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Unconventional Tying Materials? Heck Yeah!

By Kristina Dougherty, Angler’s Covey Guide

As tyers, you know we’ve all been there, hopelessly searching through your materials for an exact match to what the latest fly pattern calls for. That feeling of despair when you realize you’re missing that one special material that sets that pattern apart. Resigned to your fate you either tie something else or you jump in your car and head to your local fly shop to remedy the issue.

This situation is exactly what caused me to look differently at fly patterns and materials. For me, the fly was a Parachute Adams. I was fairly new to tying and the thought of straying from the recipe seemed sacrilege. I started tying on my thread and then realized I had no para-post. I almost gave up, but then I started thinking about alternatives… That’s when I remembered my broken shoelaces as a child and being fascinated by the inner core that lay within. I promptly found an old shoelace cut off the top and was rewarded by a polypropylene center very similar to post material. In a pinch, it worked great (although I still prefer the real thing).

Maybe it’s the artist and designer in me, but I’ve never looked at tying materials or recipes the same way again.   I now take it as a challenge to find the most bizarre materials and incorporate them into my patterns. I roam the isles of the dollar store, craft store, and even the pet store.

In the cleaning sections I find Mop Fly material, the kids sections hold a wealth of ribbing material, if I see a troll doll, I don’t just see a toy-I see a potential streamer. From packing material to produce bags, the sky’s the limit! 

I might be crazy, but I like to think it’s all about chasing the thrill. You know what I’m talking about— that thrill you got the first time a fish took a fly you tied and that heightened thrill when a fish chose your own unique pattern over the all the rest. Now just imagine taking that a step further by catching a fish on a unique pattern tied with, let’s say, a piece of a potato bag. Yes, I said a potato bag. (I call it the “Spudz”—flash underneath, potato bag wrapped over the top—a great functional fly that killed it on the San Juan last year.)

So if you see me on the river and ask what I’m using,
don’t be surprised if I say the Strapless May(made out of women’s dress hanger straps), the Penn 4 Caddis (tennis ball dubbing) or the Never Sink Trico (thin packing foam wings). Whether it’s creating a new pattern or using an unconventional material, the next time you’re at the vice, break from tradition, color outside the lines and create something truly unique. 

In the upcoming months, I’ll continue to feature flies tied with unconventional materials. If you stumble upon a great new material, please post pictures. I for one would love to see more “crazy” tyers out there!

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