Modern and “cool” salmon flies.
This article series consist of two parts and will talk about some of the different synthetic wing- and hackle materials available in the market today. Most people use some synthetic flash materials in the wing and body of their salmon flies, but the wing itself is often tied using hair materials such as fox, squirrel and temple dog.
Now there are new restrictions in the rules for importing e.g. temple dog, for various reasons it is now illegal to import this into Norway. This means that many fly tiers will experience some problems with the long hair wings when the temple dog stocks in Norway are empty.
Granbokohrva, Flashn Slinky - fully synthetic wing.
The Fire, Flashn Slinky –fully synthetic wing.
Blålystuba, Flashn Slinky –fully synthetic wing.
The Highlander family, fully synthetic wings. Black Green Higlander, Flash n Slinky. Green High variant, SF Blend..
Even without this issue, it can be difficult to get good quality hair and hackle; many salmon fly tiers find this to be a recurring problem. The problem is to find hair that is long enough, and that the structure and colour of the hair is poor. In terms of hackle, the main problem is often finding hackle that is long and soft enough, in addition to the colours, which can vary so that it is hard to find that “killer colour” for the favourite fly. By using synthetic materials for the wing and hackle, these problems will diminish, and there are actually exciting possibilities arising for rejuvenating our established patterns.
I have used synthetic materials for the wings of my salmon flies for a good while now, and my experience with this is very positive, however I would not want to exclusively tie all my patterns with fully synthetic wings. The reason for this is that the soft properties of hair wings are important for some patterns, and not to mention for practical fishing in low water conditions with slow flows. Another small “problem” of synthetic wings is that they contain a lot of flash, and I do not always want flash in my flies. It is possibly the combat this with regards to the Flash n Slinky material by simply pulling out the flash strands, or you could tie using a material called Frizz Fibre – this material contains no flash. In addition it is difficult for synthetic materials to match the soft properties of ordinary hair materials. However, I would like to add that for years, and with good results, we have tied salmon flies using hair from goat and deer, this is not at all soft hairs. There are some original patterns incorporating wings made from these stiff materials, still in use today. Thus, for many different river conditions there will be no issues tying flies with fully synthetic wings.
There are especially two different wing materials I have found to be interesting; the first one is called Flash n Slinky, and the second one is SF Blend.
I have described this wing material previously, in the article ”Deadly tube flies for early season fishing”. In the 2008 season I caught several great salmon on flies tied with this material, and especially the Yellow White Wing fly ensured that I got to experience some exciting moments with a bent rod and screaming reel at the river.
Flash n Slinky is the stiffer of these two materials, thus I prefer to use this when the river is high and cold, but also during a summer flood and at medium water levels this material is very good. SF Blend is somewhat softer, and thus it is better for the smaller flies used for medium water levels and below. Another difference is that the Flash n Slinky has stronger colour strength, due to the thicker flash strands mixed in with the material. This is perfect as I want increased colour strength in the flies I use in high water conditions. In other words, you do not need to tie in other flash materials when using these two wing materials.
The length of the Flash n Slinky is 22 cm, which means that you will never have problems tying even the longest wings. Imagine the advantages; you will always have long enough wings, and you will always have the same quality in terms of structure and colour in your wings!
If we look at the material itself, i.e. not the mixed in flash strands, we see that this is fully dyed synthetic hairs. In addition the material is not completely straight, and it is soft enough for you to fold the wing in the way I do for my tube flies, this helps me to tie long wings that will not get tangled in the hook when fishing. It is not a problem to create tapered wings with this material, ensuring you get a nice and natural finish of the wing.
Another aspect that makes me like this material so much, is that the fly gets a totally different colour impression when wet. You will just have to see it in the river to understand what I mean, the fly is more camouflaged as the material becomes somewhat translucent and thus more see-through than standard hair material. The Flash n Slinky range has a few exciting colour variants in several green, grey and blue colours, in addition to the normal clear colours often used in original patterns. I quite like the white variant, as it is always a problem to acquire good white hair for salmon flies. Flash n Slinky is also used for sea trout flies for saltwater fishing, especially for fish imitations used to tempt the sea trout. However, the salmon fisher has not yet begun using this material much, and I believe he should – as this material is very exciting to tie with!
This material is a new material in the Guideline fly tying range, and I think this will be the favourite for most of us. SF Blend is softer than Flash n Slinky, thus easier to use. The material is very easy to work with, and the hair structure is great. Most people tie salmon flies with wing lengths of 8-10 cm and less, with this material you can tie the smallest salmon flies without the wing becoming too stiff, i.e. you can also use this for regular salmon fly hooks. This can be done the traditional way, or as I do, with folded wings. SF Blend is also 22 cm in length, so you can use this as top wing for even the largest flies, the colour selection is fantastic, and the clear colours such as red, green, yellow and orange are very nice. These are colours used in many original salmon flies. Both these materials last a long time, you can tie many flies from just one “length” of material as long as you cut it correctly. Also remember that SF Blend is easy to taper, so that you’ll have a natural finish of the wing just as you would with natural hair materials. There is no end to the exciting colour combinations for the wings when using SF Blend. You can also combine Flash n Slinky with SF Blend, I then tie the underwing using Flash n Slinky and the overwing using SF Blend. You can also and without problems combine SF Blend with normal hair materials! SF Blend also has this fantastic translucent colour in the water, somewhat camouflaging the flies. If you use colours such as white, light blue, grey, and mossy green (olive) you will show the salmon some new translucent colour impressions it has not seen too often, as this translucent effect is best with these colours. You just have to try SF Blend for your salmon flies; the wings get a great colour “glow” that is difficult to create using other materials.
Yellow White Wing, with a great wing profile.
Yellow White Wing, SF Blend – fully synthetic wing.
Natteravnen, SF Blend – fully synthetic wing.
Nightkiller Purple, SF Blend – fully synthetic wing.
Nightkiller Blue, Nightkiller Purple, SF Blend fully synthetic wings.
In part 2 of this article series I will write about synthetic hackle, and what kind of materials you can use as hackle. This means that you today can tie fantastic salmon flies that are fully synthetic, i.e. without the use of natural materials, now that is exciting!