Synthetic vs. natural

Synthetic vs. natural

Viking Lars | Saturday, 16 January 2016

Synthetic vs. natural - an old discussion in fly tying and one that most of the time involves more of less religious beliefs and convictions.

I know many fly fishers/ fly tiers who operate undera  conviction that natural materials are superior to synthetics, and that there are many elements of a fly that would be impossible to replicate if one was restricted to synthetics.

Strangely - vice versa is rare.

I use a lot of synthetic materials, maybe even primarily synthetics, but I'm not sure. I like synthetics, and I actaully think that we *have* reached a point that if one decided to exclude synthetics from one's flytying, that would be entirely possible.

I like them for several reason:

  • Uniformity in quality.
  • Availability.
  • Price.
  • In many cases, it's perform at least as well as the "natural counterpart".
  • Conservational issues.

Since they're man made, quality changes only if someone decides to change them - they're not dependent on outside factors.

They're usually readily available, and usually stays that way - unless someone decides discontinue them, which unfortunately happens, so I still stockpile when I find something I really like :-). Sometimes, products also get changed, and sometimes to the worse, which of course also sucks, so for that reason alone, stockpile if you find something good :-).

Synhtetics are usually cheap - some are clearly very overpriced for no reason, but generally they are quite cheap.

I know of many materials where I actually find that the synthetic outperforms a natural counterpart in more way than one. Craft Fur springs to mind - it's a favourite material of mine for many things, and amongst other things, I replace natural hair in my salmon flies with Craft Fur - and I thini it performs better. At least as mobile; retains colour when wet (doesn't darken); forms great, dropshaped wings etc.


The Mickey Finn is a favourite fly of mine for many reasons, and I've been using it as a tube fly for many years for salmon and seatrout - and I tie them with Craft Fur as you can see.

You can also see that I do use a couple of hackles - hackles are probably the hardest natural to replace - especially when used as they are here. Was it a bigger fly, I could substitute the hen hackles with spun hackles of Craft Fur - and I do on bigger flies, but on smaller, it's not as easy. Well it is, but it doesn't look as good.

One fly type where spun hackles have almost completely replaced natural ones in my boxes are Wooly Bugger-type flies. Check the pink version - 100% synthetic fly, btw!

And then the conservational issue. I'm not sure it's really valid from all viewpoints. Synthetics are produced, and comsumes energy, and most synthetics are plastic, and thus must have an environmental impact as at least some plastics are derivatives of oil in some way. That said, some synthetcis di replace some materials which are controversial.

Have a great weekend!