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Most fly tiers use the word "material" to mean anything that ends up in a fly: feathers, fur, thread, wire, synthetics and even the cement that holds everything together. Not all materials used in fly tying are included - to do so would require a volume of its own - but materials used often are listed.

What About UV Materials?

-- Most humans can perceive only a small section of the Light Spectrum. We call this the Visible Spectrum, or VS, wihich runs between about 400 to 700 nanometers.

-- Below the VS light spectrum is the Ultra Violet Spectrum. There are two types. One is a UV Reflective Light called UVR an the other is UV Fluorescence or UVF.
    - UVF are what anglers/tiers know as the usual flourescent tying materials which absorb light and will emerge back out in a longer, stronger wave length we can view as brighter. UVF will radiate under a black light in certain shades and certain colors can be seen at very long distances.
    - UVR are the shorter wave lengths the human eye does not usually perceive. These are what we are primarily concerned with. UVR reflects through a material or is emitted by the species and cannot readily be seen by the human eye unless very expensive equipment is used. What you can sometimes see under a UV light is a bluish purple tint on honest to goodness UV materials.

-- Perhaps a better and simpler way of indicating the difference between UVR and UVR is that UVF flourescent materials "scream" at you and UVR Reflective materials "whisper" to you.

-- The UVR spectrum is extremely common in the animal/insect world. This is how bees and butterflies find flowers and mayflies find mates. It is very common in bird species. While many male exhibit a natural UVR to attract mates or to feed, many females exhibit little or no UVR to camouflage themselves and their young. Hence Roosters are bright and shiny and hens are soft and muted.

-- UVF is abundant in plankton, algae, some baitfish, invertebrates and similar species. UV sensitive cones in the eyes of fish allow them to see in much greater detail in adverse water and light conditions. While visible light is lost in red at approximately 10 feet and orange at 25 feet ... UVR and UVF light can penetrate up to 150 feet depending on water clarity. The RODS in a trout eyes do not allow them much sight in low light periods of dawn and dusk. However, UV sensitive CONES in their eyes do allow fish to see more details and at greater depths. Perhaps this is why some species prefer to feed at night. Bass anglers have know about UVF paints which are utilized on many of their baits and lures. However, much less research has been done utilizing UVR processed materials.

-- Today, many materials are enhanced with either UVR or UVF. However, with the advancement of technology materials that have been enhanced with both UVR and UVF will soon be available.

-- The entire UV spectrum is a KEY to fish because it optimizes feeding opportunties, as well as prey, mates, and danger. Using it in flies, jigs, and lures can provide anglers an advantage by arousing their curiosity, aggression, and territorial behavior.


Foam first began showing upon fliesin the 1980's. Before then anglers did a lot more false casting and added a lot more floatant to keep their flies on the surface. Along came the craft store industry, a sudden explosion of synthetic materials, and tgoday we've got a variety of tying options to craft buoyant, high floating silhouettes desinged to attractr every species of fresh and saltwater fish from Alaska to Argentina.

The only real scientific variable in the choices of foam is density, which relates to softness and flexibility. It's the first thing to consider when choosing what foam to use. You need to match this up with your desired application or design.

Should the foam be soft or would you prefer it to be rigid Too soft and the foam may tear. Too hard and the foam may dent. You may need to wrap the foam and want it to be soft, or you may be shooting for a durable, "bullet proof" option for aggressive or toothy fish.

Foam specifics: For practical purposes anglers need know only that foam comes in two main types: "open cell" and "closed sell". Cloese cell foam is buoyant and floats. Open-cell foam absorbs water (like a sponge) and would help make a fly sink. In most circumstances foam isadded to afly to add buoyancy and closed cell foam accounts for 98% of all the foam used in fly tying. Fly Foam (Sheet Foam) is closed cell, hi density foam. It's very buoyant and extremely durable. It comes in a variety of thickness from 0.5 mm all the way to 6 mm and a variety of colors not foundanywhere else on the planet.

Evazote Sheet Foam is flexible, closed cell sheet foam that is not as dense as Fly Foam but is still very buoyant. Evazote foam can be used for bodies and, due to it's softness, can also be cut into thin strips and used to wrap bodies of hoppers, beetles, ants and other flies. It come in a very large variety of colors and thicknesses and has a lot of applications.

Choosing the right foam:

First consider thickness or shape. Does the desired foam with the right density for your pattern also come in the right size, shape, or color. Is the foam with the right density andvolume come in the right color? Most foams readily accepts all sorts of paint and various glues and epoxy with little to no side-effects. There is a great deal of art, personalization, and creativity that often goes into painting and dressing foam flies and poppers. Jess Riding, Rainy's Flies


Fly-tying thread comes in several sizes - and many colors - for a variety of purposes and tastes. The most commonly used are the threads for tying average-size trout flies - threads of sizes 8/0 and 6/0. Also available are threads in sizes from AA to 14/0 with AA used for large flies and 14/0 for small flies. Other types of speciality threads are available such Kevelar, GSP and so on.

Threads colors are many; each manufacturer has its own variations. Some, however, do not believe color to be a big issue. The yellow thread-head of a Partridge and Yellow Soft Hackle echoes the body and pleases the tiers eye, but the trout don't seem to care if the head is tan or even brown. A good place to start is with two thread colors: light (tan is good) and dark ( a black or dark brown).

Fly-tying thread comes either prewaxed or unwaxed. Prewaxed thread is generally lightly waxed. Additional wax may be added to prewaxed thread for certain procedures.

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Wax is used for waxing thread; wax is optional but handy. Most tiers now use soft waxes, but hard waxes are fine.


Lead wire is often added to nymphs and wet flies to get them down. Lead wire is usually sold on a thread like spool and size is most commonly measured by diameter. There are a wide range of sizes with .010 to .035 being the most common. Lead barbell eyes are also sold in various sizes and are most often used to weight streamers.


Hackles: These come from different parts of roosters and chickens; the type of hackle chosen depends upon how the fly tier plans to use it. The most expensive hackles are the domestic dry-fly neck hackles (which do in fact come from the neck and back of the rooster); these roosters are specially bred to grow long neck hackles with stiff, bright fibers of constant length and with slender stems. Not all hackles are of the same quality. Manufactures use different methods to identify the quality of the hackle. As an example, Whiting identifies the quality of their hackle in terms of Ultra-platinum, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

In general, dry-fly hackle is used to create fiber collar and may be used for tails. Rooster saddle hackles are also used for making wings for various sunk flies, streamer wings, and some dry-fly hackles. Hen hackles, both neck and saddle, have lots of uses - dry fly wings, nymph legs, and sunk-fly collars to name a few.

Hackles come in many different colors and with a variety of markings. For dry-fly work, it is suggest that the tier start with one light-colored neck (most dry-hackles come attached to the skin, all of which is collectively called a "neck") and one dark-colored; a ginger neck and a brown neck would be good. If the fly calls for a blue dun hackle collar, this is dark, so the brown would be close enough; for white or light blue dun, substitute ginger. The third dry-fly hackle neck should be a grizzly - in fact if only one neck is purchased to start, the grizzly would be the best.

There is a broad number of hackle colors and markings. Listed are standard variations:
     Grizzly - alternating white and black bars or stripes across the feathers.
     Ginger - light ginger is pale, even almost cream, and a dark ginger is a golden tan
     Brown - brown, sometimes reddish
     Blue Dun - a bluish gray, from pale to dark
     Badger - cream to tan with a black, tapered stripe running up the center. along the stem
     Furnace - same as the badger but darker, some kind of brown and a black stripe
     White - white
     Cream - cream

Primaries: These are large wing feathers. Duck primaries and brown mottled turkey primaries are frequently called for in dry-fly wings and the wing cases of nymphs. (Primaries are often called "quills.")

Body Feathers: Simply feathers that are not primaries and are from some part of a bird other than the neck. In general, these are the most commonly called-for body feathers: partridge, grouse, mallard, wood duck, guinea, turkey, and teal.

Herls: The most common ones come from peacock, followed by ostrich. Herls come from the handsome fanlike tail feathers, and are usually sold on the feather. Usually, herls are wrapped to create fuzzy body, but can also be used for sinking-fly wings.

Marabou: This is a downy-soft plume that is most frequently used in the wings or long, full tails of sunk flies. It comes dyed in many colors.

Pheasant Tail: The fibers from a pheasant tail are tough, handsome, and natural looking. These fibers are very useful to the tier.

Jungle Cock: These exotic feathers create the appearance of eyes on some flies. The high cost of jungle cock has driven many tiers to substitutes, or to discard jungle-cock features altogether.

For more information on Hackles Click Here

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Hair and Fur

Hollow Hair. "Hollow" is usually the word used to describe hairs that have tiny air pockets within. The pockets give these hairs two desirable qualities: bouyancy and a spongy consistency. Buoyancy is clearly of value for a floating fly. The consistency of hollow hair allows the tier to flare it and then shape it - a technique used more often in bass bugs that in trout flies. Hollow hair is excellent for dry-fly wings and tails.

Deer-body hair is the all-around hollow hair. Elk is a bit coarser, which is sometimes desirable. Caribou is the finest and spongiest, but it is also the most fragile of the hollow hairs commonly uysed in fly tying.

The density of deer hair often determines its use - the hair that flares so well for bass-bug bodies may flare too much for dry-fly wings. Sometimes the source of deer hair is identified in its labeling to inform the tier of tis consistency ("costal deer," for example, is too hard for good flaring but excellent for wings.) Usually, however, the tier chooses by appearance and feel or with the help of a fly-shop or fly-fishing mail-order-house salesperson.

Bucktail: This provides long, hard hairs for the wings of dry flies and especially for the wings of "bucktail" flies - hair winged flies that are swum to suggest bait fish and other aquatic creatures.

Calf Tail: The kinky haired version of buctail - very useful.

Squirrel Tail: Naturally either gray or reddish brown. Softer and finer than bucktail, but similar overall.

Moose Body: Great dry-fly tail material and good for dry-fly wings. Color is dark gray.

Moose Mane: LIke moose body hair but coarser and more brittle.

Furs: There are a variety of furs used in fly tying including the following: rabbit, goat, badger, hare's mask, beaver, otter, muskrat, opossum, and red fox - and these are just the standards. Furs are usually spun onto tying thread and then wrapped around hooks to form fly bodies. The heavy guard hairs of some furs - badger and hare's mask for example - can be separated from the soft underfur for fly wings, fly tails or both. Some flies now use furs on the hide. There are new uses for fur coming along all the time - innovation is half the fun of tying. Fur bodies can also be formed with synthetic fur which will be listed later.

For more information on Furs and Hides Click Here

Yarns, Chenilles, And Floss

Yarns: These are traditional and still useful. Wool yarn is the old standby, but all kinds of yarns are now available; some offer fuzziness and others, sparkle. Many of the newer yarns are composed entirely of synthetic fibers or are a blend of natural and synthetic. Yarns, depending on type, are used for either sinking flies, dry flies, or both.

Chenille: Fibers woven into a thread core to create a thick, fuzzy rope. Chenille comes in various sizes and countless colors. To this day, chenille remains a popular body material for sinking flies.

Floss: Available in lots of colors. Floss creates a fine, smooth body. Because it doesn't offer much buoyancy, floss is usually used on sinking flies nowadays. You can get four-strand, two-strand or single-strand floss; most of the time single-strand is easiest to control. All floss used to made silk; now it is almost always made of rayon.

Synthetic Materials

Some of hte material already discussed are synthetics - floss, mylar tinsel. Synthetics seem to come and go rapidly, but many are really useful.

Poly dubbing is a synthetic dubbing fur that is now well established. Poly yarn is tough and buoyant. Swannundaze, Larva Lace, and "V" Rib (among others) are hard, gelatinous-looking ribbing materials that are used frequently for flies that imitate underwater insects.

Micro Fibetts and Barbetts are synthetic realistic tail fibers, Foam rubber is marketed under several brand names and is proving excellent for dry-fly bodies. Rubber hackle (also called "rubber legs") is similar to strips of rubber-band material and is used especially in bass flies. Synthetic materials used for long wings of flies abound; here is a sample list: Krystal Flash, Frostbite, Flashbou, Edge Bright, Fly Bright and Ocean Hair.

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All tinsel used to be composed of metal; now it is often composed of a synthetic called "mylar." Tinsels usually come in silver or gold, but some new colors, including an interesting pearl, are finding their place in fly tying.

Tinsels may be flat and of various widths, oval and of various diameters, woven into a tube, "embossed" (having a pattern raised on the surface), or braided - each has its place.

Wires are close cousins of tinsels. Traditionally, these were gold, silver or copper, but new colors such as red, olive, black, white, chartreuse are now on the market. Wires come in various diameters and are used in nymph patterns and sometimes even in dry flies. Most often tinsel and wire is spiraled down a fly-body as "ribbing."

Marking Pens

Waterproof marking pens are still in the beginning stages of fly-tying application; expect to see their usage increase. These pens come in a great diversity of types and colors. Fly shops often carry them as do artist's supply stores.


Those most often used by fly tiers are "head cements" - glues or cements added to the finished knot of tying thread that holds the fly together. Head cements come in various forms, but most are a liquid that air cures. Other glues and cements are used to reinforce fragile materials, add gloss, or simply enhance durability; Dave's Flexament, Tuffilm, Softex and superglue are some of the cements that can be used.

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Recommended list of the basic materials to get started.
Printable Version

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