What is a tube fly?
The tube fly was originally a salmon fly design made by The Scotsman Mr Alexander Wanless who shaped a line of flies on thin lead barrels in the late 1930s.
Mr Alexander Wanless aimed to make a lightweight bait he could fish on his spinning rod with a fixed spool reel. Still today there are many anglers that use the tube fly on a spinning rod, but more so the tube fly has become one of the most popular ways of tying salmon and steelhead flies –
In the Swedish river, Lagan vast amount of salmon is caught on tube fly on spinning gear every season. The tube fly is fished close to the bottom on a swinging trace behind a weight.
Tubes for tube fly
In all its simplicity the tube is merely the vessel that carries the fly pattern; hair, feather, and hook – But the tube with its ways in the water is also an alluring factor in the tube fly pattern, and this can be used progressively.
Right; The FlashBack Bug a steelhead wake – tube fly that is designed to make use of the properties of the tube to stay on top of the surface. The fly could also be tied on a hook… but it will be a fly that works differently on the surface than its cousin tied on the tube.
Tube fly patterns – in the future
We believe that tube flies will be the fly of the future when anglers grasp the many potentials of the various tubes.
Big rodent flies like this Tube Rat from our shop benefit greatly from being tied on tube versus a hook. The tube rat is a much lighter alternative that is easy to cast even on light gear. The tube fly is not rigid as a big long shank hook and less fish is lost to problems with leverage
Tube designed for tube flies
Tube fly tying equipment is a unique part of the fly tying kit and fishing shops here in Europa often carry a large selection of tubes and other specialized equipment for tube flies.
The majority of these tubes is made from plastic substances called PE: Polyethylene or PA Aliphatic polyamides
With an annual worldwide usage of approximately 80 million tons of Polyethylene, it is not uncommon to find tubes in fishing tackle shops that may have been designed for something completely different from tube flies. Likewise, you may spot some tubes outside fishing shops that could work well in your fly tying
Right: An 2 1/2 inch Danish seatrout commotion tube fly for nocturnal fishing. Dressed with a soft cone to the front and plastic beads to the body to make it push water
The cotton swab is a very good example of a tube that could work as tubing for tube flies. On the other hand, cotton swabs are just as diverse as the tube-fly tubing you find in shops – and some cotton swabs will easily split and bend, others might float – an exclusive feature you could use for a very special tube fly.
The right tube for the job
Fishing a full season for Atlantic salmon or steelhead could prove to be a technically demanding affair that involves a lot of know-how and special gear.
Here a salmon caught on a Garry tied on a 1 1/2 copper tube – When fishing – the hook is kept in place by a hook guard made of a soft plastic tubing tied to the rear of the copper tube. When a fish is hooked the tube fly will slide freely on the leader.
The good, the bad and the ugly tubes
It is unusual that manufactures of tubing write any detail on their product so you often have to do your own technical research to get the right material for your tube flies
Here is a few things to look (out) for
Buy straight tube for big flies
Tubing is often kept on big spools and sold by the kilo – then to be cut up into lengths and resold to anglers. The tubing may keep some of its curvings from its shelf-life – leaving you with slightly bend tubes. As far as we’re concerned that is a no-no when you’re looking to find tubes to tie long flies on and we would avoid buying such material as it could give you a bad starting point for your flies – and curved flies could end up twisting your leader
Some tubes crack in cold weather
Tube flies could easily be the fly you turn to when the weather conditions are at it´s worst and dropping temperatures – strong currents and heavy leader obviously will take its toll on your tube flies.
You need your flies to be tied on tubing that can withstand changes in temperature and a lot of mechanical wear – but you may have to compromise as some hard tubes may crack in cold weather.
Above left: A tube sold as; a tube for Scandinavian tube fly – left in the freezer 5 minutes – I then tried to insert a hook with this cracking result.
High memory tubes
Avoid tubes that change colour when you bend them – The colour change will tell you that the tube has high memory and properly has difficulty falling back into place after being bend for instance in the mouth of a fish
Too hard tube – to put hooks into
If you rely on putting the hook inside the tube… avoid buying too hard tubing as this could result in troublesome positioning or repositioning of the hook as the material might not accommodate the hook – Some hard tubes may also split when under pressure and used in cold water (2 – 5 degrees Celsius – 35 – 41 degrees Fahrenheit) –
As a general rule, you can check if your tube is suitable to be used as a place to put your hook – by squeezing the tube firmly between thumb and index fingers – If you can ovalize the tube slightly…and then have it fall back into its original round shape then` you could have the right tube for the job.
Heavy tube flies
Weighted tubes can be used to get down in fast water – They can also be used during the cold part of the season October – November and during the first month of the season – January – March
Above right: Classical Slipstream tubes from Veniard in England – The tubing inside the metal tube (inner tube) may be frayed or otherwise damaged when used – You can change the inner tube by cutting the ends of – then pulling the inner tube out – then inserting a new piece of inner-tubing – You can use our 1.8 millimetre tubing for this job
Tube flies is an English invention designed by the late Mr Alexander Wanless in the early 1930´s It soon became a popular way of doing flies –
Some of the first tube flies made by Alexander Wanless was tied on oblong lead barrels. Mr Wanless used the flies with small hooks on his light spinning gear.
Still today the heavy sinking tube play a role in fly fishing, especially Atlantic salmon anglers use weighted tubes during the season.
Left: Special tool for cutting thin diameter tube
Cut your own! – using a special tube cutting tool I have cut a bigger brass tube into several small heavy microtubes – not possible to buy. In the background, a tiny Frances Fly tied on such a micro brass tube. Tubes fitted with our hook-guard
Heavy tube flies in many shapes and sizes
Scandinavia and Scotland are blessed with fast running rivers and European anglers have developed a long line of heavy tubes to be used during the season – most of them are designed for summer sport with a floating line and a presentation of the fly some 10 inches below. Many of these microtubes and the conehead on the photo to the right are designed for this purpose…
We aim to present the individual tubes from the photo on this page – during the next year.
See another page on Fishmadman where we use copper tubes for fast water tube flies
Tungsten Tubes – The heavy boy in the class
Weight is not everything when it comes to surging to the deep – density is an all-important factor – Tubes made of the material tungsten has a density almost 200 % higher than an equivalent copper tube – A real depth charge
Light tube fly
Most Scandinavians would choose tube flies for their salmon and trout fishing. The tube fly is convenient and gives us a versatility that is hard to beat – But foremost the tube fly gives the angler the opportunity to fish big or small fly patterns correctly in all kinds of water.
Tying a tube fly for summer conditions
When summer conditions call upon a tiny fly pattern that will work with the most subtle current in the river – you should tie on a micro-tube fly – The fly may be bigger in volume than a small single-hook pattern and fitted with a hook it could also weigh more than a single hook pattern – But it also act much differently.
Left 3 miniature tube flies tied on different tubing – The two top patterns are tied on relatively soft tubing from a BIC ballpoint pen – hooks in the picture is # 18 – single hook is # 14
Tubes for Riffling Hitch flies
The best tube on the market
A Fishmadman speciality is our tubes designed for Riffling hitch and wake flies – No one made a tube that was good enough for the job …so we took time out to design the perfect tube for this purpose. The tube has low memory and will take a lot of mechanical abuse before it breaks. Buy this tube from our shop
How we make our wake flies on Riffling Hitch tube
Tying a tube fly – Hook guard solutions
The hook-guard or hook rest is the extension of the tube that will enable you to hold the hook in place when you cast or fish the fly. Is it not an absolute for all tube flies and different groups of anglers may have personal opinion and ideas about the use and necessity of this add-on.
I value the hook guard highly and implement it on many of the types of tube flies we do in Fishmadman – merely because it is a foolproof solution that reduces the chance of a tangle.
Above left: A piece of soft tubing glued to a thin hard-tube with UV-glue. A neat and elegant way to fixate a hook guard to a tiny tube fly.[hr]
See how to afixiate a tiny hookguard on a tube using UV-glue
Loose or fixed hook-guard?
Some anglers keep the hook guard loose in their fly box and attach it when they want to use the fly – The lower part of the tube fly is kept free of material so the hook guard easily can be slipped on. The obvious advantage of this solution is the option to change the hook guard if it becomes damaged. I think it works neatly on smaller flies like these Stoat Tail tied on # 1/2 aluminium tubes from Veniard
Anglers in Scandinavia also use this smart kit to keep their hook swinging behind the tube – opposed to setting the hook into a more rigid hook-guard – Here from German Propeller Fly – This version will hold hooks from # 8 – 12
Tie down of hook guard
If you tie dry flies on tube as we do – we recommend that you use a hook guard on your fly pattern – the fixated hook will decrease tangle. Initially, you need to make a collar on the tubing as seen from the photo to the left – You do so by getting the tube in close proximity of a naked flame – If you use quality PA tubing the tubing will melt easily and form a perfect small collar.
Tube fly tying supplies
Fishmadman has tubes made especially for tube flies – Nontoxic – PVC free with all the right abilities. As we cut out the middlemen tubes are inexpensive and you get the best product you can find on the market
All tubes are made in Denmark
The hook guard as an integrated part of the body
One fly I have used repeatedly over the years is this 1/5 # (0.5 cm.) micro-conehead tube fly – I tie it in all kind of colours and patterns and it is just such a neat fly to tie and use. It may look a bit intricate… but it is a very easy fly to tie. I think some of this micro tube fly´s success is down to the fact that it has a semi see-through body that is accomplished by running the hook guard onto the body of the fly – Check this super fly out on our page dedicated to the Kinnaber Killer
Building the tube fly
Modern tube flies in Scandinavia are often building from various sections of tube – and getting dimensions and tubing right is a bit like building LEGO
Here I have assembled our 1.8 mm. hard tube with our 3.0/1.8 mm Riffling Hitch tube – In this case, the riffling hitch tube is used as hook-guard but a hook guard of soft tubing may also be slid onto the rear of the riffling hitch tube to accommodate bigger hooks than the Owner Chinu # 1/0 shown in the photo. Coneheads are often used to the front of the fly – fixed with a tiny drop of glue or Zap-A-Gap – Finally, a collar is formed on the tube by heating it with a naked flame.