Novice fly fisherman start fly tying with a predictable set of materials. Their benches are neatly arranged with small bags of elk hair, pheasant feathers, stray pieces of chenille and yarn. But eventually they find that not only are these materials more expensive than they need to be, they are also largely unnecessary. And so they starts making substitutions, using trial and error to gradually build up a bench of funky, personalized materials that work just as well as what the “experts” recommend.
For the first time, here is a book that truly demystifies fly tying, making it accessible to any fisherman with a vice, a hook, a few dabs of glue, and a handful of twisty-ties. Tying legend Jay “Fishy” Fullum brings together a lifetime of substitution experience to give invaluable advice on appropriate substitution materials. He describes how to find them and make them tier friendly, and how to turn them into flies that are practically guaranteed to catch fish.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The show was scheduled during the later part of April, a time of year that can be spring like or still in the hands of old man winter. Several of the local fly fishers had been keeping a vigilant eye on the weather forecast during the weekend. If the forecasters were reading their computer models correctly the weather was going to be warm and sunny during the first few days following the show.
I had brought all of my fishing gear in hopes that we would have the opportunity to wet a line. When I found out that the weather was going to cooperate I started asking questions. One of my questions pertained to the flies we might be fishing. After receiving the same answer from several of the local fly fishers, I went out to the car, retrieved my vest and checked a couple of my boxes. I had very few of the recommended patterns.
After putting all of the bizarre materials scattered around my vise back into their proper storage bags I located a package of mayfly tails, a cape, a little dubbing and some wing material. It had been months since I'd tied a genuine Catskill dry fly. I tied a couple of the tiny flies before they started to look like I really knew what I was doing, but before long the flies looked like the dry flies that I tied when I was tying flies for money.
I had nearly a dozen stacked up in a neat little pile next to my vise and was finishing off the head on yet another when I felt a hand on my shoulder. One of the other tiers had been watching me crank out the little dry flies. After gluing the head I removed the fly from the vise and dropped it into his hand. He carefully picked it up and inspected it for several seconds, then smiled. “I'll be dammed, he said, you really can tie flies.”
Some of the unusual stuff I attach to a hook is actually superior to materials commonly used when tying traditional patterns. For example, fibers from old seat belts are similar to several products recommended when tying spent-wings, wings, and posts on dry flies. I don't tie exclusively with the seat belt fibers because a lifetime supply of this material is available for little or nothing. I prefer to use it because it is often the best material for the job. My friend didn't even notice that I was using the seat belt fibers when tying the dry flies piled beside my vise.
After spending many years creating patterns with strange stuff some of these materials have become as important as the hooks and thread. As my tying evolves, the number of marvelous new materials increases. I have given some examples of how many of these materials can be used, and I encourage you to find other ways to make the most of these non-traditional materials when tying some of your favorite flies. It is my wish that you will be able to put many of the unusual materials covered in this publication to good use. I also hope that as you tie with these peculiar materials you will begin to search the home improvement, hobby and craft stores for additional materials that will be incorporated into your creations.
Finally, remember that the choice of materials when tying a specific pattern does not necessarily dictate the quality of a fly or the skill of the tier. I have seen thousands of marvelous patterns tied with some very strange stuff.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Adhesives
How to use common adhesives in order to make your tying easier and the final product more durable.
Chapter 2: Paints
Using dabs of house paint or stripes from a permanent marker adds color to your flies, improving their fish-catching qualities. It also makes them look good in the fly box.
Chapter 3: Grocery Bags
Plastic bags from the corner store make for marvelous bodies on nymphs and spiders.
Chapter 4: Packing Material
Don't throw it away. This material can be used to create great bodies on dry flies.
Chapter 5: Plastic Lacing
Add flash, weight and establish a great silhouette on many of your favorite streamer patterns.
Chapter 6: Eyes
Doll eyes, stick-on, plastic and metal bead-chain and more. Eyes make your creations look more realistic.
Chapter 7: Craft Store Beads
Common craft store beads make for great bead head nymphs and even some unique nymph bodies.
Chapter 8: Dubbing
Learn how to make your own dubbing with natural and synthetic materials.
Chapter 9: Wing Material
A creative fly tier can make a lifetime supply of wing material for about ten dollars.
Chapter 10: Wings and Posts
Fibers from Mylar piping and seat belts cost little or nothing and work much better than the more pricey conventional materials.
Chapter 11: Ribbons
There are thousands of different kinds of ribbons, and they can be used for streamer bodies, wings, and wing pads.
Chapter 12: Yarns
The selection changes from week to week, offering the fly tier hundreds of unique possibilities.
Chapter 13: Backer Rod and Rubber WeatherSeal
One of my best finds in recent years. These insulation materials make great popper bodies for bass and panfish.
Chapter 14: Balsa Wood
Shape, sand, epoxy and paint this material, transforming a small piece of wood into beautiful popper heads.
Chapter 15: Foam Blocks
Here are the best types of foam to use, as well as instructions on how to slice it and shape it.
Chapter 16: Sheet Foam
Tie smaller panfish flies with a single layer, or combine layers to produce larger bass patterns.
Chapter 17: Hooks
Sometimes it's better to tie a fly on a hook made for bait fishing.
Chapter 18: Great Legs
Learn how to put the endless variety of leg material to good use.
Chapter 19: Fingernails
Possibly the strangest material I use, but the end result is a couple of very productive patterns.
Chapter 20: Stretch Cord
Found in the jewelry department of the craft stores, this material is used for over bodies and to reduce tippet failure.