Why Go 5D?
Last summer, I got a chance to return to Alaska and guide one of my favorite fisheries - king salmon on the fly - for a week. It’s my favorite Alaska salmon fishery because of the king grab; that unmistakable, deep, slow pull of a big fish down deep. Big fish eat big flies, and in the past I had spent many after hours tying sessions in the guide tent spinning up big mouthfuls of marabou, rabbit, ostrich, dumbbell eyes and various types of flash. The idea was to get down deep and maximize both profile and motion to get the heavy fish to move out of their traveling lane and take a swipe. 

In late June, I flew up north at a moment’s notice to fill an unexpected void in the guide roster. After ten years away from guiding, my fly selection had withered and partly disappeared, with many flies exhibiting matted down fibers, faded and broken marabou and brittle rubber legs. I couldn’t locate a big Tupperware box or two of flies that I swore I used to have. In short, I needed to spend some time at the tying bench.

Given the time constraints, and the utilitarian mood I found myself in, I wanted to tie as many effective big king flies in as little time as possible. Flies that would catch fish as well as any others but not bring me to tears if I lost a few on one of the Kanektok River’s numerous treacherous snags. Instead of compromising fly quality, or spending as much as six to ten dollars on really killer store-bought flies, I reached for Fair Flies 5D Brushes. With just a couple wraps of the Fair Flies brushes, I was able to tie complex composite patterns in mere minutes.

Steelhead fly tied with Fair Flies Mindbender Red and Black 5D Brush

These are the criteria I looked for in a productive king salmon guide fly:

  1. Effectiveness (obviously)
  2. Profile
  3. Motion
  4. Color 
  5. Flash
  6. Castability
  7. Ease of tying (speed)

With high paying clients in my boat, the single, overarching criterion while guiding was, not surprisingly, whether or not the fly put fish in the net. My flies didn’t have to be glass case worthy, didn’t have to incorporate jungle cock or golden pheasant or kingfisher or any other fancy materials. They just needed to get the job done, consistently. Their effectiveness depended on all the other factors: 

Profile. In other words, how much of a silhouette the fly presented. I wanted a fly that pushed water, stood out, had some meat on its bones. Here is where Fair Flies 5D Brushes really came in handy. My favorite two king brushes, the Steely Blue/Purple and the Mindbender Red/Black brush, both have several different durable synthetic materials spun together to create enough body to push water and elicit a response from deep running kings. 

Motion. As in any type of streamer fishing, a king salmon fly must move against the current, swim and even breathe if a king is going to spend precious energy going after it. The more the materials move and suggest something alive, the better. My favorite Fair Flies brushes incorporate several different materials - Baitfish Emulator Flash, Grizzly Flashabou, and rubber legs, among others - that undulate seductively in the slightest current. 

Color. There really isn’t any hard and fast rule when it comes to color. Many people subscribe to sayings like “black and blue, tried and true,” or “if it ain’t chartreuse, it ain’t no use.” It is possible that color is the least important variable, after profile and presentation, but most of us have our favorite confidence colors, and when it comes down to it, confidence is the all important factor. Luckily, Fair Flies 5D brushes come in thirty nine different colors, so no matter what fish you are chasing you can choose a color of brush that you believe in. 

Fair Flies 5D brushes on a display showing variety of pattern options

Flash. Critical to some, irrelevant to others, flash is perhaps sometimes overused, but it’s a confidence booster. I like flash, and I’ve caught several steelhead on flies that were tied exclusively with Flashabou. The good news is that flashy materials like Krystal Flash, Flashabou and Baitfish Emulator Flash are highly supple and move extremely well in the water, so you get two birds with one stone. As with colors, there is a ton of diversity of flash in the lineup up of 5D brushes. Our Fly Fur brushes, for example the Big Daddy Brown Series, the Sculpinow brushes and the Steely Blue brush, are mostly Fair Flies Fly Fur, with relatively understated flash. Others, such as the Chromer Purple 5D brush, are almost entirely flash.

Castability. In my fishing career, I have sometimes been too focused on getting down deep at the expense of castability, which is to say, how easily a fly sheds water from one cast to the next, and in the air. Some natural and synthetic materials soak up a lot of water, which functions as an anchor and robs you of distance on your cast. If you don’t believe me, try casting with no fly and see how much easier it is. Fair Flies 5D brushes are designed to shed water quickly, with the added benefit that the fly, practically dry when it hits the water, lands like a feather so as not to spook fish. 

With Fair Flies brushes, I’m able to produce a complex composite loop (multiple materials spun together at the same time) effect in a mere fraction of the time it takes to spin a loop from scratch. Thanks to strong and fine stainless steel wire, the materials are held in place on the wire and don’t fall out.

So what happened in Alaska? My client, as most of them do, had brought enough flies to stock a fly shop. Of course, I didn’t blame him. It feels good to have a bunch of flies. I opened up one of my fly boxes and dangled one of my Fair Flies 5D flies, like an earring, in front of him. It was one of my Mindbender Red/Blacks, merely two or three wraps of a brush and nothing else. It was the first time I had ever shown a client a 5D fly, so I didn’t know what to expect. I said “what do you think about this one?” He made an O-face and said “oooooo, I want that one!” 

Long story short, we fished that Mindbender brush fly all day, caught several nice kings, and at the end of the day the fly was just as good as new, which is to say that at the end of the day the fly hadn’t faded, broken, or changed in any way. I gave it to him as a parting gift, and he said he would tell all of his buddies about Fair Flies. 

Fair Flies 5D brushes have applications that go well beyond the world of salmon and steelhead. I have caught many redfish, snook, jacks and pompano on our tan and shrimp brushes used as tails and bodies, with mono eyes and the brush and nothing else. I’ve cut off fibers from the Steely Shrimp Pink and Lavender brush, among others, and used them as tails on shrimp patterns. I’ve tied multiple colors of trout leeches with them. I’ve yet to do much bass fishing with the brushes, but with so many options available, our customers have used them with success for jigs and flies for bucketmouths. 

Fair Flies brushes radically change the game when tying complex flies. If you need to fill up boxes quickly, do yourself a favor and check them out.

What brushes have you tried? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

Post pictures of your flies, jigs or of your catch and tag us @atp.fish and @fairflies in your IG or FB post or email us (info@atp.fish)  and we'll get our friends over at Fair Flies to repost them. 

Fair fliesFly fishingFly tyingRecipeSteelheadTips

Leave a comment