When I first got into saltwater fly-tying I had no idea about materials and which ones to use. I became a bit obsessed with different types especially when it came to tying the good old Clouser. Although Buck tail is available here in NZ I found it lasted only a few fish, limited range of colours or easy to work with. So I started collecting different synthetic materials to see what would be the best substitute and well along the way I learnt a whole lot about all the different materials that can be used not just for Clousers but all sorts of flies.
Here is a list of some of these materials and the advantages/disadvantages of each.
Mirror Image- This has been one of my favorite materials as it is easy to work with and shape, easily creates bulk, some translucency, has more movement than SFF and is durable. Great for smaller flies and comes in generous amount. I also use this material as the collar on my smaller interceptors. Although it does not have as much movement as natural materials it does move to some degree more than other synthetics. There is no flash incorporated but it does if you get deadly dazzle or you can blend some yourself. It does tangle a bit and needs reshaping after a few fish but last longer than natural materials.
Deadly dazzle-same as mirror image but with UV flash added. I prefer mirror image as it comes in larger hank for the same price and I add angel hair instead.
SFF- One of the more popular saltwater flytying materials this material is great for creating larger flies and adding bulk/profile but not so good on smaller sizes less than sz1. It comes in a great range of colours and is very translucent. It also incorporates a bit of flash pre blended.
Craft fur – another favorite material this one gives loads of action in the water but requires a wrap up under tail to prevent any tail wrapping. It can also be laid down with layers of angel hair or other shredded mylar. Although it has plenty of action I do find it is a bit fragile compared to stiffer materials.
DNA – a very flashy material and very straight this material is good for slim flies like clousers and surf candies or even wing toppings and I have seen this used on large profile flies but you would be using most of a packet on a couple of flies. This material is now only used sparingly.
EP – This material is a crinkly synthetic which is softer than SFF and less crinkly so it does have more movement and thicker profile but the key to this material is not to use too much. It is very easy to overdo it and have a solid coloured fly and lose the translucent effect. Bunkers and crabs are often tied with his fly but using a softer material for tail and using this material for wing would be better suited but it is great for crab patterns. E.g. deceivers/ interceptors or crabs. It also is prone to getting tangled and needs a comb to straighten.
Angel hair/Ice wing/Wing n flash –most of these materials are the same but angel hair is the straightest. Used as flash in between layers or the lateral line. You can creat whole fies with this material but ice wing may be best for this as it creates more bulk being the more crinkly
Mega mushy – A very stiff mylar this is suited to large flies sz1 and bigger and is great for making large profile flies without using too much material. Comes in a large pack. Enough to create loads of flies. It doesn’t have as much movement as materials such as angel hair.
Polar flash – one of my favorite materials. It has plenty of flash and movement and is very durable. I have fished Clousers made with just this material and been very successful.
There are many more materials than I could ever count but I hope this gives just a good run down on some of the main winging materials.
PS after all this work and money on different materials I am now finding that the good old buck tail still can't be beat and I am starting to get a higher hit rate on them, although this can be just more confidence in them.
Stay tuned for further articles on flytying materials