It only takes a quick look through the fly tying UV resins available here at the fly shop to become lost in the options. You’ll find, thin, ultra thin, flow, fine, flex, and thick. Add in different colors and the options just keep expanding. Beyond that, there’s a selection of UV lamps and bodkins to put the resin to good use.
In order to sort it all out, we sat down with Johnnie Trujillo and Ben Baxter. These guys are constantly pushing their limits in fly tying, and using new products every chance they get.
In order to decode all these choices, their suggestion is to think about the differences in viscosity. Then, you can apply it to the type of fly you are aiming to tie. The more viscus the resin, the more it will penetrate the materials of the fly and the easier it is to slowly build mass and shape. Less viscus resins offer more durability and quick body size additions.
“This ultra thin resin is best used on natural materials and soaks in very quickly, locking the base materials together,” Ben explained. “I reach for this type of resin when tying any nymph patterns with thread heads.”
Johnnie went on to say, “Think of the thin resins as your first building blocks. This type is great for building slender quill body nymphs or perdigons. Because it doesn’t soak in immediately, it gives you time to control and shape your fly bodies.”
“A classic example of a fly pattern that uses a thin resin in the Copper John,” Ben says. “Next time you tie a CJ, flip the fly over in the vise and add the thin resin to the underside. It will create a nice bubble as it begins to drip.”
Johnnie also uses the thin to lock in eyes on big streamers. “Yes, the adhesive usually works great, but if you want your streamer to outlast a few big browns, add some resin over the eyes for that added durability.”
We are also seeing thin resins in various colors grow in popularity along with perdigon style nymphs. Tyers can use a colored resin to add a quick hot spot to any pattern.
“These thicker UV resins will hold a shape until you’re ready to zap it with the light,” Ben said. “Start small. You can always add more to build it up. But once you apply the resin, you can’t take it away.”
Think larger baitfish patterns for both fresh and saltwater. Flies like Barry’s Pike Fly and Deceivers use thick UV resins to cover the eyes and create a super durable fly head.
Ben noted, “I use thick resins on shrimp patterns to create that ‘shell’ and on bonefish flies like the classic Bonefish Bitters”.
If you are using these thick resins, your fly might be left feeling tacky, even after curing it with the UV lamp. If that’s the case, just add a light coat of head cement to give it a hard finish.
Flexible UV resins fall into their own category and have a number of creative uses. These flexible resins are most commonly used in saltwater flies and baitfish patterns.
“A flexible resin is ideal when you want a material to hold a specific shape, yet remain flexible and durable,” Johnnie added. “You will find this resin on chenille crab legs for example.”
Ben adds, “Another cool trick for flexible resins is to use them to fuse turkey feather barbs together before cutting them off the quill for wing cases on patterns like the Hare’s Ear. Your wing case will stay together and flexible enough to tie in without splitting.”
UV Fluorescing Resins from both Loon and Solarez also stand alone from the rest. This type of resin cures with a unique sheen to it that will reflect light at greater water depths. This is especially useful in stillwater situations when you are fishing a chironomid deep and want your fly to stand out in the darkness. These resins can even be added after the fly is complete.
Another great use Johnnie chimes in on, “I use these to really bring out the bright colors and hotspots on perdigon and jig style nymphs. Apply this over a bright thread like GLO-Brite and it will shine big under water.”
On the subject of UV lamps, Ben pointed out that any lamp will work for any UV resin. It’s not necessary to purchase a matching brand.
“Any one of our lamps, and even the natural light of the sun will cure UV resins. But the larger the light, the faster the cure time.”
Final Tip: Using a Bodkin
Johnnie offered a great tip for applying UV resin using a bodkin. “Squeeze a drop of resin onto the middle of your bodkin, and use the middle to apply it to the fly,” he explained. “That way, you’ve got a clean tip that you can use to shape it.”
In this video, Greg Garcia, Umpqua Signature Tyer, gives a great demonstration of this technique in the Purple Darth Baetis Fly Tying Video. You’ll find it at the 5:30 mark.
If you have fly tying questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Come visit us at the fly shop in Littleton, Colorado or give us a call at 303-794-1104. We offer fast, free shipping on all fly tying products.