Fly Tying Materials Buying Guide: Furs, Feathers and Synthetics

Posted by  Thursday, June 20 2013 4:00 pm
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Although is almost and endless number of materials that a creative tier can use to craft flies furs, feathers and synthetics will make up the bulk of materials that you will be using. These three groups are versatile in creating heads, tails and bodies for streamers, dries and wet/nymph patterns. Get familiar with these materials and their respected uses in patterns and it will open a wide variety of fly tying opportunities.

Basic Furs

Hare's Mask: A hare's mask gives you a wide variety of shades of color and a choice between stiff guard hairs or softer fur. The hare guard hairs are great for tying tails and legs or just providing a buggy look while the softer under fur is great for dubbing tight tapered bodies.

FlyTyingMaterials zonker
Zonker strips are great for tying bass patterns.

Squirrel Tail: Most commonly used for tying wings on traditional salmon/steelhead patterns as well as streamer patterns, squirrel tailfibers also make great pincers on crayfish patterns. The barring coloration of these hairs give flies a natural lifelike appearance in the water.

White Calf Tail: Kip tail as it is commonly called is a semi-translucent, crinkly wing material. This must material is great for tying split-wing dries or parachute patterns. Calf tail fibers are an important part to dry fly anatomy due to its ability to be stacked together tightly, adding floatation and its ability to be seen from far distances away.

Zonker Strips: Zonkers are center cut rabbit strips that are used for tying big bushy life-like streamer patterns. A great material for tying bass patterns, zonker strips seem to almost come alive when in the water making them hard for hungry fish to deny.

Natural Deer Hair: This hollow high-floating hair has endless uses for the avid fly tier. Deer hair is great for creating wings and tails to spun clipped bodies on flies. The types of flies this material can be applied to are endless, ranging from bass bugs and terrestrials to baitfish imitations.

Natural and Bleached Elk Hair: Elk hair is similar to deer hair in its uses in fly tying from making clipped hair bass bugs to elk hair caddis's. Being hollow, is has good floatability and dyeable nature make it a top choice for a natural material.

Bucktail: This long tapered hair is perfect for tying baitfish streamers, bass flies and all saltwater patterns. Bucktail is the most widely used wing and body material in fly tying; fly tiers should carry a wide variety of colors of bucktail handy.

Basic Feathers

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Peacock herl is used for tying shimmering bodies on dries, nymphs and streamer patterns.

Pheasant Tail Feathers: This special material is versatile enough to be used on anything from tails and legs to wing cases and bodies. Pheasant tail feathers is one of the more popular materials used for nymph tying this realistic looking fiber will give your standard patterns a life like look and feel.

Partridge or Quail Back Feathers: Partridge feathers are used for legs and swept soft hackles on wet fly patterns. Partridge hackle when submerged seems to almost come alive with a soft undulating action. Any pattern tied with these hackles is a sure bet to get attention from forging fish.

Marabou: Marabou feathers have long and delicate barbs that will deliver incredible undulating movement under water. Made out of soft turkey under-feathers, these marabou plumes are also very handy for winging larger streamer flies used for catching all species of fish.

Peacock Eyes/Herls/Swords: Peacock is a great iridescent material that fish bite and won't let go. Peacock eyes are great for tying stripped quill-bodied patterns or for producing top-quality herls. Peacock herl is used for tying shimmering bodies on dries, nymphs and streamer patterns while the swords are used for tails and wing cases.

Turkey Tail Feathers: These turkey feathers feature natural coloration that is perfect for wings on hoppers and muddlers, and wing cases for stoneflies and other nymphs. Also a good staple to have for tying wings on traditional salmon flies.

Goose Biots: Goose Biots are ese pointed quills make excellent tails, legs, and antennae for your favorite stonefly nymphs like the prince.

Miscellaneous Synthetic Materials

FlyTyingMaterials KrystalFlash
Krystal Flash is used for large streamers like the wooly bugger.

Thin Skin: This smooth skin like material is primarily used for shellbacks on scud or shrimp patterns. Thin skin makes flies look super realistic and protects them from wear and tear.

Chenille: A rouged and tough material, chenille is used primarily for streamer flies. One of the most versatile materials on the market, chenille can be used for every type of fly and body of water you ever come across.

Gold Tinsel: Wrapping tinsel over the bodies of nymphs, wet flies and streamers adds flash and attraction, getting lackadaisical fish to strike. Gold tinsel is perfect material for ribbing on prince nymphs, hare's ears and other popular patterns.

Brass and Copper Bead Heads, lead dumb-bell eyes: Add these weighted beads to nymph patterns to keep them down in the strike zone and to add some extra flash.

Krystal Flash: The original flash used by fly tiers for years, Krystal Flash is a fish attracting fiber that is great for large streamers like Wooly Buggers and saltwater baitfish imitations.

Brass and Copper Wire: Used primarily for ribbing flies, these fine wires are also good to add extra weight and flash to your favorite nymphs. Many classic patterns use these wires as a staple in there construction such as Copper Johns and the Brassier.
Antron yarn: Posts on your parachute bugs, trailing shucks for your emergers/cripples, wings for your spinners and bodies for your caddis flies; antron yarn is a synthetic yarn that's taking the fly tying world by storm. A trilobed synthetic fiber and has endless possibilities and a beginner fly tier needs to keep a healthy supply on hand at all times.

Egg glo-bug yarn: This brightly colored yarn is used to make popular egg patterns that are a must-have for steelhead fisherman.

Floss: Comes in single and four-strand varieties, floss is a used for many types of fly bodies on traditional steelhead/salmon streamers. Also makes good wet fly tails.

Obviously, there are many more useful items that a beginning fly tier could incorporate into his or her fly tying arsenal than those listed in the above paragraphs. The materials listed here will amply serve to cover the basic patterns beginner fly tiers will attempt to tie and as one skill level progresses over time so should ones collection of tying materials.

 

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Last modified on Friday, September 12 2014 11:51 am
Jason Akl
expert

Jason Akl is a writer, commercial fly tyer and guide with 15 years in the industry. Professionally, he's been a seasonal guide and fly tier that ties commercially and teaches tying classes to both adults and children. Most of his flies make their homes in fly shops in the northern Midwest but some have found their way as far as Europe. As a freelance writer, he's had many written pieces appear in both Canadian and American publications, as well as numerous global websites. When not on the bench or behind the computer, he spends time working with companies such as Daiichi Hooks or the American Tackle Co as part of their pro-staff doing product testing pieces and seminar

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