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Working with Chenille: A Fly Tyer’s 101 Guide

We’re proud to have a killer selection of fly tying materials and tools here at Anglers All. Yet sometimes, all those choices can be daunting. Ever stared at a wall of fly tying materials and gone a little cross-eyed? Don’t worry you’re not alone…

So we thought we’d pick a category of fly tying materials and break it down. In this article, we’re talking chenille – the differences in these products and when to use them. For expert help, we turned to two of our in-house fly tying junkies, Ben Baxter and Johnnie Trujillo.


When it comes to chenille, here’s what you need to know…

Chenille and yarns were probably some of the first synthetic materials to be used in tying flies. We know for a fact that it goes back ages here at Anglers All. We’ve had some boxes of old chenille in the basement that appeared and turned out to be ancient. Pictured here is Anglers All founder Jim Poor (left) with a nice selection of materials on the original walls, including chenille.

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Nowadays, we enjoy tying with a crazy amount of variations and colors of chenille. But don’t let that intimidate you. According to Johnnie and Ben there are 3 easy factors to help you pick the right chenille for any job…


3 Factors to Consider when Choosing Chenille:

 

1. Size

First, narrow down your choices by size. From the thin body of a San Juan Worm to an oversized streamer, size is your initial filter.

“If you’re tying something like a San Juan Worm, you’re looking at Ultra Chenille,” Ben told us. “The very fine nature of ultra chenille makes it perfect for those thin-bodied flies. That’s why it’s also great as a body material on small wooly buggers or micro streamers.” Another tip from the saltwater fly world is to use Ultra Chenille for crab legs and jaws. The material is stiff enough to hold its shape in the water and makes for some super realistic patterns!

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Ben went on to explain that on the other end of the spectrum, bulkier chenille is ideal for those larger bodied fly patterns. “If you're tying a size 2 fly, you don't want to pick up a fine ultra chenille,” he added. “A Cactus Chenille or Polar Chenille can help you create volume or body shape on those large patterns.”


2. Fiber Length

Along with the size, consider the fiber length of the chenille as it relates to the look you’re trying to achieve.

“If you’re using the chenille to add mass to the body of a streamer like the Complex Twist Bugger for example, you may not need a very long fiber length – it’s not going to show anyway,” Johnnie explained. “On the other hand, if you’re going for a palmered effect, like on the Drunk and Disorderly, you’ll want a chenille with long fibers.”

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The fibers on a length of chenille are used to create different effects. On a baitfish pattern, palmer chenille creates movement in the water. “Micro UV polar chenille can even be used to create the look of tiny legs, like on a scud or caddis nymph like the Czech Catnip,” Ben told us.


3. Color

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to those with the appropriate size and fiber length, it’s really just about finding the color you want. And according to Johnnie and Ben, here’s where you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative.

“Some materials are just perfectly suited to specific uses, like Variegated Chenille is great for creating the mottled stonefly bodies of a Pat’s Rubberlegs,” Johnnie explained. “But in many cases, there are opportunities to experiment and substitute with new materials.”

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“One of the things I love about tying is that my own flies don’t have to look exactly like the ones in the recipe,” Ben noted. If you find a comparable material in a color or design that fits your needs or matches the fish food you’re trying to imitate, then give it a try.


Final Thoughts

“When I first got into tying, I realized that chenille was also a great substitute for dubbing loops,” Johnnie added. “Sometimes instead of dubbing loops, you can easily shortcut it by using chenille and get pretty close.

“The other thing I appreciate about these synthetics is that they don’t hold water, so they don’t get heavy,” Johnnie continued. “When other materials might mop up water and get heavy, most of these chenilles don’t.” When you’re already talking about a big fly, that’s an important factor.

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In the end though, don’t be afraid to ask for help. “If you’re looking to tie a specific pattern or if you just want to dive deeper into a conversation about materials, we’re here to help,” Ben concluded.

You can find us at the fly shop here in Littleton. Or call us at 303-794-1104. If you have questions about fly tying or anything else to help you get ready for your next adventure on the water, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you see it available here on the website, that means we have it in stock. When you place an order for any fly tying materials or tools, you’ll have the option of fast, free shipping or free curbside pick up.