• TUBE FLIES —  A WHAT?  —  A tube fly is a general tying style of artificial fly used by fly anglers. Tube flies differ from traditional artificial flies as they are tied on small diameter tubes, not hooks. Then your line is inserted through and secured to the size or style of hook you select.   

  • Tube flies were originated in Aberdeen, Scotland around 1945. It has recently become popular again in the US and creates new ideas and opportunities because the same fly can be made on plastic or metal tubes. And allows instant hook changes.



🐬  History From Great Sources  — 

  • Credit for the invention of the tube fly tying style belongs to fly dresser Minnie Morawski of the Charles Playfair and Company, Aberdeen, Scotland.   In 1945 she began experimenting with hollowed out sections of turkey quills as a base for traditional salmon and trout flies rather than traditional hooks.
    Initial patterns were tied on top of the turkey quill tubes but the tying style quickly evolved into tying patterns "in the round" and on plastic tubes. By the late 1950s, the advantages of the tube fly style were being hailed by Trout and Salmon magazine as the most important innovation in salmon fishing since the introduction of "greased line fishing" techniques in the 1930s.

  • The tube fly style was quickly adopted in the Pacific Northwest, Northeast U.S. and Florida for salmon, striped bass and tarpon respectively in saltwater environments. For the most part, the tube fly style was being adapted in the U.S. to fly patterns that were trolled rather than cast while fishing. Throughout the late 1940s through early 1970s a variety of small entrepreneurial fly tiers sold commercially tied tube flies along the Pacific, Atlantic and Florida coasts to anglers. 
    As anglers in both Europe and the US gained exposure to the advantages of tube flies, more patterns emerged and more species of game fish were targeted with tube style flies. The use of tube flies for casting to salmon and steelhead in the Puget Sound region was first documented in Fly Fishing for Pacific Salmon (Ferguson, Johnson, Trotter, 1985).

  • Sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, American anglers began introducing the tube fly style to surface poppers, sliders and other floating patterns for both saltwater and freshwater species. In 1987 Bob Popovic, a noted New Jersey based fly designer and angler introduced the use of high density foam material for saltwater poppers tied tube style.   Although traditional hook based flies remain the dominant style used by fly anglers, tube fly style patterns and materials have been adopted for globally for most species and waters targeted by fly anglers.

🐬  Junk Parts Reborn — Two Ideas For Tubes And Mandrels

  • Again,  the only thing I bought were the metal steel plates, cheap at Home Depot ( $1.00 ) as the magnets hit 16 plus pounds when in place , nothing moves.   
    Many of the add-ons, forty-fifty years old, flash units, brackets, articulated arms and a lot of drilling. Just stuff  laying in bins, I had accumulated, only the magnets were new, based on size and needs of the tools. They range in price from 3-8 dollars. 12-30 lbs.

  • Some of the heads for the Tube Vises were made from drill chucks and pin vises with a little alteration by way of drills and files.   The PIN vises had plugs that could be popped out.  
    The “ Big Boy” whom I call “ Big Boy” uses tubes about 1/8 inch in diameter and I have mandrels that are that size.  It was a drill head chuck.  I have three sizes all from my junk pile.

  • They vary in length so when a tube is inserted it keeps it from twisting by a light jam since 95% are duplicates and I precut many of the tubes so I measured and precut everything.  Also as in the picture I have mandrels that are tapered that cover everything I make.
    The smaller pin-vices I made were drilled out, inexpensive and because they have a pass-through I can build anything involving tubes… the pin vices were cheap on Amazon about 4-5 dollars for two.  I used screws leftover from tarps with raised heads which actually serve a purpose of creating borders keeping loose thing in place. 

  • You have two ways or maybe three to go about making tube flies:  Dedicated tools from manufactures which are not cheap,  Adapters with mandrels or make your own.    Prices range from almost reasonable to ridiculous, but not all plastics are the same. They buy bulk, cut and repackage them and that costs money.    I do not fault them for making a profit, I wish them well and do buy lots of other product from them.  

🐬  I Like My Coffee  Solution  —  

  • Most plastics are not good for the cause because they burn or melt, to keep the ballooned shaped ends you use a candle or cigarette lighter lightly to burr the ends.  I found the right plastic— When enjoying a cup of coffee to go.

  • It had a plastic straw… I called it divine guidance again and I have a severe love of coffee. So I asked the owner where he got them, he showed me the box and he got them from my Gordon Food Service where I have an account…  off to GFS and making tubes in an hour.

  • Under 3.00 dollars for 500 straws so I bought two boxes and they burn right,  just test first, small fire, go gently, no bonfire, I use tiny candles ( Amazon) since they glow rather than a lighter pushing gas.  Twist the tube till you see a burb on the end, press against a 4x4 inch ceramic tile  —  VOILA ! SUCCESS!  
    They come out perfect, practice does that  and moving slow you see expansion not melting.  That beautiful red tube on the mandrel is made from a coffee straw, 1/8 size available in colors and these brands create nice tips .GFS TWO boxes—The company Prime Source red and Banyon Black  —  Total 5000 tubes for my 1/8 streamers., cost six dollars.  I’ll never run out.

🐬  More Tricks — With Mandrels And Vises   —  

  • Mandrels are nothing but pieces of wire, stiff and in varying widths and lengths, some tapered that support the tube into the grip.  I must have 150 mandrels. Never throw good strong wire away…

  • STRAIGHT ROD WITH ADAPTER STYLE  —  When the right size is selected the tube should slide onto the mandrel and you can push the mandrel into the vise to lock the tube from spinning with a little compression effort. 

  • For compression I have used all combos to prevent the tube from spinning with a locknut and a chip of or small piece of shrink tube, acts as a washer, works fine.   

  • The lock nut is nothing but a nut with nylon insert that grips. In small sizes.   Small pin vices with  passthroughs are perfect for this. Easiest is the simple “L” shaped bend in the photo with a piece of skinny shrink tubing in colors for different size mandrels. 


🐬  HMH Tube Fly and Shank Tools  —  $35.00 – $65.00 In Kits

Tube fly tying techniques and patterns are evolving rapidly, making tube flies even more effective and hooking and landing all freshwater and saltwater gamefish.  Our complete line of top quality tubes and tube accessories has been carefully designed and developed over the last 25 years to give the right tube for any tube fly application.

Our plastic tubes are formulated to work well in all water and weather conditions, and to stand up to any pattern.  You can compare for yourself, but we think you’ll find that HMH tubes are not only the best, but also the most economical tubes for tube flies.  Top of the line but not essential.

🐬  Stonfo Adapter     Stonfo Tube Fly Tool adapts to most fly tying vises to help you create tube style flies.   This too is  Supplied with two stainless steel pins Ø 1,1 and 1,5 mm to fit all tubes. Suitable also for sea big lures. Instructions included.  Comes one adapter with mandrels per bag. About  $ 22.00 dollars.  Excellent quality. 


🐬  Pro Sportfisher $$$ —  Is a mandrel that is commercially sold,  tapered and almost claims and makes you think one size fits all   —   BUT there are about four sizes and they sell for seventeen dollars a piece times four is sixty-eight dollars and 68.00 and ten dollars freight for one ounce. The brand is Pro Sportfisher.  

🐬  Stonfo Tapered 5 Size Tube Fly Pin Set  —   gives you 5 pins to accommodate virtually any tube on the fly tying market The Tube Fly Pin Set comes with 5 stainless steel tapered pins perfectly machined.  The set allows the fly tier to use tubes from .4mm to 4.00mm in inside diameter. 

The Pro Sportfisher ( if it is the size of hooks and streamers you always use is one way} It’s advantage with flat size is it will fit any, well most vices with no other parts needed.

The Stonfo five set will need the little thing-a-ma-jig all the brands carry in the $6.95 probably Pakistan or India, China, someone backyard clear up to 50-60 dollar packages

🐬  PLAN B:  The Cheaper Way Is To Make Your Own Mandrels —  

  • Bicycle Spokes are cheap on Amazon all sizes and diameters,  I cut them down, I use the little spoke head end that screws on and sharpen them.    Very inexpensive and come in sizes you can use.  Cheap, just get the spokes, you don’t need the wheel.   A pair of dikes or wire cutters makes them to size in length .  Amazon a package of 24 or thirty was seven dollars and they came with those nice caps thats screwed on and acts as the stopper end. 

  • Then mount the screw end in the drill and turn drill on using a file like a lathe  to shape the tip.  The drill and carbide wheel or paper to polish  to taper and sharpen, A sander works great too.   I’m making my own, can’t get any cheaper.   OK still cheaper —  Cheaper than seventeen dollars plus five for mail.  For eight dollars I made thirty so far and almost halfway through…in different lengths — which I give to my friends and customers.

🐬  PLAN C: For Smaller Flies  —  

  • Felt Needles are used by sewers and felters and they have great needles which make great mandrels for the smaller stuff and you can get a slew of them cheapo on Amazon.     60 PIECES 79mm, 86mm, 91mm Felting Needle For Wool - Three Sizes — a few dollars.
    Next  I needed some tube conversion holders and I had seen the offers from two popular vice manufacturers.  They looked like pin vices.  I had been using Pin-Vises for a long time working on modeling for my business so I had a few gathering dust. Dust is not permitted in my world.  It gets used or blown out.  
  • The larger mandrels for  Salt streamers  and flies were made from Bicycle Spokes Pressing the tube against the ring end keep it from spinning.  Mandrels can be any size since it now since they can pass through.  Clever and cheap.  It allows extras such as add on tubes and extensions due to the pass through feature…