Although there are a rainbow of colors available in almost every material, I often find myself searching for a specific shade or a slightly different hue in a certain material that just doesn’t exist on the shelves of my local fly shop or even online.Dying the materials at home is cheap and easy and allows me to continuously modify a material’s color, taking custom creations one step further.
If you have ever used 5 minute epoxy while tying flies, you know that that’s the shortest five minus of your life! I can’t tell you how many perfectly good flies have ended up in the bottom of trash can thanks to terrible smelling stuff . Thanks to the birth of UV adhesives, I am glad those days are over. The numerous types of UV-cured acrylics on the market today provide a faster, easier, and cleaner alternative to epoxy.
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.
I seems like every time you go to buy fly tying materials there are more and more materials on the shelves with the letters “UV” somewhere on the label. Over the last few year, I have spent a lot of time researching ultraviolet (UV) materials and the hubbub surrounding them. Experimenting with my war chest of materials both at the bench and on the flats I have made some pretty interesting discoveries in relationship to a materials visibility underwater.
The most fundamental components of a fly, like the hook or the thread, often play the most significant role in determining its ability to catch fish. Overlooking or underestimating the importance of selecting these basic items may not be aesthetically critical, but all it takes is one missed opportunity or losing the fish of a lifetime and you may change your mind.
I admit over the last 20+ years, I have created some really scary flies that cast like trash can lids or disintegrate with the first round of false casts, but that’s how you learn. Spot-on realistic flies and extremely delicate shadow-box flies that will never touch the water have their place, but if your aim is to wrestle fish, then you need to take a few more things into consideration. I like to start with ” The 3 Abilities I thing all flies should have; Durability, Castability and Fishabiility”
Although there are how-to’s for my favorite patterns, my goal is not only to teach you how to tie a particular fly, but rather to explain how to create new productive flies and the reasons why one material may work better in a given situation than another. If you understand why historically productive patterns work so well, it will help you design flies that look cool and catch fish too. My process starts with the fish!