop the thin fibers so that they spread out. If they are not spread out, they will pinch together and no dye will reach the internal parts of the biots. I use a sturdy clip to pinch the feathers top to the bottom, creating a circular loop that spreads the fibers out. 

6. Prep the dye bath

After prepping the feathers, it’s time to get the dye bath ready. You will need two things – rit dye and white vinegar. Once the water is at 140, you can now dump in your dye solution. How much? Depends on how dark you want the color, the more you add, the darker the fibers will be. After you have dumped in the desired amount, I add a shot of vinegar to the pot. Give it a stir and your pot is ready for the feathers! 

7. Add the feathers

MAKE SURE YOUR WATER STAYS IN THE 140-160F RANGE! Do not let the water boil as it will ruin the feathers. Add in your feathers and begin stirring. Set a timer for 5 minutes and continually stir the entire time. I try and split any biots apart that I see sticking together. Continually stirring helps create and even dye job.

8. Strain and Dry

 

After 5 minutes, pour the feathers and water off into a strainer and spray your feathers down with cold water. Really spray them good! After you’ve thoroughly rinsed them, lay them out to dry on a paper towel for a few hours. Seal in a plastic baggie after than and you have custom colored turkey biots! 

I hate letting any animal part go to waste, this is just another way to use all that we harvest! If you have any questions, shoot me an email maineflyguys@gmail.com or a message on FB or IG! Thanks for reading!

 

Greg LaBonte 

Maine Fly Guys
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