Top Fly Tying Materials
May 02, 2008
Petitjean Magic Heads
Traditionally, streamers move along a horizontal plane with little motion except for the occasional vertical jig from stripping line. But today, we are blessed to have access to some of the top fly tying materials in history. Marc Petitjean says he was unhappy with this straight, unrealistic movement and has worked for the last seven years to create something that gives a fly life but isn't hard to cast. The result is the Magic Head, a soft-plastic cone that when tied to the front of a streamer makes it swim with a side-to-side motion like a real baitfish. Folded back over itself, the Magic Head substitutes for an epoxy head, and it allows you to fish the fly in a traditional manner without the side-to-side motion. Unlike lips made of epoxy, the heads don't cause the fly to dive when retrieved.
To tie the Magic Head on the front of a hook, wrap a base layer of thread behind the hook eye. Slide the sleeve of the Magic Head over the eye until it sits on the base layer of thread and the hook eye is unobstructed.
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Secure the Magic Head with several open, loose wraps of thread. Applying too much thread pressure before securing the head with a base layer can cut the material. Once the sleeve is covered, begin applying thread pressure. Heavy-wire hook eyes like on a Tiemco 600SP are too large for the Magic Head to slide over. For these types of hooks, slide the head over the hook point and up to the eye like you would a bead on a nymph pattern. Magic Heads also fit on tube flies.
To attach the fly to your leader fold the head backward, tie a knot, and fold the head forward. The head weighs almost nothing so you won't need to modify your cast, the soft plastic won't damage your rod should they collide, and the edges of the head don't reduce a hook's gap space.
Lefty Kreh was one of the first to see Petitjean's Magic Heads in action at the AFFTA retailer show in September 2004 and says, "This is one of the most innovative and interesting fly-tying materials that I've seen in a long time. I see a number of possibilities for using this with streamers in both salt and fresh water."
Magic Heads come in packs of six in three sizes and two shapes, round and oval, through Hareline Dubbin for $4.95. Round heads are suited for flies with dumbbell eyes or flat profiles like Clouser Minnows. The oval head works better with thin, wide-profile flies like Deceivers. According to Petitjean, he is also developing Magic Heads with prismatic eyes. For more information
visit www.hareline.com or call (877) 448-9966.
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Whiting Brahma Hen
According to Tom Whiting, Brahma Hen soft hackles were born about ten years ago when he first began getting requests from fly tiers for a gray partridge substitute because of shortage and expense. Whiting says, "I looked into growing partridge, but I thought it would be easier to raise chickens. Using chickens, I like to figure out ways to get fly tiers what they need. Brahma bantams are the closest of all of the poultry breeds to gray partridge, but after ten years of tweaking, the birds I am working with now would fail at a poultry contest for brahmas."
Tiers often substitute hen-back feathers for partridge for things such as legs, collars, and caddis wings. But the fibers can be bulky and aren't suitable for delicate flies. Whiting's Brahma Hen ($10) is a partridge substitute with distinct barring, delicate fibers, and thin, supple stems that wrap easily and neatly around the hook, creating collars with little bulk.
The top portion of the pelt, or breast, contains matched pairs of wide feathers suited for Matuka-style patterns, small tarpon flies, and bass bugs. You can wrap the larger feathers for full collars on salmon and steelhead flies. The smaller feathers are excellent for flies down to #16.
Included with the soft hackle is the chickabou patch, the marabou-like feathers below the breast feathers. According to Whiting Farms, chickabou fibers are finer and more delicate than traditional turkey marabou and are used as tails on damsel and dragonfly patterns, and small Woolly Buggers. Chickabou is also used in the body of the fly to create throats on nymphs, wings on caddis, and pectoral fins on baitfish imitations.
Many tiers use chickabou as a CDC substitute. Whiting Farms passes this tip along in its Pro Shop News: "Treat a small selection of chickabou with Hareline's Watershed. Let dry for a few moments. Use Marc Petitjean's Magic Tool [see FFM March 2004 issue] to form a dubbing rope with the chickabou." For more information visit www.whitingfarms.com/.
Stillwater Solutions is a new series of 125 fly-tying products designed by stillwater fishing experts Brian Chan and Philip Rowley. The products were developed specifically for lake fishing and provide natural and synthetic materials in the core colors most useful for matching stillwater hatches. For instance, three kinds of marabou ($1.60-$2.30), ostrich herl ($3.30), mottled turkey quills ($4.15/pair), partridge ($2.60), pheasant tail ($4.65), Sparkle Blend Dubbing ($2.70), Midge Stretch Floss ($3.75), Crystal Chenille ($2.75), and mottled turkey flats ($3.25) are available in a Callibaetis color, allowing anglers to mix materials and still produce flies with consistent colors.
Other specialty products include Midge Gill ($1.50), a small white trilobal yarn, and Super White Beads ($5.65 for 25). Both are used to imitate the white gills on chironomid pupae. Midge Braid ($2.30) in black, crimson, dark olive, and Summer Duck helps create realistic midge bodies quickly. Olive Dun Midge Flex ($2.30) used as a shellback over a matching olive dun ostrich herl body, or olive dun Sparkle Blend dubbed body, creates a realistic scud pattern with uniform coloration. For more information visit www.spiritriver.com/.
Flexible, nontarnishing, and available in dozens of colors, UTC Ultra Wire is a key ingredient in numerous popular fly patterns like the Copper John and Befus's Wired Stone. Now Ultra Wire comes in an extra-small size in copper, gold, silver, Wine Metallic, Red Metallic, Green Metallic, black, and Gun Metal Blue ($1.50-$2.40). The diameter and color range make the extra-small wire suitable for ribbing nymph and midge larva and pupa patterns on #22-26 hooks.
Thomas Lauerman uses extra-small wire for a midge pupa pattern he developed for the North Fork and White rivers in Arkansas. It has a small bead head and a thread body with an extra-small Ultra Wire rib in a contrasting color. His favorite combinations are a white body with a black rib or a black body with a silver rib. He coats the body in 5-minute epoxy to give the fly a realistic, translucent look and to make it more durable. For more information visit www.wapsifly.com/.
Enrico Puglisi's new EP Fibers 3-D ($6) are mottled with color variations from fiber to fiber. The 10-inch-long fibers help create baitfish imitations that look more like the real thing. EP Fibers 3-D come in 18 different colors.
New EP Silky Fibers 3-D ($5) are also multi-hued but are softer and have more movement in the water. Available in 12 colors, the fibers are 7 inches long and suitable for small baitfish imitations and trout streamers.
Colorado fly tier John Barr says he tested the new fibers in Florida and his group caught all their tarpon on Puglisi's flies or flies tied with the new Puglisi fibers. He was so impressed, he began tying with the fibers himself. "It is a very easy material to tie with and I like the subtle flash built into it," Barr says. "It holds its shape nicely, not too soft, not too stiff. I also like the color spectrum in the fibers. It looks natural in the water." For more information visit www.epflies.com/.
For those looking for an inexpensive substitute for CDC, Hareline created Cul de Chicken ($3.57). Each chickabou pelt is treated with Watershed, a permanent waterproofing liquid that makes materials float even when waterlogged. The feathers are similar to CDC and have micro-barbules all the way to the tip, helping it trap air bubbles and float higher. For more information call (877) 448-9966 or visit www.hareline.com/.
Camo Sculpin Wool
Though it adds weight to your cast when wet, wool is a good material for creating realistic sculpin patterns. Yellowstone Fly Goods's Camo Sculpin Wool ($3.50) is a blend of multi-colored wool and a hint of flash. It gives sculpin patterns a mottled, camouflaged look, just like a natural sculpin. For more information call (800) 262-1098 or email Mike Hoiness at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Last year Ocean Pacific Leisure (OPL) introduced two new materials (DNA Powder and DNA Frosty Fiber) that immediately gained attention in saltwater circles as durable, easy-to-use materials for minnow and baitfish patterns. For 2005 OPL created two new DNA materials, DNA Holo-Chromosome Flash ($2.79) and DNA Holo-Fusion ($3.99), a blend of DNA Powder and Holo-Chromosome Flash. New Jersey angler and fly tier Steve Farrar uses the material for small baitfish and squid patterns, but it has freshwater applications as well. Fly tier Ted Patlen uses the material for spinner wings because he says they stay spent when wet, unlike Antron, which sometimes becomes limp.
Steve Farrar was also instrumental in creating a new material, Farrar's Blend ($5.49), a combination of Slinky Fiber and a neutral-colored flash material. After several tiers saw his patterns and demonstrations at fly-fishing shows, demand for the material grew. It is available in 15 colors from Down-N-Trout Outfitters in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
For more information on these products call Down-N-Trout at (732) 295-7335 or visit www.down-n-trout.com/.
Trilobal Antron fiber reflects light and provides flash at every angle, which is why it's so useful as wings, shucks, and bodies, and incorporated into yarns like chenille for wrapping streamer patterns.
Orvis's Trilobal Synthetic Hackle ($8.95) binds these reflective Antron fibers together so you can wrap them on a hook. Tie it in instead of a hackle feather and palmer it like saddle hackle, layer it on the back of a nymph to simulate gills, or use it as an alternative to feathers on your bass poppers. Regular and Crystal Trilobal comes in 8-foot strips; the Holographic is a 6-foot strip. For more information, call (800) 541-9548 or visit www.orvis.com/.
Cascade Crest Mirror Flash
According to Pat Dunlap at Cascade Crest, Mirror Flash ($6) may look similar to Flashabou, but it is made from an entirely different material with different properties than Flashabou-type materials. He says Mirror Flash takes on the color of the materials it is blended with and when sunlight hits it, it has an "electrified glow." Each strand is tiny — 1/100th of an inch — which, according to Dunlap, is the thinnest nontwisted flash (like Krystal Flash) available. Because it is extremely fine it has more reflective qualities when blended with other materials and can be tied into smaller patterns more effectively. In addition to accents on dry flies and streamers, you can wrap it on small hooks for flashy midge larvae bodies. Visit www.cascadecrest.com for more information.
Bill Black developed Lip-Stick Mayfly Bodies for simple, realistic, extended-body patterns for different sizes and species of mayflies. To fix the body on the hook, choose the appropriate diameter tubing, trim it to the length you need, and tie it in along the hook shank. Wrap your dubbing over the body to create a neater fly.
The bodies come in six-packs ($2.50) in two diameters. Small bodies are for #18-24 hooks; medium are for #12-16. Though the medium sizes are longer than the smalls, both bodies are long enough to trim for different-size bodies. Visit www.spiritriverinc.com for more information.