A (Very) Short History of the Tube Fly

Ian McNemar's Practitioner-style prawns tied on tubes over the Thanksgiving Holiday have been a hit with readers.Given the excitement tube flies have and continue to generate among modern fly tyers, it might be useful to take a moment to review the history of tube flies and a short list of their more attractive features and advantages.

So, everyone’s talking about them: tube flies! Even though these flies may seem radically new, they have been in use for over 50 years.

The first tube flies were tied in 1945 by Winnie Morawski, a British fly tying instructor and professional tyer for Playfair and Company of Aberdeen. To produce the world’s first tube flies, Morawski tied standard Atlantic salmon patterns onto the discarded scraps of turkey quills that littered her desk. She then attached the hook separately, allowing the fly itself to slide up the leader during a strike, reducing the stress placed on the fly.

Morwaski’s innovative creations became known for lasting longer than the flies offered by her competitors. Eventually, her bench side experiment was spotted by Dr. William Mitchell who suggested the use of surgical tubing as a durable alternative to Morawski’s natural quills. The rest is, well, history.
Today, tube flies are fished throughout the world’s fly waters and continue to be associated with innovation. Tube flies offer steelhead anglers several unique advantages:

>> First and foremost, tube flies continue to be more durable than traditional, shank-tied flies – this is a plus when a fresh steelhead grabs your offering and goes!

>> Tube flies also allow a fly tyer to add an incredible amount of material to a fly pattern without using a bulky and heavy hook.

>> Using smaller, short-shanked hooks is also helpful to the steelheader, as levering action is greatly reduced, resulting in more hook ups and more big fish! Steelhead legend, Lani Waller, is convinced that fishing with tube flies has increased his hook up rate by 20 per cent!

>> Tube fly construction and rigging allows a hardcore steelheader to use a variety of hook styles, shapes, and sizes throughout the day and from fish to fish.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Ian said...


God damn! I have a few more to add, too. A tube fly meshed with a traditional featherwing and a simplified spey fly. Yep.


Canadian Bacon said...


I will have to shoot you a picture of my go to tube. Its accounted for almost 80% of my chrome on the Salmon River.