May 10, 2021
Turn out tough, affordable flies.
Of the literally hundreds of flytying materials I’ve used in 40 years, two stand out as game-changers for me. One, lead dumbbell eyes, and two, Craft Fur.
When I started tying in the 1970s, synthetic winging materials were not used much,though a few were available. When I first handled Craft Fur (then commonly called doll hair and only carried by stores with craft supplies), I was skeptical, and a big fan of animal parts. The first fly I tied with it was a Snapping Shrimp, my favorite for Biscayne Bay bonefish. It was a chocolate-brown hair, close in color to the brown bear underfur I traditionally used for the wing of the fly. When I took a few finished flies to the late Bob Key, proprietor of a long-gone Ft. Lauderdale fly shop, he looked at them, frowned and growled, “No, no, no. A Florida bonefish ain’t gonna eat a fly with that stuff!”
But I liked the look, the nice taper of the wing, and the fact that the stuff soaked up and held permanent marker so well. I could bar the wing of a fly to give it a shrimpy, segmented look, and a scaled effect on wings of baitfish patterns. And I loved the price, above all.
And it fooled those big Biscayne Bay fish just fine.
One of the early synthetic products was FisHair, but it had shortcomings in my opinion. Too dense, stiff, no luster, and the hanks of hair had no taper whatsoever. The hanks looked like the end of a broom. It was touted as a bucktail replacement, available in lengths of 2 to 12 inches. I did use the longest stuff for barracuda needlefish flies.
The Craft Fur now stocked by fly shops is superior to some of the brands in hobby shops—those patches of material have fiber lengths barely two inches long. Hareline Dubbing now distributes Extra Select Craft Fur, and it is the longest and fullest I've seen. It comes in over 25 colors, and the fiber length is between 3 ½ to 4 inches. Some of the original Craft Fur patches have fibers less than 3 inches long, suitable only for bonefish and small minnow patterns. The Extra Select allows for longer flies, and is great for Deceiver collars, Clouser Minnows, Bendbacks and more. It costs around 30 percent more than the original stuff, but is well worth it.
Best thing about the new fur is the butt ends that attach to the material patch itself. The butt ends of the fibers are softer, finer and “fuzzier” than the tips of the fur, and I use that portion for making hair heads, replacing lamb’s wool. To reserve some butt ends on the material patch, I typically clip my tufts of hair so that I leave about a half-inch on
One particular pattern—the Conner’s Glades Minnow, which I’ve trademarked with Umpqua Feather Merchants—calls for a packed, clipped head. Early on I used wool for the head and Craft Fur only for the wing, but I discovered that the Craft Fur heads are much tougher than wool heads, standing up better to abuse by raspy jawed snook, baby tarpon and ladyfish. I designed the pattern years ago for the Tamiami Trail canal near Everglades City. Other than some flash and decal eyes, the fly is made entirely of Craft Fur.
The material sheds water fast, so big flies are easier to cast. And the Select version is fuller as mentioned, so it allows for “full bodied” flies. Another application for the material is crab fly bodies, tied Merkin (permit fly) style.
If you are a fan of Zonker strip flies, which are terrific, undulating attractors, you'll love the way a cut strip of Craft Fur works as a substitute. It undulates just as well as the rabbit strip does, and it sheds water much better, so it’s easier to cast. It also settles on the surface much more softly. You can cut dozens of strips from a single patch, too. Either basic Craft Fur or Extra Select Craft Fur can be used, and I actually prefer the basic version because I like the shorter fibers for my strips. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine July 2019