Types of Tubes; The building of a house starts with a good foundation. The same applies to tying flies. The final outcome much depends on the right hook, tube or shank. There needs to be a good balance, a cosmetically pleasing look and good functionality. Too often good fly patterns are tied on inferior hooks or shanks, or on tubes that are of wrong proportions and balance. Inferior hooks lead to lost fish, and unbalanced tubes lead to flies that will not swim well.
In this article I will go over the different types of tubes in fly designs, and their applications.
Tube flies are becoming increasingly popular in North America. Tube flies have been popular in Europe for much longer. The big advantage of a tube is that the hook can be exchanged. Sometimes a hook can get dull from hitting rocks on the bottom or we may opt for different hooks depending on the conditions or species/size of fish we target. Tubes also form a very sturdy platform; due to the larger diameter there is less stress on the materials and fly designs on tubes tend to hold up a bit better than fly designs on hooks.
An additional benefit of tubes is that we can use short-shanked hooks combined with large tube flies. Short-shanked hooks hold fish much better than long shanked hooks.
The last benefit of tubes is that we can change the weight of the fly pattern by simply switching to a heavier tube, or alternatively, create a very buoyant design by using a plastic tube.
Types of Tubes Categorized
Tubes can be categorized in plastic tubes and metal tubes. Plastic tubes are a logical choice for flies that require some buoyancy, while metal tubes lend themselves better for flies that need to sink to some degree.
Metal tubes are most commonly made of brass. Other types of metals that are used for tubes are aluminum and tungsten. Tungsten is a very heavy metal and is used for fly patterns that need to sink fast. Aluminum is a nice choice for fly patterns that need to be sinking and tracking at a similar rate as your sink tip.
Tubes can also be categorized by shape. The following shapes are commonly found; bottle tubes, bullet tubes, straight tubes (often called US tubes), tear-drop shaped tubes (called skittle tubes) and tubes that are tapered from small in the front to wider in the rear (shrimp tubes).
Bottle tubes have a flange in the front to tie the head against. The neck of the bottle lends itself well for angling hair wings. The main section of the bottle is wider for designs with a more prominent body.
Bullet tubes lack a front flange and can be good for flies that require a small head.
Skittle tubes have the weight distributed to the front of the design. This makes for a design that has a better balance in the water.
Shrimp tubes are the logical choice for fly patterns that imitate shrimp and that have a profile that widens towards the rear of the fly.
This summarizes the types of tubes and range of platforms that we have available to us as fly tiers. Prior to creating your fly it is well worth it to give the platform that you are going to use some thought. A correct platform will be the basis of a good design.
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