Tying on tubes? "The State of Tubes"

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by fishinafly, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. I've recently come across a few threads on tying/fishing forums where tyers are confused and/or frustrated about industry standards for tubes.

    John Albright of HMH wrote this piece for the June HMH Newsletter to address this issue...

    The State of Tubes
    By John Albright

    Tube flies and tubes have been around a lot longer than most people realize. HMH has been selling tubes for nearly 15 years, but fly tyers in Europe and the US have been tying tubes since at least the middle of the 20th Century. Back in those good old days, it all seemed pretty simple, with not a lot of variety in the types of tubes that were available and that were used. But the trend in fly tying seems to be always towards increasing complexity fueled by a healthy dose of creativity, all of which is focused on one primary objective -- to catch fish.

    So it is inevitable that with the 'resurgence' in the popularity of tubes, and with more and more anglers and tyers using and experimenting with tubes, that we'd start hearing rumblings and even grumblings about a general lack of standardization in the raw materials available for tube flies, i.e. tubes. We've read postings on at least one forum wondering why manufacturers offer a seemingly random, mismatched range of tubes with different diameters, types of material, and shapes.

    Three observations are relevant. First, one reason for the discrepancy in dimensions between one manufacturer and another is that tubes coming into the US from Europe are built using millimeters and centimeters, and the tubes in the US are based on the good ol' inch. This becomes an issue -- sometimes maddeningly so -- when different types of tubes or accessories are combined, such as when you want to nest tubes, or when you want to apply a cone or bead over a tube to finish a fly. In these situations, the very small, but important difference between inches and millimeters can bring a fulfilling tying session to a frustrating and grinding halt.

    Second, some tube suppliers are essentially pushing into the market just about any kind of tubing that is readily available, often times taking tubes designed for other uses, such as the automotive or electrical industries, and simply packaging them for fly tyers. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because the tubes work just fine provided you don't mix and match them with others. But these kinds of tubing aren't designed with the fly tyer and with tube fly patterns in mind.

    Finally, many of the innovations in tube flies are coming from tyers/anglers who have developed specific tying techniques or materials for a specific pattern that, most often, is designed for a specific fish species, and sometimes even for a certain watershed or fisheries. In the good old days of tube flies (that is, about 4 or 5 years ago), a tube fly consisted of a tube on which the pattern was tied, and a bit of 'hook holder' or 'junction tubing' into which the hook eye was snugged for fishing. The recent creative explosion in tube fly design has yielded 'convertible tube flies'; patterns that don't use junction tubing at all; dangling stinger hooks; nested tubes; metal tubes machined in a bewildering array of lengths, shapes, and diameters, each of which claim to be the ultimate, sure-fire solution for generating strikes; and cones and beads in an increasingly wider range of shapes and materials, and these, too, are purported to be the answer to all of your fish-catching problems.

    So what do you do? First, make sure you know where the tubes came from - are they millimeters or inches? That will help avoid problems. Second, HMH, for example, tells you the exact outside and inside diameters of tube, cones, beads, etc. If you know this information, then you should never have problems. Here's an example: the standard hole size for most coneheads sold in this country is about .062" diameter (which happens to be 1/16"). So, any tube that is about .062" in outside diameter (o.d.) is likely to fit through the conehead. Another tip: cut tubing at an angle, like a hypodermic needle point, and you'll find that tight fits become easier fits. It's also easy to convert from inches to decimal equivalents. Just divide the numerator of the fraction (the number on top) by the denominator (the number on the bottom, and you've got your decimal equivalent. Ergo, 1/8 is one divided by eight, which is .125".

    And now to blow our own horn a bit. One thing that sets HMH apart from many tube suppliers is that we actually think long and hard about how tubes need to go together. We have the widest selection of soft, semi-rigid, and rigid tubes in plastic and metal. All of our tubes will pretty much nest with some other tube, whether plastic or metal, so you can build any of the hot tube fly patterns you read about. Check out our complete lineup on the web at www.hmhvises.com. Take a quick moment to read the details about each type of tube. We're pretty confident that you'll find exactly what you need. If not, it's a pretty good bet that we're working on that tube right now and it will be available soon.

    Keep us posted on your tying triumphs and frustrations - that's the best way for brilliant ideas to be shared with other tyers, and for us to make sure you have the materials you need when you need them.

    The HMH Newsletter is full of very useful information. You can sign up for it at www.hmhvises.com

    HMH Vises

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