The other day I was searching around locally for a tube fly holder for my vise so I could experiment on some patterns. When my Quest led me to a local wholesaler that I didn't know existed. I called to see if he had one, he said yes and to come on over. I pull up to his place and it kind of looked like a remodeled barn. I walk up to the door thinking what did I get myself into. When I walked in WOW!!!, It was complete overload. It looked like fly tying Vallhalla. Probably six or seven thousand square feet of material and tools.
Well I got my tube fly holder and some tube. some beer bottle mylar tinsel and asked about some arctic fox. He said he had some, but he also said he had something better. Some synthetic arctic fox, I liked it but being a newer fly tier I have no basis for comparison. so I picked some up. Thats all I purchased that day. I could have spent a hundred and fifty dollars and still not gone home with what I needed (I'm planning a trip back but this time with a shopping list)
It turns out He is the worlds largest supplier for synthetic fly tying material, and believes that it is the future of fly tying. While I don"t believe that it will happen any time soon I am curious of your thoughts on the matter.
He seemed to have allot of synthetic substitutes to most materials with the exception of feathers. But he did have hackle wrap that looked pretty good.
I also would like to hear your thoughts on synthetics verses the real thing
As for the question at hand...I like some synthetics and don't mind them exclusively or mixed with traditional materials in a fly. That's part of the beauty of it, you can tie what YOU want in a fly. Synthetics won't absorb much if any water so that can be ideal in some conditions. Others perhaps not. I do like article fox though. I find it easier to work with than craft fur and I like how it swims.
There are no substitutes for good quality feathers though, at least none that I have found.
If you are tying a traditional fly and really going after the traditional way of doing it, the choice may be obvious. However sometimes you will have to substitute if the natural material is not readily available or illegal to possess.
Bottom line, tie what you like, enjoy it and more than anything, have fun fishing it.
I think it's a matter of what you like to tie. I also feel there might be a generational aspect to it as well, but that will tie into what you like to tie.
If you look at many of the more popular waterwater patterns coming off of vices nowadays, they generally consist of more synthetic material than naturals with the exception of marabou. That is one material that seems to find it's way into a lot of patterns.
Streamers tend to use many more synthetics than wets, nymphs or dries. But that is where the generational thing comes into play, at least in my view. Many of the older fly fisherman, at least the ones I know, tend to stick with smaller, more traditional patterns. With those more traditional patterns, more traditional materials are used.
You'll notice that many of the younger generations find themselves throwing large streamers consisting of a lot of synthetics in both warm and coldwater applications. If you ever watch Brian Wise from Ozark Fly Fishing tie a fly on youtube, pay attention to the amount of synthetics he uses compared to naturals. It's probably an 80/20 split in favor of synthetics.
A few reasons I like synthetics over naturals are that they are more consistent. They also tend to come in more variations of colors, length, thickness, etc. Many, but not all, synthetics will also hold up better over numerous fish. I do find that with some materials you will give up motion in the water. When you're looking for a material that imparts more action in the water, generally you will want to stick with naturals. That's why marabou and bucktail will always be very popular tying materials.
On the flip side of the coin, in salt situations I find the synthetics to be superior. Deer hair simply doesn't hold up very well in the surf.
Especially if you have toothy bluefish. They rip apart flies with feathers and bucktail. I'd rather use natural materials in the salt, but constantly changing flies that are tied to wire tippet is a PITA
A lot of the finer synthetics will mat and foul too.
Last year I saw a tying video of a caddis dry that had a synthetic underwing.
It was pretty sharp looking but I believe the actual purpose of which was to help it float
I have lots of the synthetic "near hair" that's really not good for much good for anything else so I started experimenting with all synthetic dry flies
The good news is, with just the lightest pinch of floatant they're unsinkable.
You pull them under and they pop up like cork every time.
The bad news was that the fish didn't "love" them, so I'll need to "tweak" a bit more.
It could be that they floated TOO well
Good comments, pretty much sums up anything intelligent I might have to say. I like the aesthetics of some natural fibres, sometimes tying a fly from the past is kind of enhanced when using the original natural materials. I really believe that we will continue to see additions and improvements in the Synthetic selection as the textile companies continue to look for new ways to make clothing easier, cheaper and more attractive.
Selfishly perhaps I hope nobody ever finds a successful synthetic substitute for feathers.
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It turns out He is the worlds largest supplier for synthetic fly tying material, and believes that it is the future of fly tying.
Well therein is exactly WHY he may think this =)
There isn't much that substitutes for the real deal when you're tying trout, salmon and steelhead flies IMNSHO. Especially the imitative and art flies, or subsurface patterns and anything in smaller sizes for fishing spring creeks or other clear, slow moving water.
There is a place for synthetics in the brackish and salt water arena, as most of them are a bit more durable, and if not destroyed by some toothy critters, they can be washed and dried and reused. Salt does a number on a lot of naturals, especially things like bucktail, calftail and ANY feathers.
But I've seen what some people can do with things like EP Fibers, and synthetic dubbings (or blends) and some of it is pretty impressive.
But while it is more durable, it doesn't act the same- it has more (or less) "give" than natural fibers, it tends to either be too stiff or too soft in some cases, but I'm sure this is being addressed and materials are being created to fill voids that exist now. When you're tying longer wings on some flies, it seems more likely to foul a hook because to have a similar profile to say bucktail, you're using as pretty large bunch of soft materials.
So, YMMV... I openly admit I use some synthetics (like nylon floss, plastic tinsel, shredded yarn in dubbing, etc) and I have dabbled with synthetic winging materials... but they aren't my favorites.