Plastic shellback material?

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
I'm looking for some type of dark-colored plastic sheeting to use as shellback material for patterns like GRHEs, scuds, water boatmen, etc.

I've tried the stretchy plastic strip stuff sold at flyshops as 'scudback', Swiss straw, plastic from zip-lock bags and Visqueen but have found all to be too fragile. I've used some new stuff called Thin Skin and like it but can't find it in the solid colors (black, dark brown, olive) I want.

Ideally, what I want would be the weight and thickness of electrical tape but without the adhesive and in colors. Any ideas?


"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." ~ Yogi Berra


Purveyor of fine hackle, wine & cigars!
Have you tried any of the Larva Lace stuff? ( They have a material called 'bug skin' (lots of different colors) that looks pretty good. They may have other stuff, but I haven't looked through there site too much. I know some of the local shops sell some of there stuff.

I haven't tied with it, but I have bought some nice flies through them on Ebay before. Otherwise I'm sure some of the experts around here will have something else in mind...



Active Member
I was once poking around the engine room of a ship I was working on and picked up what I thought was some electrical take. To my surprise, it didn't have any adhesive. I still don't know what that stuff was supposed to be used for, but I can attest that the stuff exists. There may still be hope for you. Oh, you can always strip off electrical tape adhesive with rubbing alcohol. And electrical tape also comes in several different colors too. I suggest starting your search at an industrial supply store. Good luck!

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
There are a number of places that you might look.
PNTA, Pacific Northwest Theatre Associates sells lighting gell. This is a transluscent sheet typicaly used to cover theatrical lights. As you can imagine it comes in a broad range of colors. It does not stretch but is fairly substantial.

Also try Display and Costume for other alternatives. This place is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
at craft stores the plastic wrapping paper works killer, its just like flashabou ,in all the colors also and its like 59 cents a yard

saltwater flyfishing in the northwest is a science as well as an art

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Thanks for the ideas (was:RE: Plastic shellback material?)

Great ideas all. I'm off for Rocky Ford Thursday but will scout out some of your ideas for some experimenting when I get back.

Thanks again to all.

"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." ~ Yogi Berra
Thanks for the ideas (was:RE: Plastic shellback material?)

Years ago, I snagged some plastic ribbon in a great salmon pink/orange color, blowing across the pavement, that has made fine shellback for prawn patterns, until it ran out. But I recently scored some more out of my sister's sewing/secorating supplies. While you're Christmas shopping, I'd check with every stores giftwrapping dept. See what they're using for ribbons.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Thanks for the ideas (was:RE: Plastic shellback material?)

Some really awesome stuff for this use is made by Hareline Dubbin (or distributed by them). I didn't see it mentioned, so if it has, I apologize. But it's called edgebrite. Great stuff. Nice and strong, and you custom cut it for your needs. Comes in a small sheet. I use it for my shrimp patterns.
If durability is the issue consider the use of latex dental dams. Biggest drawback is that I've only seen them in tan, green, gray and black. Consider local dental supply businesses (or your local dentist). Every now and again one can find this material in fly shops, too, but still color limited and it doesn't have the reflective properties of some of the other materials.

Happy hunting.
Surveyors tape comes in all sorts of colors (usually bright, don't know about black). It doesn't have the sheen of electricians tape, but is every bit as durable. Check out the hardware store.


Banned or Parked
I've had problems with the durability of dental dams. My mom worked for a dentist when I was growing up, so I had her supply me with a lot of them. The problem was after a year or so, the latex would harden, crack, and fall off my flies. It was quite frustrating, so I quite using them.
The other material you can try is the mylar bag that computer hard drives come in. Ask your computer friends to save you the silver bag and cut it into thin strips with a razor and straight edge. It is semi transparent and silver at the same time.:)

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
I was at Creekside this morning to pick up a longer shaft I'd ordered for my Renzetti vice and noticed they now stock Thin Skin in a wider assortment of colors including brown and black. It comes as a sheet mounted on a non-stick paper backing about 2" by 7" and you just cut the size and shape you want. The black and brown aren't opaque but sort of semi-translucent so some of the underlying color shows through.

Thanks to all for your ideas and help. Some of you had some quite creative suggestions.

"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." ~ Yogi Berra
steelheader69, just seen some of that edge bright, it is some really neat looking stuff, cant wait to give it a go

catch and release wild sculpins
Thin Skin is great material. I use it in all colors. Scud Back is also good material. It is available in clear, pink, red, orange and olive. I like it for saltwater krill patterns. BC tiers use strips of baggies for their shellback patterns. One popular BC cutthroat pattern is in fact called, the Baggy Shrimp. Edge Bright is good material for Lantern and Handlebar patterns and is used for some larger shrimp/prawn patterns but is not so good for smaller dressings as it is a bit thick.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson