Favorite streamer head material

camtheflyman

not sponsored
WFF Supporter
Hey everybody, I'm wondering what your favorite streamer head material is and why? I've been starting to tie streamers and have been using mostly dubbing blends to create heads for my flies (like the Lunch Money streamer) as I think deer hair is difficult to work with. Does anyone have any favorite materials they use and for certain reasons? Or in other words, what materials do you use to get different desired effects for streamers? Thanks in advance!
 

Ian Horning

Powerbait Entomologist
I like laser dub for stacked heads. Looks great, easy to work with and I love the UV mixed in, plus you can blend colors together to create whatever shade you're looking for.

I use EP fibers too because they soak up less water... they stack the same and it doesn't look quite as "nice" to me, but the reduction in water absorption makes it nice for flies you want to be able to cast far.

Something I don't see much is the use of schlappen for baitfish heads. It's definitely ugly when dry, but palmering one or two feathers creates a lot of bulk and water resistance with minimal weight and even less effort. It's a good substitute for flies that traditionally are tied with a dubbing loop-rabbit fur head, like sculpins and slump busters.
 

Clarkman

Huge Fly Guy
WFF Supporter
sometimes I use dubbing, this longer stuff called Monster Dub. It works great when tied in reverse on larger patterns. Like Ian uses, schlappen works really really nicely too for smaller streamers (relative). On occasion I've just gone bulkhead style, but I don't like it was much as a dubbed head.

With some of my quick and dirty patterns, I won't put a bulkier head on at all...like this one:
VnFxLzz.jpg


It didn't matter because when wet, it had a really nice teardrop shape to it anyway.

Here's the dubbed head and it more or less holds its shape with the monster dub.

z8O4Yrh.jpg


For the most part, with the majority of my streamers, the head is more for aesthetic reasons rather than affecting how it swims...that said, something like the reverse tied subbed head will push a little bit more water.

Cheers!
 

camtheflyman

not sponsored
WFF Supporter
Those are some sweet ties @Randall Clark. Do you tie with deer hair or just the dubbing? Does it matter what the material of the bulk on a bulky head is or is just having that bulk there? I was thinking maybe stiffer material would make more sense than just dubbing
 

Cold

Active Member
For me, it's not quite as simple as "what do you use" because the material I use is very dependent on what I want that fly to do.

So depending on application, I'll use laser dub, wool, rabbit in a loop, EP fibers, expanding wire sleeving, deer hair, hackle, or any of a dozen other options.

Ultimately, I think before you look to make substitutions, it's important to look at the function of the head of the fly in question.

That being said, I also do think it's worth not giving up on learning to spin/stack deer hair. I avoided it for years after I started tying, and even now, sometimes the techniques and material give me the occasional headache...but now that I can both spin and stack (not the same), I'm glad I never gave up, and eventually learned the techniques, because they're used in so many patterns, and in my humble opinion, the form and function spun/stacked deer hair simply cannot be effectively replicated by any other method.
 

Smalma

Active Member
For the last 30 years virtually all my streams (trout, sea-run cutthroat, bull trout, steelhead, ling Cod ,etc.) are tied with spun deer hair and are unweighted. Love the way that the flies hang and hover and literally come alive with the slightest current. Even better the imperfections in my hair trimming seems to amplify those subtle movements.

Curt
 

camtheflyman

not sponsored
WFF Supporter
@Cold Good point, but just curious, what function do you use deer hair for?

Might have to just learn to tie with deer hair
 

Cold

Active Member
@Cold Good point, but just curious, what function do you use deer hair for?

Might have to just learn to tie with deer hair


It depends on the fly, that's the whole thing. It's not a situation where it's as simple as "all streamer heads do this". Various streamers have different purposes and uses, and it's important to keep them in mind...as well as how the head construction aids in that purpose...when you're looking to change things up.

Like...when I tie Zoo Cougars, I want a neutral buoyancy fly overall, and I want the head to push water and act as a diving wedge...that means a broad, flat deer hair head.

When I tie most swimming baitfish patterns, I want it to give me a vertical profile, translucent color, and blend into the wing...usually that's going to be EP fibers or bucktail.

Many sculpin patterns, I just want to form the reversed taper of the body of the natural, push a lot of water, and add subtle movement...that's a wool or rabbit head.

For many swinging patterns, it's movement and the appearance of bulk, without actually having much bulk...that can be rabbit, marabou, ostrich, etc., spun up in a loop.

And laser dub is a great general purpose material, but can be used in different ways, from a stack method similar to EP fiber, to a reversed method for something like a bullet head that can be great for some sculpin patterns.

Deer hair is buoyant, tough, highly sculpt-able, sheds water, compresses slightly...yet springs back, and is stiff enough to resist water flow rather than yield to it. This gives it a specific set of behaviors that may or may not suit any number of patterns.

Asking what function you use deer hair for is a bit like asking a photographer what function they use flash for...there's the obvious answer of adding light, just like the use of deer hair is as a tying material...but beyond that, it's more a matter of knowing the material's properties, so you can understand how to use it, rather than just knowing where it's used without understanding why. Just like a photographer can use flash to light a dim room, illuminate a model in bright daylight, freeze motion in an active subject, fill shadows in a studio setup, or add gels to give the scene a color cast or correction...there's similarly a lot of things you can do with a material like deer hair...so it's better to approach the question from the opposite end: what do you want your fly to do? And based on that answer, is deer hair suitable? And could a substitute material be as...or even more...effective?
 

camtheflyman

not sponsored
WFF Supporter
It depends on the fly, that's the whole thing. It's not a situation where it's as simple as "all streamer heads do this". Various streamers have different purposes and uses, and it's important to keep them in mind...as well as how the head construction aids in that purpose...when you're looking to change things up.

Like...when I tie Zoo Cougars, I want a neutral buoyancy fly overall, and I want the head to push water and act as a diving wedge...that means a broad, flat deer hair head.

When I tie most swimming baitfish patterns, I want it to give me a vertical profile, translucent color, and blend into the wing...usually that's going to be EP fibers or bucktail.

Many sculpin patterns, I just want to form the reversed taper of the body of the natural, push a lot of water, and add subtle movement...that's a wool or rabbit head.

For many swinging patterns, it's movement and the appearance of bulk, without actually having much bulk...that can be rabbit, marabou, ostrich, etc., spun up in a loop.

And laser dub is a great general purpose material, but can be used in different ways, from a stack method similar to EP fiber, to a reversed method for something like a bullet head that can be great for some sculpin patterns.

Deer hair is buoyant, tough, highly sculpt-able, sheds water, compresses slightly...yet springs back, and is stiff enough to resist water flow rather than yield to it. This gives it a specific set of behaviors that may or may not suit any number of patterns.

Asking what function you use deer hair for is a bit like asking a photographer what function they use flash for...there's the obvious answer of adding light, just like the use of deer hair is as a tying material...but beyond that, it's more a matter of knowing the material's properties, so you can understand how to use it, rather than just knowing where it's used without understanding why. Just like a photographer can use flash to light a dim room, illuminate a model in bright daylight, freeze motion in an active subject, fill shadows in a studio setup, or add gels to give the scene a color cast or correction...there's similarly a lot of things you can do with a material like deer hair...so it's better to approach the question from the opposite end: what do you want your fly to do? And based on that answer, is deer hair suitable? And could a substitute material be as...or even more...effective?
This helps a lot and gives me a good starting point as I start to tie bigger flies. Thanks for taking the time for a thought out response like this.
 

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