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Tube Flies for the Warm Water Fly Fisher, Part 3


By Johnny (aka Hillfisher), Texas

Tying the Tube Fly

The methods presented in this series are by no means the only or absolute correct way to tie tube flies. They contain my experience, methods and fellow angler inputs that have worked successfully for me. When it comes to fly-fishing my philosophy is "There are no hard and fast rules in fly-fishing or fly tying. It's an art expressed by the individual and shared among the fellowship." With this in mind let us go into methods of tying and rigging the tube fly.

The biggest problem with tying tube flies is keeping the tube material from rotating around the mandrel while spinning material or tightening up the thread. There are preventive methods and depending on the tube material whether it be hard or soft, the methods vary. Also the style of mandrel will make a difference. All my presentations will be on full head mandrels as I have found them to be the most effective for tying.

So to start off the first thing we want to do is stabilize the tube. If a hard tube is used then use a mandrel that is just smaller than the inside diameter of the tube. If you are using soft tubes like me then the mandrel needs to be about .5 to 1mm less in diameter than the inside if the soft tube. The reason for this is as you spin material and tighten down on the tube with the thread the soft tubes will slightly shrink inwards. If the mandrel is just ever so slightly smaller than the tube's inside diameter, the tube will grab the mandrel and getting it out may result in destroying the fly you just tied! The best thing to do is make a few tight wraps with your thread first and see if the tube will still slip freely on the mandrel.

Now we adjust the mandrel with the adapter to prevent the tube from spinning while tying. Look at figure #1 to use with the explanation. Typically I place my thumb on the mandrel head and press the mandrel head firmly against the tube. The tube body is "gripped" between the vice body and mandrel head. When the tube is tight enough without crushing the head or tail of the tube, tighten down the mandrel clamp screw.

Now the tube is in position for tying. At this point the sky is the limit for how you want to patterns on the tube. For this article we will be tying a simple bass attractor to show tail, body and head sections.

Our tube is in position and our fly will be the black swimmer. The first thing we tie is the tail section. Here we use some dark maroon marabou. Tubes being much larger than hook shanks will require more material to encircle the tube for a full tail. Another popular method is to stack marabou on top and bottom of the tube showing more tube body. For this fly we will stack the marabou.

Next we tie in some gold tinsel to give the body some flash. We wind the tinsel up the body to the head area and give it a couple of wraps with the thread to hold in place. You will notice I stopped the tinsel about an eighth of an inch from the tube end.

For the wing we will use Black Shimmer from Orvis. Again this can be tied in as stacked top and bottom or full around the tube. For this demonstration we will tie in stacked top and bottom to match the tail style. Secure the wing in just where the tinsel was ended and hold in place with a couple of wraps of thread and do a half hitch to hold the thread snuggly in place. Trim the extra wing that protrudes forward of the last wraps made. Whip finish the head. Having a full head mandrel allows the whip finish to cover the entire tube end, if desired, without the thread slipping off the tube. Apply head cement and this fly is finished.

Now that we have our fly, let's look at the different ways one can be rigged to our lines. The two basic forms of rigging are fixed tubes and free tubes. The examples shown below are with untied tubes to clearly show all components to rigging.

Fixed tubes are in some way attached to the hook and do not slide or rotate about the tippet/leader. Most places you order hard tubes (metal) will come with soft plastic inserts so the hook can be fixed to the tube. Basically it's a soft tube which fits into or onto the metal tube end with some force while the other end allows the hook eye to be inserted with some force.

Soft plastic tubes can be directly forced over the hook eye. With this configuration, the tube is "Fixed" to the hook. One disadvantage of fixed tubes is having a tube fly which tends to spin a great deal; you will be going through a lot of tippet as it becomes constantly twisted.

Free Tube rigging is my preferred method and gives the maximum movement/action of the fly. Here the tube is separated from the hook by a bead, allowing the tube to spin freely without twisting the tippet/leader.

Additionally a bead can be added to the head of the tube as well. The beads pictured here are Hematite and being an iron bead adds weight to get the fly down. An optional over line slipknot (separate line tied as a nail knot over the tippet/leader) can be added to the tippet/leader before slipping on the first bead. The slipknot allows the tube to remain free but it will not travel up the line any farther than where the slipknot is placed by the individual. This knot is also easily moved at any time.

Lastly the hooks can make a difference on the appearance and action of the fly as well. Here we see a Partridge tube hook which can behave as a keel and keep the tube fly upright by the hooks weight.

Treble hooks will allow the tube to spin as the weight is evenly distributed. Also by dressing the hooks they will give an added dimension to the flies appearance. Below is a fully rigged free tube fly with a dressed treble hook.

Now that we have the basic tying and rigging in place, the last part, Four, will have a few patterns with instructions for tube flies that work for our warm water species of bass and panfish.

Until next time good fishing! ~ Hillfisher

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