Fur, hair, and feathers are the original saltwater tying materials, however there are hundreds of different synthetic materials to choose from today. Both have their pro’s and con’s, but it is important to take in to consideration the size of the flies you are trying to create when you are putting together your shopping list. When it comes to synthetics, think about the profile you want to create. I like thicker more coarse materials for larger 4-6 inch baitfish flies, and thinner more pliable materials for 1-3 inch baitfish flies. The length of the material, and translucency also need to be considered when making your selection.
Although thread diameter seems like a minuscule thing, the size and shape of your thread can make a big difference in the way your flies look and fish. Heavier, stronger threads with multiple filaments or higher denier are common when creating larger, more durable saltwater flies, but is 210 denier necessary? As you tie more, and you become accustom to the amount of thread pressure you need to apply for a given material you will find that lighter threads will produce tidier looking flies with more uniform heads.
There seems to be a direct correlation between materials that really move and look great in the water and the propensity to become fouled. Rabbit strips, fox, Finnish raccoon, or any material that is used in a strip with the hide still attached gets waterlogged and tends to wrap itself around the bend of the hook.
What you see in the vise is often very different from what you get once the fly touches water. More often than not with new creations, your expectations for how a fly will look in the water or act when fished will not be met without a few adjustments. Testing and tweaking your creations is an important step to producing productive patterns. There is nothing more frustrating than a fly that tracks on its side when it is retrieved or spins like a corkscrew with each strip. Using less material on the bottom half of a baitfish pattern or a light trim around the belly of the fly with usually correct this problem.