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Spotlight Special
By Richard Carter

Before we go any further let it be said that craft stores do not stock fishing hooks, let alone specialized fly hooks or Hoffman premium hackle capes.. For some patterns there are no substitutes and those materials specifically required for a fly are only available at tackle stores. Our passion for fly fishing could not exist without the local tackle store. So support your local tackle stores because if they were not there the basic things would cost even more when you add transport or postage costs to get them elsewhere. Any blame of high cost of materials should be focused on the wholesalers and the government for their countless taxes for everything.
Now to the article…..

Unlike some American fly tiers I have met which have to have the exact recipe down to the minutest material and method, and once they have it never ever straying from the path, Australian fly tiers seem a little more relaxed about not having all the materials to make a fly they have been told about.

Aussies as a whole are a ‘make do with what you have’ sort of people. What ever it takes to get the job done. When I first started tying I couldn’t tie more than a few of a pattern with out making a change in materials or proportions to see if that would make a difference in cost, tying time or performance. (make them in batches of 30 to 100 or more now though)

So if you too a ‘make do’ kind of tier who hates paying some of the prices that are currently out there for fly tying materials this article is for you, lets through the aisles of the Newcastle Spotlight store and identify materials we can use for fly tying. Also giving a few examples of flies tied with the suggested materials.

The Newcastle Spotlight store sales assistants should now know me by sight now. But most sales assistants in the craft section of the store always have a chuckle at the guy in a suit and tie strolling amongst the artsy, craftsie type women and old lady’s with blue rinse hair looking for some knitting wool. Their craft section is sometimes my lunchtime walk. I find something new I can use almost every time I visit the place and wander the aisles.

In the aisles we have…….
Kids craft – pompoms for globugs and bread flies, even pulled apart for dubbing uses, coloured pipe cleaners for fly bodies and chenille substitutes, glitter for mixing into your epoxies or adding a scale effect.

Above are the pompoms, and the globugs made with them.

A vast range of pipe cleaners is available, below a pipe cleaner crazy charlie fly – a very good use of the material. This pattern a good bonefish pattern - called a ‘Turd fly’(tan pipe cleaner), remembering any bonefish fly is most likely a good whiting fly.

Then we have stemmed dolls eyes at half the price of the ones sold in tackle stores. See the Glove squid fly which shows the use of the dolls eyes towards the end of this article, also the next image with the Salamander fly for freshwater and tropical species.

The thread section has almost any colour you could use, in bulk too. Clear mono thread, far cheaper then any fly store. From a saltwater, bass bug tiers point of view the mostly thicker threads are not an issue, though the thin threads are there too.

More choices of thread than you can imagine.

Plenty of Gudebrod thread which although a long thin spool you can get other bobbin holders to suit or just use a power drill to wind thread onto an empty spool suited to your current bobbin holder.

Also metallic threads here by the spool and at a comparable price, yet more range. These for use on the bodies of crazy charlie and minnow type patterns.

In the yarn and wool sections – you can match any nymph colour such is the range of balls of wool, you can even untwist some yarn and mix colours to form multi colour segment wraps for nymph bodies, a very effective tying method.

Not forgetting Faux wool (shown next), this wool is used to knit fluffy teddy bears but for the fly tier it makes great one wrap woolly buggers, no palmered feather needed. Limited range of colours though.

Here we have a length of Faux wool and the ‘Faux Fur Bugger’ fly.

Millinery (hat making) materials are useful too – marabou, guinea fowl, feathers, braiding and tassels. Below is the range of marabous (look at the size of those bags in the next image). The range of ribbon material is endless and has many applications in carapace and wingcase components of nymphs, prawns and crayfish. At the moment they lots of Xmas decorations in stock and have a browse through this, lots of interesting textures, materials and good stuff that has to be useful for something.

Boas and others, buy your marabou and saddle hackle by the yard, though not the best quality hackles, you would be better with strung hackles from the tackle store, though they too still have their place on the tying desk.

Beads, eyes and other – bead flies, eye stalks, squid eyes, salamander fly eyes, 3D eyes. Rattle dolls eyes for poppers and bass surface flies. A wider range and much cheaper than any tackle stores.

Next are a few patterns utilizing the plastic beads above, for eyes in the prawn patterns, extended body material in the oversized damsel pattern I am currently using to target bream. Plenty of more uses, totally use to your inventiveness. The top right one is a prawn pattern suing flower stamens for eyes but the body instead on silicone is clear plastic beads.

Then when you are after a pattern with bead eyes but not the weight of bead chain, here’s your material - strung plastic beads in a vast range of colours as shown below and see an example in previous group of flies, the bottom right fly – a ‘Hackle Prawn’ with green plastic bead eyes.

There is fake furs for teddy bears – used as tails of the Eyes fly and crazy charlie applications. Although definitely not ‘polarfibre’, the same applications can be done with some of the fake furs available – the one shown below is ‘Yeti Fur’. For the same price as a 6" x 4" patch of polarfibre you can have almost a meter of ‘Yeti fur’

Next is a baitfish fly using the ‘Yeti Fur’. I am currently developing some rainbow fish patterns similar to this one but different colourings for my next trip to the Northern Territory. This style of fly tying promoted by Paul van Reenen of Success Flies is perfectly suited to one of the prime food sources for Barramundi in the lagoons. This one is a mullet fly.

The tropical lagoon food source previously mentioned is a rainbowfish, in particular as shown below, the ‘Exquisite Rainbowfish’ from Corroboree lagoon.

Using a big game or circle hook and various colours of ‘Yeti Fur’ and some flash materials you can imitate any baitfish creating an exact duplicate in fly materials, 3D profile, weed proof, colourings and just the right size. A very versatile tying style indeed. I have some videos on the tying method for those interested.

How about fabric paint for making 3D eyes, adding ribbing to a pattern and many more things.

Silk flowers make great wings for mayfly dries, leaving the stamens for where you need eyes on other flies. Other uses include carapace materials for the same crustacean patterns as you the stamens for.

Below is probably the item I hope to find the most useful - dark tipped silk flower stamens. You could use the other colours and use a marker pen to make them the colour you want. For a few dollars I get 100’s of eyes for my silicone prawn pattern and others and what saltwater fly does benefit from a good set of prominent eyes.

Next are a few of the silicone prawns using the stamens.

Upholstery, curtain making and Mylar tubing plus many more tassels, ribbing materials that all have a place on the tying bench.

There’s also bulk large headed pins used for dress making which make good eyes. Plus Velcro tabs for crab patterns and other uses. Good quality hot glue guns and plenty of spare glue rods, even a few coloured/glitter ones (red, blue, green, silver and gold). Great for building crab patterns, building scud patterns for trout, there is a great web site on using hot glue guns in fly tying at, well worth a visit and a surf for a couple of hours.

Above we have these feather based tassels, I don’t know what the crafty types use them for or what they call them, but each contains enough goose biot for a few years worth of flies (these for Prince nymphs and ‘Doodlebug’ flies - a variation on the montana nymph using red goose biot down the sides of the nymph and forming tail).

Above is some coloured plastic tubing, I think they use it for the hooks on knitted coathangers. There is a fly tying style called ‘Lipstick’ flies. In NZ they use lumo tubing in the similar manner for a fly used at night and call it Nuclear Fushin’. Basically it’s a length of tubing on a hook, add prism eyes, add optional marabou tail, use a red marker to add some gills, maybe a darkened back (black marker) and then go "fushin’". The original ‘Lipstick’ pattern used the clear tubing used for tropical fish tank air hoses.

The there are the other stores to consider:- $2 shops , Op-charity shops, Lindcraft, smaller craft stores and materials shops, hobby shops. Not forgetting Woolworths for items like Xmas tinsel. I have been using the one lot of blue/silver tinsel for almost two years now, cost 60cents, for Eyes flies and the like.

Also rubber gloves which can be cut up using finger tips for squid cases.

Then stripping the rest of the glove for larva lace type uses, Woolworths also have bags of bulk rubber bands (multi-coloured best) again for same larva lace uses and crazy charlie applications as the stripped rubber gloves.

Rubberband Charlies great in sizes 8 and 6 34007 for whiting and other estuary species.

Well that’s a starting point for you, the rest is up to you. I suggest you head off to a Spotlight store next time you are searching for fly tying materials, you may find what you are after and you may save yourself some money (but because of all that’s available you may end up buying more things then you first intended to!).

Happy tying,

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