Everything about Intruders part 3: The swim factor
Last week we went over the various propping materials and how to best utilize them in your fly. This week we'll be going over the fun stuff; the long soft fibers that give your fly its fullness and profile. There are a multitude of different materials that are used for this. We'll be going over several of the most popular. Just like the props we discussed last week any long soft material will work and your imagination is the only limiting factor. To start we will begin with one of the most popular materials today and the feather that gave birth to the modern intruder; the ostrich feather.
The ostrich feather is what started it all. In fact it was a feather duster that got the gears in the brain of Ed Ward turning. The ostrich plumes used in the feather duster had long soft fibers and a thin enough stems in the tip so they could be wrapped as a hackle. The membrane of the ostrich feather gives the fibers stiffness toward the base with tremendous amounts of rebound. Rebound is simply the structure of the fiber fighting the current. When compressed a material with rebound doesn't stay in this compressed position. It returns to its normal shape. This is where much of the movement comes from. The water pushes on the fiber and the fiber pushes back causing the fiber to wiggle to and fro. An ostrich feather's tip tied in tip first like a hackle is a tremendous forward shoulder because of this.
This application is perfect for a forward shoulder but is also expensive. One plume makes one fly. Because of this I'll always save the tip sections but that still leaves the rest of those fibers still on the quill. Ostrich can also be tied straight in over a prop. Often times for the rear station of a two stage fly I'll tie a "tail" with the ostrich. Sometimes it’s ten to twelve fibers tied directly on top. This is referred to as a stinger tail. Other times it's nine strands flanking each side. This is the twin tail. The fibers can also be tied in three hundred and sixty degrees around the rear prop. This is referred to as being tied in the round. I wouldn't say one is really any better than the other. It's all a matter of personal aesthetic preference and depends on how you would like your fly to look. For forward shoulders on either a two station fly with a tail or a single station fly ostrich can be spun in a dubbing loop in front of a prop. It's more difficult but if you’re up to the challenge you can put your prop and ostrich together in the same composite loop to minimize tying time. Extra Select Ostrich is long and fin in texture with lots of rebound. Regular Ostrich Herl Plumes are thicker and softer, which create more bulk, and are often used for wrapping bodies of flie, but can also be used for wings and tails..
Rhea is also a great choice that is similar to ostrich but with finer fibers. The aesthetic of those soft slim fibers when tied is a must for some. Rhea does also tie slightly differently. Because of its fine fibers it is much easier to manage and tie straight in over a prop. When tying in the round for a forward shoulder there's a little trick I like to use to minimize bulk that our pro tube rep Bruce Berry was nice enough to show me. Tie in four or five fibers at a time all the way around the shank. When your done grab the fibers just back from the tie in point and hold them pressed tightly against the shank. From here unwind all of the wraps you just made with your other hand. It's is essential to keep the fibers held tightly with your non bobbin hand. Once unwound, make one or two loose wraps back over the Rhea. Make a few securing wraps over the rhea and let it go. Use a bodkin to move any crooked fibers to your desired position and make several more wraps to really lock everything down. There you go; you turned thirty to fifty thread wraps into ten. If you want to spin it I would recommend sandwiching your rhea between two layers of dubbing. Because they are finer than ostrich they tend to easily fall out of the loop or spin up somewhat crooked even with dubbing wax applied to the loop. The dubbing help keeps them from shifting when you place them in your loop and makes for easier spinning and tying.
The next tying material we will discuss is rubber legs. Rubber legs are a great addition to an intruder. They come in just about every color combination you could imagine. They don't absorb water making flies tied with them relatively easy to cast. They are also extremely durable and have excellent movement. Many modern intruder style flies incorporate them. Some flies like Scott Howell's Squidro are tied almost entirely out of them. They are also a great accenting product. I’ll occasionally throw a pair of them in an ostrich or rhea intruder for contrasting color and movement. I’ve also found that they seem to move fish in muddy water with low visibility. I think that the rubber legs are easier for a fish to detect with their lateral line. If you drop an ostrich fiber on your arm vs. dropping a rubber leg, the rubber leg has more mass that you can feel. We especially like the effect that Fly Enhancer Legs give an Intruder fly.
Flashabou and Angel Hair are also great ingredients for an intruder. Some people say no flash no fish. I’m a believer in appropriate amounts of flash for the condition. If its low and clear I use very little so my fly softly whispers “come eat me” as opposed to a high dirty water scenario where I’d tie in lots of flash for a fly that is more screaming than whispering. Some flies like a prom dress are tied entirely out of flashabou. Flashabou has great movement in the water and absorbs no water. The way it pulsates and reflects light is reminiscent of many prey items of anadromous fish. I think that pulsation and reflection gives the illusion of life to your fly. It goes from a colored blob to something with a little more depth to it. Angel hair is similar to flashabou but much finer. It can tie extremely small flies as well as be spun in as an accent in a composite loop or even as the entire forward shoulder. Both of these flashes are excellent tied in on the sides as lateral lines.
The last commonly used item we will discuss is marabou. Marabou is one of the easiest materials to work with. It has natural taper to its fibers and although soft throughout, still maintains the short stiff to long and soft concept. Because of its softness it will always need a prop to maintain profile. The membrane on marabou is not as strong as that of ostrich and it has trouble maintaining profile on its own when wrapped. The profile it forms when propped however, is perfect. Marabou is one the easiest material to get a teardrop shape out of. Adjust the fullness of your prop and the marabou fibers will always form a teardrop behind it.
Those are some of the most commonly used long wiggly intruder materials. Like stated previously these are all just examples. If you think it might work, make it work. Want to tie antron yarn fiber intruders? Try it! Spun marblefox instead of ostrich? Go for it! Next week we’ll be going over our last installment; Intruder accessories – all the fancy bells and whistles to make your intruder truly yours. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or need clarification on anything discussed we’re a phone call away at 800-266-3971, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy tying!