History and Development of CDC

Genetic CDC Feathers and Accessories

By Mike Hogue

CDC and its development as a fly tying material originated with the early Swiss and French tyers. Perhaps the best history of CDC can be found in Leon Links' Book: " Tying Flies With CDC: The Fisherman's Miracle Feather." Links traces the development of the feathers back to two 1920's tyers: Maximilien Joset and Charles Bickel of Switzerland. Patterns from these early tyers had a raffine body and a CDC hackle that was spun in a circle around the front of the fly tying hook. These flies were called "Moustique du Jura" or "La mouche de Valorbe".

Frenchman Henri Bresson first used the name "Cul de Canard" in the 1950's. This name roughly translates into "duck's bum" or "butt of the duck". Since a fair number of Americans were unable to correctly pronounce Cul de Canard ( Imagine that! Is it Dez Plains or Des Plain?), the name CDC stuck.

As time went on the French and the Swiss continued to create more dry flies made largely of CDC. These patterns utilized CDC that was wrapped like traditional English wet flies, substituting CDC for the more conventional chicken hackle. By using a forward spun design many of the early French and Swiss tyers were able to imitate many types of mayfly duns and spinners. These patterns were largely local, however, and were not as widely accepted as some other patterns such as the Hare's Ear and the Adams.

In the 1980's Slovenian native Marjan Fratnik developed the clever "F Fly". The F Fly was designed with a CDC feather tied with the tips facing backwards and flat on top of the hook. The tips of the feather extended back as a flat wing, to create an imitation of caddis, stonefly wings or the wings of an emerging dun. The "F Fly" quickly caught on as did the use of the CDC material, leading to the development of additional patterns based on this concept and design. This simple fly has proven to be so popular that it is considered to be the most effective dry fly pattern used by the French International Fly Fishing Team to help capture repeated International Fly Fishing Team Championships.

In the mid 1980's ( 1984-86 ) Marc Petitjean of Switzerland began to develop a new generation of CDC flies. Marc experimented with several patterns using full feathers twisted and wrapped using the CDC barbs for bodies and wings. About this same time ( 1984), Gerard Laible of Germany also began using trimmed barbs from the stems of the CDC feathers in a dubbing loop as a substitute for hackle. These changes allowed the material to be utilized in different ways. By using CDC as a body material and as a hackle substitute, the flies became no-hackle variations, allowing the flies to float without the need for traditional hackle. Petitjean's innovations also developed additional uses for the material beyond the traditional use of CDC only as a winging material.

In the 1990's Petitjean furthered the development of CDC by creating a dying process which preserved the CDC natural oils. His method did not use acid dyes or heat. This process protected the fibers and retained the natural oils of the material. Petitjean developed 15 dyed colors and began marketing his material commercially, allowing tyers to utilize commercially processed materials. During this period Petitjean also started tying flies commercially, allowing him to develop additional designs that created better imitations.

The development of CDC as a fly tying material in the United States, can be credited to Loy Swaffar of Springdale, Arkansas. In 1990, Loy and Donna Swaffar meet with Bill Black of Umpqua Feather Merchants ( Bill is now owner of Spirit River ) in Glide, Oregon. At the meeting Loy, Donna and Bill discussed the commercial uses for CDC as well as its availability and cost. Bill suggested Loy contact René Harrop about this material for additional input and suggestions for color and quality choices.

By using René's input, Loy was able to select the colors and identify the qualities he would need to process CDC as a fly tying material. Like Petitjean, Loy also used a dying process that retained the oils of the original material. Over time, he was able to process something like 98,00 pounds of material per month. Much of this material went to commercial fly tyers with the remainder going to distributors, retailers and packaging firms. Loy Swaffar was also largely responsible for the development of other products such as: Ozark Mottled Turkey Quills, Turkey CDC, Turkey Biot Quills, Ozark Wild Turkey Marabou, CDC, CDC Puffs, Marabou Spey Hackle, Burnt Turkey Spey Hackle and Grizzly CDC. Many of these products were repackaged by distributors under other labels. Umpqua, Orvis, Hareline and Rumpf all sold Loy's items under their labels.

Loy and Donna Swaffar harvested these feathers from hunted ducks. Loy lived near Stuttgart, Arkansas which is one of the major North South flyways in North America and one of the world's largest duck hunting centers. Each fall, Loy and Donna would travel around Arkansas to collect bulk feathers from hunting camps, guides and duck processors. Also centered nearby were numerous large poultry processors.

Loy and Donna used their local contacts to develop a world class feather processing company based on this region's natural and agricultural resources. A few years ago Loy passed away and a few years ago Donna retired and closed their processing plant. The fly tying world owes Loy, Donna and Jeff Swaffar a debt of gratitude for the creation, development of these wonderful fly tying feathers.

Rene' Harrop went on to develop several patterns for the Henry's Fork and Yellowstone Region to aid in the catching of highly selective trout on flat water. Rene's patterns for use on the Henry's Fork , in tailwaters and spring creeks enabled anglers to catch fish in long clear pools. By utilizing CDC, he was able to create many unique ideas largely with the use of natural materials. Many of his concepts for flies evolved from flies based on the compara dun ( developed for the Delaware ) and the no hackle designs created by Swisher and Richards in Michigan.

In 2003 Marc Petitjean introduced the Magic Tool. The Magic Tool is similar to a set of bulldog paper clips often used to create dubbing loops. By using the Magic Tool, Petitjean was able to combine more than 1 CDC feather, combine CDC and traditional hackle or combine CDC and dubbing. Petitjean also developed new techniques for combining materials using a traditional split thread method of dubbing to create dubbing ropes and synthetic hackle to replace traditional chicken hackle.

Structure and Natural Attributes of CDC

CDC comes from any waterfowl. Ducks, geese and swans all have CDC feathers. While the name CDC means "butt of the duck" these feathers actually come from the back of the bird not the actual butt. On any water based bird you can lift up the tail and find the preen oil gland and the feathers which surround this gland. Each bird will use this gland to add waterproofing qualities to their feathers and this is one the reasons why these birds will float. By continuing to add oils to their feathers, they will naturally float. Indeed, one of these feathers' main attractions is their natural ability to repel water.

It was generally assumed that the oil in each feather is the primary reason why these feathers continue to float even when wet. On closer examination, it was discovered to be the structure of the feathers' fibers that gives CDC its unique properties. Each individual feather has small fibers that branch off to the side holding and trapping pockets of air. This ability to trap air is the major reason why these feathers continue to float when wet. It can also be argued that any feather will float as long as it continues to hold and trap air. So it is the structure of the feather, and not necessarily the oils, that causes CDC to float so well.

In an Internet article published ( http://globalflyfisher.com/tiebetter/tying-with-cdc/ ) by Hans Weilenmann outlined the uses for CDC and he also categorized CDC by types. This article was also published sometime later in fly Fisherman Magazine. A more effective method of measuring and sorting CDC is by length of the fibers. Sizing CDC feathers is a lot like the sizing of hackle. For example, you use size 10 hackle on a 10 hook where hackle width is usually defined as 1 1/2 times the gap of a hook. With CDC you can use small feathers on small flies and use larger feathers on large flies. Using a "Type 1" feather only limits your choices of sizes, hooks and also how the feather can be used. In addition, larger flies using larger feathers may require feathers with a bigger and stiffer stem to give them mass and also stability.

Tying With CDC:

CDC can be used instead of hackle, deer hair, dubbing or as legs on a fly. You can tie CDC in a bundle of stacked fibers like deer hair to create a dry fly. Bundling fibers in a group adds pockets that hold air . You can also twist the fibers to create bodies. Feathers can be tied as a down wings to imitate caddis or used for upright wings in mayfly patterns. You can spin the fibers in a dubbing loop to create your own hackle or you can also wrap the feather like a more traditional hackle. When using these feathers, it is important to create some way to trap air. By designing this into each fly you increase its ability to float.

Standard CDC Versus Genetic CDC:

Standard CDC: The most common type of CDC is the prepackaged material that was originated by Swaffarco. Usually these feathers are harvested from wild ducks or smaller, commercially raised farm ducks. The typical CDC feather is about 3/4" to 1' long. The natural color is either white or dun, although feathers come dyed in many colors. The fibers from these feathers can be stacked like deer hair, twisted in a dubbing loop or tied flat on the hook shank for wings.

Genetic CDC: I coined the term "Genetic CDC". Badger Creek's Catskill Mountain Genetic CDC is harvested from genetically engineered ducks raised in the USA. These ducks were cross breed for many years to be larger than your usual wild or farm duck. Through years of cross breeding and a better diet, these ducks create wonderful CDC. This CDC is unique in that the fibers are almost double the size of standard CDC.

These premium feathers have fibers that are significantly fuller and have much more capacity to hold and trap air. Genetic CDC feathers are ideally suited for use in spun loops or for twisting to create dry fly bodies since they are so much larger and fuller. Catskill Mountain CDC can be used for streamer wings, on nymphs and collars on flies or as a spun loop hackle. The fibers are soft and fine are suitable for use in midge patterns, dry flies or even terrestrial patterns. Catskill Mountain CDC is a product processed from ducks raised in the USA. We hope you enjoy this product.

Cul de Canard and Accessories

We carry some of the finest CDC feathers ever offered. We also have great accessories, boxes and tools to make flies with. We offer lots of color options and sizes.


Catskill Mountain Genetic CDC ( Cul De Canard ) : Catskill Mountain Premium CDC is harvested from commercially raised ducks that are genetically engineered to be 2 to 3 times the size of standard ducks. These premium CDC feathers have fibers that are longer and significantly fuller to have more capacity to hold and trap air. Catskill Mountain Premium CDC allows you to create wings, bodies, or spun hackles on floating flies with a natural material that is hand selected to be of the highest quality. We include a wide range of sizes in each package to be used on different sized flies. All of the material is 100% usable, just like the capes you are accustomed to buying.


Catskill Mountain Genetic CDC is a product processed from ducks raised in the USA. We hope you enjoy this product. Approximate Weight about 1 Gram, contains about 100 feathers that range from 3/4" to 1 1/2" with fine stems.

Colors: Natural Dun, Natural White, Zebra Mix ( Dun and White Mixed ), Caddis Green, Blue Wing Olive, Yellow, Burnt Orange, Black, Dyed Dun and Brown . Price: $4.50



Nature's Spirit Standard CDC ) Cul De Canard : These are standard size CDC feathers. They are about 3/4" to 1" long. These are not the premium CDC feathers, but they are a bit less money and contain many usable feathers. Useful for small trout flies. Colors; Black, Natural Dun, Mediun Dun, White, Tan, Blue Wing Olive, Rust, Pale Yellow, Wooduck, Cinnamon.About 50 feathers Price: $2.50


Bulk Natural Dun ( 1 gram). Price: $6.50




Coq De Leon: These are the authentic Coq de Leon feathers from Spain. These are highly prized spade hackles harvested from sides of the capes of aged Coq de Leon roosters. These are hand selected for the glassly colors, natural speckles and metallic centers. These can be used as spinner wings, tails or make compara duns with them. I have added new colors of these authentic feathers.

Original Colors: Light Pardo, Medium Pardo, Dark Pardo. ( Speckled Light, Medium, Dark ).

New Colors: Black Speckled Corzuno, Ginger Speckled Flor de Esoba, Barred Speckled Anconchado. Price: $9.50

Badger Creek Hand Selected Coq De Leon: I have some authentic CDL feathers from Spain. These are not labled with the Spainish names. I have pardos ( speckled ) light, medium , dark. Some are spade hackles and some are edges of the saddles. Price: $7.50/ 12

CDC Oil and Amadou:

Amadou: Yeap this is the real stuff! Amadou is a natural mushroom. It is has many interesting uses. Originally, Amadou was used tor starting fires as tinder. They typically used this in the past to help light cannons for military purposes. Amadou is used to dry CDC flies. By pinching the flies between the sheets, all the moisture is removed, drying your fly. I have located jumbo sheets of this material. These are quite large. Since this is a natural material, the sizes vary, along with the thickness.


Small ( About 4" x 6" ) : $10.00

Medium ( About 8 " x 10" ) : $15.00

Large ( About 12" by 14 " ) : $25.00

Super Jumbo: ( About 12" by 24+ " ) : $35.00


Montana Fly Company CDC Oil: Fly Paste should never be used on CDC flies. Paste will cause the fibers to stick together and the fly won't float. You can use CDC oil to make flies float higher. You put this on regular hackled flies, on deer hair wing flies, hair bugs, hoppers or foam. Since it is natural, it will eventually wash out, not damaging fibers. Made from real preen oil that is from processed ducks. Has handy zinger squeeze bottle. Price: $5.75








Badger Creek's Real Bamboo Fly Boxes: These are one of the coolest items we've had in a long time. There are made of real bamboo and have a brass hinge with a magnetic lock. Inside is gray micro slit foam. Will hold all of your CDC flies without crushing them. Very nice with great detailing. Makes a perfect gift for a friend or use as a show box for TU or FFF raffles.Outside colors may vary with shippment, some are golden, some are more lighter maple type colors.


Price: $20.00







Tools and Thread:


Marryat CDC Feather Tool: This is a very well made Japanese CDC tool. The CDC feather tool has a machined handle with a small brass knob that prevents rolling off tying benches. The tool is made of three needles with a very large spring. To use, you prepare a feather by holding it by the tip and stroke the fibers down. Next you push the tool's spring down and insert a feather by the tip sideways into the tool. You push the spring up, locking the feather down. Spin the tool to make rolled CDC wings, push the spring down and remove. Sounds harder than it is. Makes perfect rolled wings each time. Comes with directions.


Price: $13.50








Combo Loop Thread: This is a dual thread with 2 separate strands of size 12/0. There are 2 separate colors on each spool. Start one color with a few wraps, start the second color and wind down the hook shank. Insert CDC feathers and twist. Then wrap ropes and turn. Easy way to make your own hackles, dubbing ropes, CDC bodies, collars of heads. No more splitting or fussing.

Colors: Red/Black. Olive/Yellow, Black/White, Gray/White, Orange/Yellow $3.00/50 yard spool.




Marc Petitjean's Magic Tool: This is the tool that started it all. Very well made tool. Has large clips that allow you to grab feathers and insert in to loops. The other piece allows you to fold feathers. Push feathers into desk top appliance and you will fold the feathers. Allows you to create design all kinds of hackles, ropes, bodies or flies.

Price: $39.00









Marc Petitjean's Dubbing Springs: These are very handy when creating dubbing or hackle collars. You pinch the spring and it acts as an in-line clip to create ropes, bodies, hackles. Useful to separate materials and also keep fibers from spinning out.

Price: $7.50



Marc Petitjean's Thread Splitting Bodkin: Use this when working with the Magic Tool. Has a square end which helps to split thread. Useful for working with unwaxed thread, floss or to help arrange materials.

Price: $10.50


Marc Petitjean's MP Bobbin: This has a fine machined head requires no threader. Head also allows you to make dubbing loops in a snap. Has an adjustable bottom that allows you to adjust tension on thread. Really handy. Comes with directions.

Price: $59.00




Badger Creek's Dubbing Loop Spinner: This is machined solid brass with 2 small wires. As you spin the tool, the thread winds together creating dubbing loops. Well balanced so it spins easily. Useful for making CDC dubbing collars, CDC hackles or to make dubbing ropes and bodies. One of our best sellers. Price: $5.00










Badger Creek's Turbo Dubber: This is a great tool. Comes with an interchangable head. Spin out different heads for different applications. Has fine wire for making hackle loop and has a forked end for making dubbed bodies. Other end is machined and contains a hair packer tool for making deer hair flies.

Price: $12.50





Email: Mike@eflytyer.com

For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946