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FlashBack Bug sea trout wake fly

Salmon fishing in Lagan

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

flashback bugIn 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.


mouse imitation - mouse fly

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

metal tube tube fly

Riffling Hitch Tube (big) 3,2: 2,0 mm. - 1 meter

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

Danish sea trout flyWith 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

Tubes for tube fly

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.

tubefly fishing for salmon

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

tubes for tube fly

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

Tube for tube fly

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.

Tubes flies tying

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

tube for fly tying

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.

tube fly size

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 –

Cutting tube fly tyingSome 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


Frances fly - brass tubes

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


metal tube tube fly

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 tungsten tube flyTungsten 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

tube for tube flies

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.

Micro tube flies

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

Riffling Hitch Tube - for wake and riffling hitch tube 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 Buy salmon & steelhead flies

How we make our wake flies on Riffling Hitch tube

Grantham Sedge Wake fly

tube fly tying hookguard

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

Stoats tail tube flies

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

Our 2,2/ 1,2 hook guard is perfect for smaller flies like these. Buy salmon & steelhead flies

 hook-gyard tube fly system

Swinging hook-guard

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

makeing tube flies

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.

hookguard for tube flies

Cut the hook guard at a square angle

Here I have started on a bigger fly on our 1.8 mm. hard tube – I have slipped our bigger 3.0/1.8 mm hook guard on – But I have cut the hook guard at a square 45-degree angle – By doing so I can reduce the size of the tie down needed to secure this hook guard.

fly tying tube

Right: Here I have slid the 2.2/1.2 hook guard onto my 1.4 hard tube. You can actually see the collar beneath the hook guard – Tie the end of the hook guard and secure with super-glue or lacquer.

fly tying tube

Finish of with super-glue or lacquer

Micro tube fly

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

Tube fly construction

Building the tube fly

Modern tube flies in Scandinavia are often built 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 a 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.

Tube fly needle

Specially designed tube fly tying needles

Over the years we have happily used normal sowing needles for our tube fly tying – we have also promoted this inexpensive solution through our shop but we have had a problem getting the right sowing needles for the tubing we sell, so we decided to produce our own design of tube fly tying needles.

4 different needles to chose from

We made needles that would fit the tubing we sell – from the thinnest 1.4-millimetre tubings to the biggest 3.2 mm. tubing we use for big Sunray Shadow flie


Riffling Hitch Tube Needle


A specially made needle for short tube flies like riffling hitch flies – bottle tubes.

Made for our 3.2 mm. Hitch tube with an inside diameter (Ø) of 1.8 & 2.0 mm. The total length is 62 mm

The Thin tube fly needle


For tiny tube flies or metal tubes with inner-lining tubing – Micro Bottle tubes.
Made for our thinnest 1.4 mm. tube with an inside diameter (Ø) of 0.7 mm. The total length is 62 mm.

See it in the Fishmadman shop

Tube fly tying tool


For small/medium tube flies or metal tubes with inner-lining tubing – Bottle tubes.
Made for our 1.8 mm. tube with an inside diameter (Ø) of 1.1 mm. The total length is 97 mm.

See it in the Fishmadman Shop

The Sunray Shadow tube fly Needle -2


A specially made needle for long tube flies like Sunray Shadow flies
Made for our 3.2 mm. Hitch tube inside diameter (Ø) of 1.8 & 2.0 mm. The total length is 115 mm.

See it in the Fishmadman shop

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

Visit our shop here 

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