The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Tail Material for Fly Tying

Illa Byrle

Updated on:

A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Tying Materials

I’m here to shed some light on an important aspect of fly tying that often gets overlooked: choosing the best tail material. If you’ve ever wondered which material to use for creating effective and captivating fly patterns, you’re in the right place. In this ultimate guide, I’ll explore the various options available, their unique qualities, and how they can enhance your fishing experience. Whether you’re a seasoned fly tyer or just starting out, this article will provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the ideal tail material.

Choosing Tail Material for Fly Tying

As an avid fly fisherman, I understand the importance of selecting the right tail material for tying flies. The tail is a crucial component of a fly, as it can greatly affect its performance and attractiveness to fish. There are various factors to consider when choosing tail material, such as durability, flotation, impression, and color variations. In this comprehensive guide, I will delve into both natural and synthetic materials, discussing their characteristics and suitability for different types of flies.

Factors to Consider

When selecting tail material for fly tying, there are several factors that should be taken into account. First and foremost, durability is key. Flies endure rough treatment in the water, and a tail material that can withstand repeated strikes and dives is essential for a successful fishing trip. Additionally, flotation plays a significant role, especially for dry flies. The ability of the tail material to maintain buoyancy and ride high on the water’s surface can greatly improve the fly’s visibility to fish. Another crucial factor is the impression created by the tail material. Flies often imitate natural insects or baitfish, and tail materials that accurately mimic the movement and appearance of these creatures can greatly enhance the fly’s effectiveness. Lastly, the availability of different color variations can allow for customization, enabling anglers to match the local forage or personal preferences.

Natural Materials

Natural materials have long been the preferred choice for tail material in fly tying due to their lifelike qualities and natural buoyancy. Feathers, fur and hair, as well as quills and strips, offer a wide range of options for anglers.


Feathers are commonly used as tail material for flies due to their lightweight nature and natural movement in the water. Rooster hackle, with its long, flexible fibers, is a popular choice for streamers and wet flies. It provides lifelike action and creates an attractive silhouette underwater. Turkey biots, on the other hand, offer a slender and delicate appearance, making them ideal for nymphs and emergers. Pheasant tails, with their distinct markings and earthy tones, are versatile tail materials that can be used for a variety of patterns.

Fur and Hair

Fur and hair are sought-after materials for creating tails that replicate the movement and texture of natural prey. Deer hair is buoyant and durable, making it suitable for dry flies and terrestrials. Elk hair, with its hollow fibers, is exceptionally buoyant and enhances the fly’s flotation. It is often used in patterns like the Elk Hair Caddis, which perfectly imitates a fluttering caddisfly. For smaller flies, squirrel tail hair offers a fine texture and lifelike movement that can entice even the most cautious fish.

Quills and Strips

Quills and strips provide unique tail material options that offer a different aesthetic appeal. Peacock quills, with their iridescent colors, create an eye-catching tail that imitates the gleam of baitfish scales. Goose biots, with their natural mottled pattern, add a touch of realism to nymphs and wet flies. Golden pheasant tippets, with their bright coloration and distinct markings, can be used to create tails that mimic the vibrant patterns seen in many fish species.

Synthetic Materials

While natural materials have their charm, synthetic materials offer a range of advantages that make them a popular choice for fly tying. They are often more durable, easier to work with, and provide consistent performance.

Flash Materials

Flash materials add a touch of sparkle and reflectivity to tails, making them highly visible underwater. Tinsel, with its metallic shine, is a classic choice for creating flashy tails on streamers and attractor patterns. Flashabou, made from thin, glossy fibers, creates a mesmerizing shimmer that can entice predatory fish. Krystal Flash, with its vibrant colors and reflective properties, is a versatile material that can be used to add flash to a wide variety of fly patterns.

Rubber Legs

Rubber legs provide lifelike movement and undeniable attraction. Round rubber legs, with their smooth and consistent round shape, create a realistic leg appearance and offer excellent action in the water. Barred rubber legs, featuring alternating light and dark markings, add depth and realism to both nymphs and streamers. Grizzly flutter legs, with their unique coloration and fluttering movement, imitate the legs of many aquatic insects, making them incredibly effective.


Chenille is a versatile and commonly used material for creating tails with added volume. Standard chenille is thick and fluffy, providing volume and movement to streamer patterns. Ultra chenille, with its finer fibers, creates a more subtle and slender profile, making it suitable for smaller flies. Micro chenille is exceptionally fine and lightweight, allowing for delicate presentations and realistic imitations of small insects.

In conclusion, choosing the best tail material for fly tying requires careful consideration of several factors. Natural materials offer lifelike characteristics and a wide variety of options, while synthetic materials provide durability and consistent performance. Whether using feathers, fur and hair, quills and strips, or synthetic flash materials, rubber legs, and chenille, each material has its unique qualities and suitability for different types of flies. By understanding these factors and experimenting with various materials, fly tyers can create flies that prove irresistible to fish. So, go ahead and explore the world of tail materials for fly tying – your next fishing adventure awaits!

Subscribe to get our FREE ebook

and receive fly fishing tips and tricks to help you catch more!

itx crossover reels