Nutria hair is stiff, yet flexible. These properties make it a good material for wings in faster currents that need to retain volume and action. In this regard it is a bit similar to buck tail, but the hair diameter is a lot smaller.
Nutria hair has a very unique in that it has a regressed taper. The base is narrower than the main section of the hair. This means that if it is tied in at the base the hair flexes and moves quite well around the narrow base of the hair. The rest of the hair is stiff enough to withstand heavier currents. It is even possible to increase the stiffness of the hair by tying the hair in above the regressed section.
Making use of these properties of Nutria is what makes it so useful for fly tying. It can be used as a sparse wing for flies in heavier currents. The wing material will vibrate in the current. Nutria has been a popular material in northern Scandinavia for this feature and there are some nice sparse Atlantic salmon designs that originate from there.
Use Nutria for More Fly Tying Designs
Use Nutria as a substitute for bucktail. Especially smaller fly designs that would normally would require very fine bucktail are ideal for substitution with Nutria. Flies like the Willie Gunn and Mickey Finn are good examples of flies that are originally tied with bucktail but in small sizes they require very fine bucktail. Nutria can be substituted for beautiful results.
Use Nutria 4as a wing support. The Formula 1 was the first design that introduced this technique. The Nutria is tied in agains a brass, aluminum or plastic bead. When tied in tight against the bead the Nutria will flare out and create a great support for soft over-wing materials like marabou, rhea or ostrich. The Nutria support maintains volume in the current and makes the soft over-wing materials come alive.
Nutria is also a great choice for a variety of crustacean imitations. Small shrimp flies like the Pattegrisen or saltwater shrimp flies like the Gotcha or Crazy Charlie. The Nutria can also be used in combination with other materials. For example a small tuft of Arctic fox with some Nutria hair over top will create very realistic feeler and mouth imitations for crustaceans.
Another way to use Nutria is as a replacement of feather hackle. When the Nutria is spun around the shank it will form a collar that has much better resilience against heavy flows than hackle. I like to use it for hackles on Franc ‘n Snaelda flies.
So all in all Nutria is a very versatile material for the creative tier. Give it a try!