Furs and Hair – Best Fly Tying Materials UK (#1)

The age old art of tying an artificial fly takes precision, patients, creativity and the correct materials. The joy of catching trout or salmon on a fly you’ve tied yourself, is an emotion every angler should experience at least once. In this blog post we’re focusing on furs and hair, a vital component of the fly tying process, providing flashes of colour, body and that perfect finish to fly patterns. We’ll explore what furs and hair are used for, where to purchase supplies and how to use hair and furs to greatest effect. However, I’ll save the “fly tying for beginners” guide for another time. Let’s dive in…

What are the best furs and hair for fly tying?

New fly tying materials come to market in the UK regularly, but the tried and tested older options are still the best furs and hair in my opinion. Materials like dubbing, partridge, fox tail and mole skin still work fantastically today. However, buoyancy plays a large part in material selection, as hair is mostly used for surface dry flies, and fur hackles for sinking flies. Here’s is my collection of the top 5 hair and furs you can easily buy online today…

What other fly tying materials do I need?

Other than furs and hair, your going to need a few more basic materials to start tying your own flies. These include long shank hooks, specialized tying thread, a tub of head cement, dubbing wax, gold or lead wire, colourful tinsel and floss. You’ll also require a few tools like pliers, fly tying vise, table lamp, bobbins, scissors and a fast knot tool may also come in handy for finishing your fly. The good news is most equipment for fly tying is very affordable, and readily available online. You may find you already have sufficient supplies lying around the house to get started.

Types of furs and hair fly tying materials?

Natural furs and hairs are considered better than their synthetic counterparts by fly fishing experts, and have been used by man (and women) for millennia to catch fish. Animal furs are ideal for fly wings, dubbing, tailing and body materials, while hair from deer, elk, antelope, calf bodies and caribou add buoyancy for dry flies. Below are a list of commonly used furs and hair broken down by animal type…

Animals used for best fly fishing furs and hair:

  • Arctic Fox

  • Mink

  • Icelandic Sheep

  • Moose and Elk

  • Mole Skins

  • Goat

  • Deer

  • Calf

  • Boar Bristles

  • Rabbit

  • Hare

  • Bucktail

  • Seal

  • Muskrat

  • Squirrel

Is it worth tying your own fishing flies?

Yes and no! In terms of saving money, you’d need to tie several hundred before making a saving. However, if your fly tying to catch more fish then yes! Studying the life cycle of the insects at your favourite fishing haunt, and tying flies to best imitate the hatch, will invariably land you more fish. Fly tying is also a fantastic home based hobby and relaxing extension of fly fishing. Ideal for when the UK weathers bad, or you can’t get to the riverbank to wet a line.

What is the best fly tying thread?

In addition to furs and hair, your going to need some fly tying thread to secure your pattern to the hook. With sizes ranging from 30 to 200 denier (18/0 to 3/0), but for small flies where low thread buildup is important opt for a 3/0 mono-cord, a good beginner size thread. I’d also recommend starting with pre waxed thread, making it easier for the thread to grip dubbing and tinsels. As for colour… start out with black to help imitate the insects body, and when your more experienced begin experimenting with extra flashes of colourful fly tying threads.

How long does it take to tie a fly?

This rather depends on your skill level, and how many flies your making. Using an assembly line method you could tie 20 flies in a few hours, as breaking down the work in to sections vastly increases speed. However, if It’s perfection your after and have an above average skill level, the fly tying process should take 20 – 30 minutes. Tying flies should be seen as a time of relaxation and contemplation, take your time and forget the rigors of the crazy, fast paced world we live in today. Usually the more time you take, the better the end product!

Where to buy furs and hair for fly tying?

You can buy furs and hair fly tying materials in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland either online or your local fishing tackle shop. Look out for brand names such as Cookshill, Flytying Boutique, Funky, Lakeland, Veniard, Zelon and Farlows or big online stores like eBay and Amazon. Shop around to get the best price and try and buy natural fiber hair and furs, because they’re more environmentally friendly and in my opinion help catch fish more consistently.

Conclusion

Selection of trout and salmon fly tying materials, including furs and hair is a very personal choice and needs to “match the hatch” of the river or chalk stream you regularly fish. Learning how to tie flies is pretty straight forward, just get yourself a fly tying kit, a vice, some supplies and follow some of the great tutorials on Youtube or Fly fishing websites. As mentioned before, the moment a salmon or trout takes a fly you’ve tied yourself is truly exhilarating, and a fantastic hobby you can setup for under £100. Happy Fishing!

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