Anglers' 'Hackles' Raised Over New Hair Trend

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Fly fishermen are having a hard time getting a crucial piece of equipment they need to attract fish. One of the key feathers used in fly-tying is suddenly becoming scarce. It turns out, one man's hackle is another woman's hair extension. Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports on the trend that's pitting fishermen against stylists.

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Rooster hackles, which help anglers create nearly life-like flies, have become a hot trend in hair extensions. By Jessica Robinson. hide caption

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Joe Roope, owner of Castaway Fly Fishing Shop in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, holds up some of his last remaining grizzly rooster hackles. Hairdressers have raided his and other fly shops. By Jessica Robinson. hide caption

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Rooster hackle feathers have traditionally been a staple of anglers' fly-making supplies. Dyed versions are now turning up in hair salons. By Jessica Robinson. hide caption

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Even with skyrocketing prices, beauty supply companies are selling out of rooster feather hair extensions, which fly fishermen know as hackle. By Jessica Robinson. hide caption

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Stylist Meghan Davis shows Rose Preston her new red rooster feather hair extension at Lather Salon in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. By Jessica Robinson. hide caption

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Joe Roope: "This is the fly-tying room."

Joe Roope is upstairs in his business Castaway Fly Fishing in Coeur d'Alene. There's a round table with a dozen little lamps on it. It's a regular haunt for the type you would expect to come into a fly fishing shop.

Joe Roope: "We have probably 25 guys that show up every Wednesday. They're required to bring a six-pack of beer, pizza. They're all sitting around tying flies, they're talking about politics, they're talking about fishing ..."

Roope says business had been pretty predictable.

Joe Roope: "Then, along came...hairdressers."

The hairdressers. They call multiple times a day. They walk in off the street. They're looking for what's known to fishermen as hackle, long striped rooster feathers, developed through years of cross-breeding to have, as Roope calls it...

"The perfect James Bond top-secret pattern."

...A pattern that creates the illusion of wings fluttering on the end of your line, if you tie it right.

"So you'd actually lash it in, tie it to the hook, and then you would wrap the stem of the feather..." he describes.

Meghan Davis: "So you just find a place that you can hide, so it's not obviously fastened to the hair."

A few blocks away in Coeur d'Alene stylist Meghan Davis is putting a rooster feather that's been dyed bright red into a client's hair.

"They stay in your hair," Davis says. "You can flat iron them, you can curl them, you wash your hair as normal."

The trend seems to have started at West Coast music festivals like Coachella and Burning Man. It soon made its way to the high-profile locks of pop star Kesha and American Idol judge Steven Tyler. Davis says beauty suppliers are starting to run out.

I ask her: "Have you tried checking out any fly fishing shops?"

"Yeah, they're sold out and the fly fishermen are really upset. Hahaha."

Joe Roope: "Literally we had a wall of hackle. And then we went to re-order and couldn't get any more."

Back at Castaway Fly Fishing, the walls are empty of the coveted hackle. But in a drawer upstairs, Joe Roope shows me his own stash of long, beautiful, shampooable feathers.

I tell him: "A hair dresser would kill for this."

"That's probably, maybe $300 or $400 worth of hackle, as it used to sit," Roope tells me. "And it's probably $3,000 or $4,000 worth of hackle now."

I clarify: "$3,000 or $4,000 worth worth of hair extensions."

"Exactly."

But Roope isn't selling.

Oh, and Roope asked me to add one more thing: There's no actual evidence, but he's hoping to start a rumor the feathers cause balding.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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