Category Archives: Fly tying Materials

Where to find them cheaply

Not yet a fly, not even rational thought. Blame Nyquil.

I’ve been calling it the “Fishing Jones” yarn – ever since I saw his Peacock Bass picture. I’m not sure what eats little Peacock Bass, but yank six inches of this stuff through the water and you’re sure to find out.


Mornings are cold and wet and with me honking snot already, wisdom has kept me indoors. I’ve got a couple of “alpha prototypes” to test this weekend; they’re not flies yet – merely strips of the material lashed onto a hook to test the physical qualities; does it shred apart, does it flap around wildly, does it resemble anything other than a Nyquil induced nightmare … the usual tests.

It’s an Italian double-eyelash yarn that is iridescent, all the colors of the rainbow are present and they glimmer like the center of a Peacock eye. 100% Polyamide – so it’s soft as a baby’s arse, and melts when exposed to flame.


What makes it difficult is the 4-strand stitch up the center. It’s unnecessary as a structural component, yet something I’ll have to work around.

The maker is Gedifra, “Costa Rica” is the yarn name. It appears to have ceased production in 2004, but can be had on eBay or some of the traditional yarn outlets.

I have to assume the best fishing yarns make the poorest fashion. Never much of a “clothes horse” myself, it certainly brings into focus the question of sense of style. I find something I like only to learn it fell out of favor four or five years ago.

Furry Foam by any other name is a blanket

JC Penny's Vellux blanket with 9 colors available I was tracking some quarry for the Roughfisher, and as the supply is ample figured I’d share with everyone else, as many of you tie flies with baby blankets …

You call it Furry Foam, and are content to pay $1.25 for a 6″ X 6″ square, I call it a Vellux Throw, and pay $15.00 for 36 square feet. At retail that’s a 600% profit for the middlemen – who score them wholesale I’m sure.

J.C. Penny’s offers nine colors in stock, available as a throw wrap ($15), and Twin through King sized sheets ($19 – $34).

Hareline sells it in the fly shop, but why buy it from them Big stonefly nymphs and Darth Clam come to mind, likely it’s something you’ll want to split with a buddy, or share with your fly tying class – 36 square feet is a lot of flies.

One of the few investments for a toddler they won’t outgrow – once they get too big you can launder it and chop it into manageable pieces, you may even have it longer than the bronzed baby shoe.

Just cut around anything that looks like “urpy-chuck.”

You could at least throw me a towel when you’re done, the War on Six Dollar items heats up, or I do

I made the mistake of restocking some rubber leg material at my last visit to the local establishment, and was driven into another paroxysm of swearing.

There among all the pre-packaged “jobbed” materials was the Spirit River “Tarantula legs” – minus the color I was looking for, naturally. I did find one old pack down at the floor that someone had missed – just enough to get me through the weekend.

My mistake was glancing at the price while admiring my find.

Detail view of the (olive) Pumpkin metal flake

Don’t waste your money – times is hard enough without being used savagely, $2.50 for about 24 strands of colored leg material is unconscionable – that’s a dime per fly.

Spirit River buys the damn stuff from someone akin to the Living Rubber Company, and you’ll find all the colors and sizes they offer – plus extra colors not available at your fly shop – and the price is 1/11th what the shop charges.

Do the markup math yourself – a “25 skirt pack” is about $6.00 from Living Rubber, and each of the “skirts” equals a Spirit River pack of rubberlegs, about 24 strands. I don’t mind so much if an enterprising fellow doubles or triples his money, but 11 times is enough to make me wince – only because he’s making 11 times the retail price of the rubber, he’s making double that if he buys it wholesale.

The standard skirt material from Living Rubber is what Spirit River describes as their “medium” size, and it’s rectangular rather than round. If memory serves, the Spirit River “fish scale” rubber is also rectangular. Living Rubber sells the round rubber in 15 foot lengths for $8.00 – these are simple one-color bands of ~50 strands each. They don’t yet sell the printed pattern round fibers on their web site.

I haven’t contacted the company for the availability of round imprinted rubber, but if they’re selling it wholesale to jobbers, they’ll certainly sell it to you.

Shown in the photographs are “25 skirt packs” of “Green Pumpkin” (the olive and black metal flake) and dark green/black and the orange/black varieties.

Take advantage of the vendor for a change, see how it feels – it’s another sawbuck saved for your next big purchase …

Stalking the elusive Ultra Chenille, it’s Vernille in the Wild

I figure it’s a cross between Euell Gibbons and Basil Rathbone, a mixture of natural curiosity and dogged determinism; a personal quest, my ongoing War Against Six Dollar Items, where I delight in finding products “in the wild” – unfettered by middlemen, fly shops, and their obligatory markup..

I’ve been chasing down Ultra Chenille (Vernille, Velvet Chenille, Suede chenille) for almost a year. I thought I had it when I discovered a manufacturer in Turkey,  instead it was an interesting crop of fibers and yarns, all cheap as dirt and as yet undiscovered.

The good stuff, and it's cheap as dirt

Ultra chenille is a great material, tough as nails, low buildup, and has a variety of uses from traditional chenille flies to the nouveau dressings unique to the product.

At $2 for 9 feet, it’s also pricey.

I’d toss the old rayon stuff if the price was low enough to replace it – mainly because ultra chenille wears better and doesn’t come apart in your fingers if spun in the wrong direction. The fibers being so much shorter – it doesn’t mat or bleed, especially after the flies have been fished.

Tie is the blue strand, fly shop stuff is the flesh colored strand This fiber is made by a manufacturer called “Silk City Fibers” located back East, and is marketed under the “Tie” name, to distinguish it from the myriad of other yarns they make. It’s neither suede, rayon, or cotton, rather a synthetic nylon called “Polyamide.”

Acid dyes will dye nylon just fine – allowing the possibility of scoring a 2000 yard cone of white and making whatever color you fancy.

Chenille and yarn follow a number of sizing conventions and the “YPP” convention is commonplace. “YPP” is Yards Per Pound, and the higher the number the smaller the diameter of the material.

“Tie” is a 3800 YPP fiber which is about 15% smaller than the size sold in the fly shop. Also good, because we can use it on smaller hooks without making the fly too bulky – and it’s likely available in a variety of sizes – something else that’s missing from the fly shop selection.

100 yards in a neat little bundle for only five bucks A cone of ultra chenille is $90 from a reseller – and while only a commercial tyer will get excited – searching on eBay yields a vendor with 14 of the 16 colors available from the factory.

50g skeins for $5 is a steal, and she has plenty.

The top picture is her color selection, and contacting the vendor directly will score you enough of “the good stuff” to make it worth your while.

The smaller size is especially useful, as it’s diameter is small enough to make trout flies – expanding your use beyond  traditional steelhead flies and streamers.

The War Against Six Dollars Items continues, with you folks the beneficiary.

Matte finish faceted beads, so you can torment all your pals when they produce the store-bought flavor

I keep a small supply of the taper-drilled beads on hand for special circumstances, but the metal beads I use on flies are all from bead stores.

At $2.75 per 25, all I’m doing is adding another dime to a tree limb, and being a cheap SOB, that goes against the grain.

There are positives and negatives with the “bead store” product; they’re available in a bewildering assortment of shapes, colors, and metals, and they’re about 1/5 the price of your local fly shop. The downside is the holes are small, and for certain shapes of hook bend, just can’t slide over the sharp turns.

Model perfect bends are the exception, but Sproat and Limerick are chancy at best.

I just got an order of specialty beads from, with a matte finish that includes a faceted sparkle. It reduces the shine of the traditional beads and adds a sparkle that looks especially good.

I’ve often heard complaints from anglers who under bright conditions thought traditional bead head flies “too shiny” – and if you’re one of those fellows, you may want to eyeball the “matte” flavor.


Indoor Indirect Light

The facets give off a sparkle very much like seal fur in dubbing – a whitish wink of light that really looks attractive next to the dull matte finish. They’re available only in Gunmetal and Copper colors, 4mm size. The interior hole is 2mm, which is the minimum size you want to order (smaller holes can only fit 16-20 hooks.)

Next to the faceted beads are traditional 5mm copper beads from the same source – the holes on the 5mm look to be about 2.5-3mm, suitable for larger flies like stonefly nymphs, streamers, and the like.

For jewelry beads these are on the expensive side; the faceted bead is $3.99 per 144 beads, and the plain copper 5mm is $3.33 per 144, I’m assuming it’s the price of copper that makes these a dab more expensive than normal – usually I pay about $11.00 – $14.00 per thousand beads.


Outdoor Direct Light 

From the above outdoor photo you can see the additional glare off the traditional smooth bead, and how the matte finish is absent that extra gleam.

I can’t wait to give these a try – as I find myself using beaded flies much more often than I used to – it’s often the easiest way to weight them and you don’t need seventeen split shot to get them to hug the bottom in fast water.

Be cautious on your first order, you may be using a hook style that prevents their use. I use mostly Togen hooks that are unforged – that allows me to grab the point area with a pair of pliers and move it the 5-6 degrees necessary for the bead to pass the sproat “kink” portion. I would not try this on traditional forged hooks (those whose wire is flattened on the hook bend) – only round wire hooks can be deformed and returned to their original shape without inducing too much weakness.