|  First Published: April 2006

I spoke with Chris Pritchard, master fly tier and mustard keen fly angler recently. I wanted to know what degree of difficulty would be involved in making a diverse range of high quality flies.

“All it takes is knowing what the fish is expecting to see, how to imitate that food item, and how the different materials work in relation to each other before getting proportions and finish right,” was Chris’s ‘simple’ answer.

Flies for most popular species, such as the gold Bomber, have evolved enough to be regarded as standard items. The trick is to improve on standard patterns for the best results. Tying extremely durable flies will take more time and requires top quality materials with special finishes and cements. But, you’re making a fly that will weather a lot of hard casts and attacks before being retired.

Materials and tools

Materials need to be sorted depending on their use, stored extremely carefully, and sourced before you begin making the fly.

Chris uses only the best quality tying tools. When cutting modern synthetic materials only the best quality scissors will go the distance. Chris suggests using the back of the scissors, not the fine points of the blades, to cut synthetic materials. He also swears by ceramic bobbins that won’t cut or fray your thread.

Synthetic materials often come packed carefully in a plastic sleeve with stiff backing (such as Ultra Hair and Neer Hair) and Chris offered the following pre-storage hints:

(1) Remove the material from its pack and attach a cable tie to the folded end, or simply whip a loop of heavier tying thread around that end to make sure it doesn’t separate.

(2) Brush it carefully with a hairbrush and hold the material under a warm tap for a few minutes to straighten it. Then let it dry.

(3) If the material starts to frizz up, rinse it in cool water with some hair conditioner. Once it returns to its original shape, hang it up via the new loop and keep it handy to use.

How many flies?

Chris makes a truly diverse range of flies – his motto is: ‘send it to me, and I’ll make it’.

He range includes billfish flies for most of the big game fly anglers, like Dean Butler, operating out of Port Stevens. Chris also produces Surf Candies for tuna, Dahlberg Divers for surface bass, saratoga, cod, and smaller barra and Deadly Deceivers for flathead and other sneak attack merchants. Chris has also developed a line of special barra flies that work well in dirty water.

Chris is willing to share his secrets and offers special courses to help beginners and experienced tiers. Courses are designed according to participants’ experience level.

He delights in specialising in hard-to-tie patterns and flies with weed guards. The weed guard should vary according to the feeding habits of the fish and must be of the right strength to be effective.

“If the weed guarded fly ventures where an angler would not normally cast and then scores, that fish is a huge bonus.”

“A lot of fly tiers stumble over proportions even though their basic technique isn’t far off the mark. If in doubt one of the easiest ways of getting them right is to simply use a clear plastic ruler to ensure that tail lengths, for example, are twice hook shank, or a collar, say, as wide as a shank is long,” was Chris’s final hint. Makes sense to me.

Chris can be contacted on 0429 987 543 or emailed at --e-mail address hidden-- for fly tying course information or for orders.

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