unusual fly tying materials


Whiskey Tastes Best from a TIN CUP
I had a few hours to spare yesterday so drove to the Fly tyers Rendezvous in Portland and had an opportunity to watch excellent tyers like Chuck Cooney and Hal Gordon. It was Gordon that showed me fibers he uses for emergers that he gets from an old car seat belt. I know there a lot of tyers that like to comb through craft stores and fabric shops but I would like to hear about any other odd things that get used to fool fish. I guess my future includes a trip to the nearest auto wrecking yard.

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
I go along with my wife into quilt shops, craft stores, fabric stores, and makeup counters to see if there is anything I can use. I don't know how unusual these are but...
#2 beading silk for hook eyes/combed out tails.
"Holographic" gold glitter nail polish for head cement.
Magnetic hematite beads
I was given a box of Dazzlaire (antron) yarn skeins by the owner of a quilt shop I visited with my wife 'cause it sucks for knitting. I kept all of the good "fly tying" colors. It makes good bodies and wings with lots of sparkle.
Polypro macrame rope


Active Member
Freezer bag and two colors of Sharpie markers (one color over the other)...after dried, the colors blend when stretched.
Ps: the walk of life is a fly tyer’s materials shop....I can’t go anywhere without seeing something for the hook in the vise.


New Member
First material I cannibalized from Other Life was the rust-orange-brown carpeting from my 1978 Toyota Odyssey RV. Had a little of that poly shine and proved incomparably good for caddis pupae and larvae, especially October in CA. (This may well be the same carpet fiber Andre Puyans and Jannifer scavanged from a motel room they and stopped at every year on their way to Mt.)

For decades an old high school friend sent me oddish furs and feathers from around the US and, for several years, Africa, where he prosecuted cretins who murdered "witches" and hunted common game.

Nothing special about most stuff: warthog hair's as coarse as you'd imagine, the species of antelope I got something like low-grade deer (solid instead of hollow), etc. What I did like lots was fur from nutrias he shot in Louisiana, where these rodents were compromising dikes. Soft underfur, more olive-ish colored than beaver, with a light layer of golden guard hairs. Great for small nymphs, also for big stonefly and salmonfly nymphs when twisted into dubbing loops.

The best material I've found in craft stores is the "Stretchy Cord" used for stringing beads, which looks like cloudy nylon and comes in a variety tests and diameters. I first heard about ustig this or something similar as a shock absorber back in the early '90s (probably from an English angler, David Stocker), when I was fishing midges for bigger trout on 6x tippet, breaking many off on the take.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything like it in fly shops back then. (I think they have for a while now.) But I got lucky one day when foraging at a Michaels; so, per David's instructions, tied in about a ten-inch section of *12-lb (15?) test near the top of a leader, at about the point where the (limp) stretchy stuff more-or-less matched the mono diameter. (There must be a formula somewhere that suggests where to tie-in for best for best casting, but I just guessed and suffered no more problems than usual.)

Conservatively speaking, I bet I cut my break-offs at hook-set by 80%.

That first leader lasted several years, stretching and returning to length (almost) until it surrendered to stress; and, from the yellowing I saw, maybe also UV degradation.

*The spool I have now, from Darice, suggests "pre-stretching," also using a surgeons knot with glue for extra hold. I did fine with an un-improved clinch knot, but superglue or nail-polish would be smart.


Active Member
The brown material ribbing the fly here is a strip from one of those metallic pot scrubbers. Preheat an oven to the maximum setting, usually around 550 degrees, place the scrubber on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. The heat tempers the steel to a nice brown. The affect can be altered by decreasing or increasing the time the heat is applied. You need to be careful when tying it down as the edge is very sharp. I make a few loose turns to create a pad for the wraps used to lock it all down.20180219_163324.jpg

Nooksack Mac

Active Member
Where to start?... An old polypro rope gave me a lifetime supply of great dry fly post/wing material. The sun-faded cover was useless, but the core is a bundle of gray synthetic fiber, like Antron.

A wind-blown tuft of Christmas decorative tinsel came my way. The tinsel was short, curled lengths of bright lavender material that gives me distinctive tags for my Faerie Queene, a fancy spey pattern.

A sheet of chamois, sold for car washing, when dyed brown, provides me with material for chamois leeches, one of the deadliest patterns I've ever tied.

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