The countdown to the first cast has begun, and if you’re looking for inspiration at the vice, I recommend you consider this selection of fly-tying items I have tested over the past year. There is so much creative potential in these quality products, among them fabulous Zonker strips, a seriously good mains-powered UV lamp and the best barbless alternative to Britain’s most popular stillwater hook.

Fulling Mill Zonker Strips

£5.25 per pack (all sizes).

Fulling Mill Zonker Strips

Fulling Mill now supplies fly-tying materials direct, as well as the ready-tied flies for which it is famous.

It appears to be doing so in style judging by these marvellous Zonker strips, which are ideal for winter fry and baitfish patterns. There are four types: Micro with a 2mm width (ten strips per pack); Standard with a 3mm width (eight strips); Big Game with a 6mm width (four strips); and Cross Cut (eight strips), which is cut against the grain of the skin and used for winding around the hook shank (much like a hackle), allowing the fur to be laid back after each wind to create a streamlined fly body or hackle with incredible pulsing movement.

Big Game strips are ideal for big pike and saltwater patterns, but they are more air-resistant and not suitable for standard trout outfits.

The quality and dying of these 23cm (8in-9in) long strips is immaculate, and they are cut precisely. They are then mounted to a backing card and inserted into a sealed packet so that they remain perfectly straight with no kinks in the skin, which means there should be minimal wastage. Each packet is hermetically sealed and must be cut open to access an inner resealable opening. This attention to detail is commendable and results in a superior, user-friendly and more durable product.

There are 28 colours. Standard hues are white, cream, black, tan, charcoal, natural brown, grizzly, olive, brown, yellow, chartreuse, orange, pink, purple, rust and orange craw. Mottled and two-tone colours are olive or gold grizzly, olive grizzly black-barred, gold grizzly black-barred, grizzly black-barred, yellow black-barred, ginger black-barred, chartreuse and white black-barred, fire tiger black-barred (a favourite for salmon fly wings), and olive, ginger or peach brown-barred.

With these strips, Fulling Mill has set a new standard of quality control and consumer experience. The strips are also great value for money.

Web (buy online or through stockists):


Celtic Blob Company UV mains-powered lamp

£79.99. Diamond Gel Coat, £11.99.

Celtic Blob Company UV mains-powered lamp

If you use UV resin frequently, this mains electricity V2 UV lamp from the Celtic Blob Company (CBC) will do away with the need to regularly change batteries. Its metal bulldog clamp is powerful and will grip benchtops up to 25mm deep. It has a long (38cm) swan neck that can be manipulated into any position. The circular lamp’s head is also made of metal and houses seven bulbs, giving an impressive 50 watts of power — compared to the 3-5 watts of a standard battery UV torch — meaning UV resin hardens to the touch almost instantly.

Most UV products set at a wavelength between 395-405 nanometres (nm), while some brands set at 365nm. Therefore, depending on the wavelength of your torch, you may find certain resins don’t harden and remain tacky. To combat this, and to work with all resins, in this lamp are bulbs of three different wavelengths between 365nm and 405nm.

CBC sells its own Diamond Gel Coat resin, in four colours: fluorescent orange, yellow, chartreuse and clear. These are in the 395-405nm range. The three extremely bright colours are great for hotspots on epoxy trout and grayling bugs, such as Perdigons, the butts and heads of classics like the Stick Fly (for the old-school among us), and the cheeks of Buzzers. CBC is adding neon red to the gel range soon and is currently perfecting a white option, too.

The brushes are fairly big, ideal for larger areas, but a dubbing needle is best for applying finer detail.

Contact Celtic Blob Company  Tel 0292 0753 120  Web


Semperfli Tungsten Slotted Beads


Semperfli Tungsten Slotted Beads

The design of Semperfli’s new slotted tungsten bead maximises the weight of each bead size by fine-tuning the aperture of the hole and slot. Coating and finishes (where applicable) appear flawless, and colours include the most popular used in trout and grayling fishing, as well as more unusual effects.

There is a mottled range in white/ruby, black/gold or black/olive, which remind us of a modern brand of jellybean, only round. Rainbow beads dazzle with every colour of the spectrum and there’s also purple, fluoro orange, fluoro green, cobalt, standard silver, copper, gold and black nickel.

The smallest bead is only 1.5mm diameter, which is a challenge to pick up, let alone thread on a hook — magnifiers and nimble hands are a must. Other sizes are 2mm, 2.3mm, 2.8mm, 3.3mm, 3.8mm and 4.6mm. Ten beads per pack.

The Semperfli website has a downloadable fitting chart that details which hook brands, models and sizes will fit each Semperfli bead — even the dust-like 1.5mm. Very useful.

Tel 01757 333001  Web (for retailers):


Loop Angel Hair hanks


Loop Angel Hair hanks and dubbing

This Angel Hair by Loop is an ultra-fine flash and is supplied in 6in hanks. It is a first-choice addition to hair wings on salmon and sea-trout flies. As the strands are so fine, they don’t overpower the base hair in the wing. Just half-a-dozen strands will help create wings (depending on their volume) that flicker with light and life.

You can also use this flash as an effective dubbing. Chop it to the length you want, apply it, then brush it out to reveal its fine, flashy tentacles. Chopped flash is especially effective as a dubbing ball used to lift a hackle or wing. Loop supplies a chopped dubbing version in the same colours as the hanks. They have a fine base fur to help bind the flash, making it easier to form a dubbing rope or dubbing ball.

There are 12 colours of Angel Hair: visit the Peake brothers’ website to see each blend and its multitude of colours. Our favourites are Kola Gold, Umba Bronze and the similar Thunder and Lightning, Lohinka Copper and Black Thunder.

Contact Loop Tackle  Web


Textreme Spool Tree and Flash Carousel

£48. £41

Textreme Spool tree and tree carousel

Tired of the tying bench chaos caused by rogue bobbins and tangled hanks of flash? These 3D-printed storage solutions could be your saviour. They are made from steel and plastic from renewable sources by Italian company Textreme. The Spool Tree holds up to 84 bobbins of thread, the Hank Carousel up to 100 hanks. They are easy to assemble (with instructions and video via a QR code), robust and useful.

Available in white, grey and black, the bobbin holder is 25cm high and the Flash Carousel 50cm for long hanks and 25cm for short ones. Pricey, but well made — we don’t think you’ll regret it.

Contact Flybox  Tel 0800 862 0117  Web