Speaking of Tube Flies etc

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
I am interested in setting up to tie tube flies. I see that HMH has a kit, their better kit, that seems to have a good selection of set up stuff and includes their "better" vice adapter for tubes. Am I better off just getting their better vice adapter seperately,and then finding the rest, tubes etc myself, or is this a good deal for the beginning tube tyer?
I bought the HMH setup kit. It had the vice adapter and a bunch of different tubes and junction tubing. Found that many of the tubes are too long or heavy for my steelhead fishing. I defy you to fish a three inch brass tube and live to tell the tale! The aluminum tubes are too small for the large juction tubing which is necessary for a size 2 or 1/0 winter tube fly hook.

Bob, I'd skip the kit and buy the $24 tube fly adapter, some 1 inch brass tubes, some 1 inch plastic tubes and plenty of junction tubing. A 1 inch brass tube plus junction tubing is approximately as long as the shank of a 1/0 tiemco 7999. 1 inch brass tubes cast fine on a spey rod. Plastic tubes offer an alternative if you are fishing a tailout where the brass tube is snagging. You can buy brass and plastic tubes at All About The Fly in Monroe, Avid Angler in Lake Forest Park or on the web at www.flyfishusa.com

Have tied up a couple boxes of tubes. The winter box consists of marabou spiders. The summer box consists of purple hairwings and in the round tied lady carolines.

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Thanks Dave, I had my doubts about the kit as a whole. But couldnt one just cut tubing to length? Brass, copper or steel it can not be that hard to cut and deburr??? I see some nice smaller diameter stainless steel tubing in my hardware shop. Might be good for heavy work???

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Deburring is the worst part Bob. If you have a good dremel, it'll clean it out pretty good. If you do want to cut your own, best to go to a hardware store. Same stuff ALOT cheaper. You can buy a few feet for about $1. Can buy brass and copper. Just won't have the fancy liner in them. You can get the burrs out so they won't knick your line. Go to any pet store and buy aquarium tubing if you want that for the back of your tubes. You can make about $40 worth of tubes for about $3.

I actually hate the adapter. Works, but I prefer an actual tool. I like the HMH tube vise. Mostly because the tube actually sits in the chuck, not on a mandrel.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Yes, only time you need mandrals. They are only necessary to keep the chuck from crushing the tubes. Right now, I actually made my own tubeflyvise until I can afford to buy an HMH. Just tore down an old drill chuck and mounted it into some wood. Works awesome. Have pins that work as mandrals and away we go.


New Member
Bob Triggs,

I've found the only plastic tubing that you *may* be likely to 'crush' in the HMH Tube Fly Vise is the (HMH) cut-to-length Micro Tubing. Crushing the TU-A or TU-E single-wall plastic tubing can be eliminated by backing off the tension on the collet ("chuck") - just a few gentle turns is more than enough to hold any plastic or metal tubing.

Whether you're using the HMH Tube Fly Vise or the Tube Fly Tool the *primary* purpose of the Mandrel(s) is to prevent the tube from 'rolling' and to give the tube more rigidity while dressing it. (JMHO and contrary to a prior post.)

I've owned and tied extensively on an HMH Tube Fly Vise for about a year - double that for the HMH Tube Fly Tool w/ the Premium Mandrels. They're both incredible implements and I can't recommend a better product if your serious about tying tube flies.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
LOL Scotty. I had been using the adapter for several years before I bought a Renzetti (which I hated). So you're saying that the mandrel serves mostly to stop "rolling" and to prevent crushing, but that's it on an adapter (since you said prevent rolling)? Hmmmm, tubes levitate I see. ;) Now, on the actual tube fly vise, I can't see where the tube would roll without the mandrel in it. I don't own one yet, but I've tied on one alot.

I actually was speaking of micro tubes, since outside of those, I mostly tie on metal tubes which don't need them (which is something I've seen from experience and info directly from HMH).

Jeremy Husby

Is there a Vahalla for fishermen?
Don't buy tubing from anywhere that sells fishing stuff. I buy from a tubing manufacture, I get 100ft of Teflon for $3.50 and 50ft Tygon at $3.00, thats 1200 1" flies with soft tubing .5" of junction to hook for $6.50. Only thing is the longer flies you have to bend the tubing into shape with hair blower of heat gun because they come in coils. I line metal tubing from the hardware my self with the Teflon by melting the ends over after inserted. I use the cheapest tube attachment you can find. It has three mandrels and I have modified it a little to hold the tube better. The best part is you can ties so many flies for so cheap. . . . practice makes perfect. . . you can also tie a swivel onto you line instead of a hook when yard casting and try out your different patterns, to get a feel for them.
If you're just getting started and you don't want to invest a whole lot into the odering of tubes etc. Go to Rite -Aid and buy yourself 500 "Q-tips" and cut them to any lengh that you'd like. You only need to make sure that the ones you're buying are plastic and not paper.
You can pick up a cheap tube fly attachment to get you started at Anglers workshop or most any catalog or fly shop. then, If you get into it, you can get a tube fly vise and all the goodies that you'll need to keep you happy for years to come.
I've been tying tubes for several months and I use a bicycle spoke for a vice. The tube slips right over the spoke (rather snugly if its the right size) and holds sufficiently. It's not a perfect setup however--sometimes the tube can be tough to remove. It's a poor man's way of entering the tube game...if that's what you're interested in.


Spey Fishing the Mighty Columbia......
Tubes I use:

5/32 copper and aluminum tubes that are avail in any hobby shop that carries K&S metal tubes. They are 12" long and run at about $1 each. I then line these with 1/8 ID black automotive air brake line. It is about 20 cents a foot.
I use the metal tubes if I need the weight to get the fly down, otherwise the air brake tubing is fine on its own...and a lot less work than making metal tubes.

Line the metal tube with the air brake tubing, and leave the front end of the air brake liner about 1/16th of an inch longer than the metal tube. Heat the air brake liner tube carefully with a lighter and the result will be a beautifully rolled back lip that rivals factory made tubes.

I leave the rear portion of the liner tube about 1/4 " long and roll the end back with a lighter, this creates a bit of a barb for the hook holder or junction tube.

I then take a short piece of medical IV tubing and slip this over the rear of the liner and bind it down onto the liner tube, with tying thread.

One thing I did forget to mention was how to cut the tubes to length.

After much tinkering around I found that a mini tube cutter is the best way. You can find these in any hobby shop or a hardware store. They are simply a mini version of a common pipe cutter that plumbers use......Forget using a hacksaw....it only makes burrs in the tube that are difficult to remove.

For Metal Tubing

The important part about using the cutter is NOT to go all the way through the tube , as it creates a narrowing of the tube wall. What you want to do is to use the cutter to simply score the tube. I adjust the cutter so it makes contact with the tube wall. Then tighten the cutter wheel lightly on the tube, rotate the cutter until it rotates freely without any drag, then adjust it once more and take another couple of turns.

Now stop cutting....remember all you want to do is score it....much like cutting glass. Then I place both thumbs on opposite sides of the score line and gently flex the tubing back and forth
( works best on copper) until it snaps cleanly. If you have made too deep a cut you will need to ream out the cut end. I simply use my scissors in a closed position. Insert the tapered part of my scissors into the narrowing of the tube and lightly ream out the mouth of the tube until the liner fits nicely into the metal tube.

Cutting the Air Brake Tubing: Is done with a safety razor blade; cut it perpendicular to the length for a nice clean, square edge.

By the way ...the liner is Air brake line tubing found in any good automotive store. I use LORDCO here in BC Canada ( not sure if you have that store in the U.S or not). If the parts guy is having a hard time understanding what you need , tell him it is the same line used in the tractor trailer transmission shifters, for the big rigs that use air shifters in their tranny's. It is black, is 1/8th inch inside diameter. Don't get the clear it doesn't melt as nicely as the black.

Also the IV tubing is the best that I have found for making the junction or hook holder , especially when making metal tubes. The reason being, it is very thin walled and it will match the metal tubing diameter exactly without a big lump as you will get if you use air line for aquariums. Makes for a very even body on the fly when finished.


Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
One Viking to another, thanks so much. Very helpful post.

Jeremy Husbey: can you porovide us with a list of suppliers for that stuff you mentioned?

Jeremy Husby

Is there a Vahalla for fishermen?
For the string leech tubing I buy:

US Plastics, http://www.usplastic.com
I use Teflon FEP Tubing is 3/16" ID x 1/4" OD x 1/32" Wall (50' $1.17)

This size allows me to pass a furled string throught the tube.
For smaller tube flies I use:

1/8" OD x .078" ID Type H Nylon Tubing (100' $7.00, you can find it other colors)
and Tygon Inert Tubing is 1/8" ID x 1/4" ID x 1/16 Wall (??)

from the same company, it's little bigger then the standard 3/32 x .031 you find in fly shops . . . if you look hard enough you can find 3/32 Teflon Tubes in hobby shops and RC shops, electronic stores, beauty supply, medical supply and autopart stores. Look for spray can tips in bulk.

The pipette tips found in the other tube fly thread are what I perfer to tie on.

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