Steve Farrar’s Blend: Review and list of Must-Have Colors to tie this season

OK fellow baitfish fly-tyers, here is a questin answered, as in – Hi Jay, I’m interested in trying some of the Steve Farrar’s synthetic wing materials you have mentioned in your fly tying videos, but am a little unsure as to where to start.

Having had the opportunity to look at and handle virtually every color of the Farrar synthetics to date, I have had a ball experimenting with these.  I first note that there is a Steve Farrar Blend, and then there is also a UV Steve Farrar Blend, and not all colors are available in the UV material.  There are also, naturally other materials offered that make great fresh and saltwater baitfish patterns, but i am going to focus this product review on the Farrar’s Blend in the colors that I find myself most often incorporating into my flies.

One point of note, I have found the perceived barriers or distinctions I formerly drew between ocean flies and freshwater flies dissolving.  Pretty much gone.  I now fish my river flies in the sea and my sea flies in the river.  Nice.

Texture assessment:  this material is a synthetic and it relatively fine.  Similar to Bucktail but a little slimmer fibers, I would say. The fibers are somewhat “translucent-ish” if that makes sense, because they range from very solid in the dark colors to the translucent in colors like the pink and chartreuse and mackerel.  Most of the fibers have a little crinkle in them – that is to say they are not necessarily arrow shaft straight like we expect with Fish Hair.  The SF Blend fibers are firmer than Craft Fur (by far) but have more wiggle and flex than Fish Hair.

Typically NOT boring: these SF Blends usually but not always have a variety of colors mixed together to make the overall color appearance.  Not so with some colors.  The Bleeding Black and Midnight Blitz are strictly black fibers with added metallic sheen fibers in the red or blue range to enhance the appearance.  Point is, with many synthetic fibers you get a single color and stiffness in all of the fibers, but with SF you have a blend of fibers that I think make the product fishier to both tier and the intended eaters of our creations.

Slightly compressible.  Think they are anyway.  Less to than bucktail and Craft Fur, and EP Fibers and other related products.  More so than Fish Hair.  Maybe about the same as with Yak hair, but I honestly have only a passing acquaintance with the Yak.  I tie with Clear Cure Goo and traditional cement like Penetrator (addicted to the sniff of the good old stuff) and have good results with both.

Length and tips character:  the bundles of fibers are roughly 9 inches long.  because these bundles consist of  blended loose fibers, the bundles have an appearance that is much like hair because the tips are not squared-off.  Wings constructed by simply clipping off a pinch of SF Blend and tying it in look great and require no effort to create a taper like we would need to do if using a different product that consists of equal length fibers.

After creating natural looking wings/flies using the fibers cut directly from both ends of the hank, one may create a taper by systematically messing up the squared-off bundle of fibers remaining in the center of the hank.

Overall, SF Blend and SF UV bend is excellent stuff to work with at the fly bench.  It comes in hanks of loose fibers with the sparkle and color variation blended in.  I sometimes cut a hank in two equal sections to tie with.  Other times I will separate off a section of fibers thick enough to tie a single fly and then tie it in using the double-back-over technique.

This material has earned my respect and absolute devotion over a full season tying fresh and saltwater flies.

Here are my most reached-for Steve Farrar’s Blend colors.  Obviously this list is shaped by my quirks and the local environments i fish.  The synthetics are offered in a color range that is probably four or five times longer than my list, and you should certainly browse the full list to see if some of the colors would better suit the bait-fish imitations you tie for different geographic regions and fish species.

But if you fish Pacific Northwest Salt or Fresh waters, I frankly think you could not go wrong with an assortment that includes the following palate.

Bleeding Grey: I use this for bellies, lateral lines, and backs on different flies.  it has sheen and hints of red and will find its way onto your bench I’m betting.

Chartreuse: one of several color shades, this is my favorite middle of the road pick for the white and green Clouser, a catch everything anytime fly.

Dark Green:  use this instead of the Chartreuse for a switch up.

Herring Back:  When ya gotta have a blue herring back on your fly, this one can’t be beat.

Bleeding Black:  I use this shade for backs of Sea Flies tied for Ling Cod, Chinook Clousers, and also for tails on Comets.  Think it will find its way into my Intruders eventually too.

Midnight Blitz:  Much like the above shade, but this one has blue sparkle hints instead of red.  Bait-fish backs and Comet Tails.

Bucktail White:  This is the brightest of the white shades offered and a bit more crinkly, with lots of shiny fibers blended in.  I tie with all the white shades, but this is my choice when I want the white to POP.

Pink:  forgot to put pink in the photo but this is my choice for my pink and chartreuse Chinook clousers and my coho bucktail offshore flies.  Steelhead had better look out when I fish my Bleeding Mackerel and Pink Clouser this winter.  Hah!

Fl. Chartreuse:  Rather pale compared to Fl Chartreuse Bucktail, this will still light up a fly in tidewater and ocean environments, and I tie with it regularly.

Electric Yellow:  ya want bright?  Here you go.  Almost Fl Yellow Chartreuse, I tie in a pinch of this color if i want my fly to really shine in low light conditions.

Bleeding Orange:  A favorite offshore rockfish and Ling Cod color, also used in my Chinook Comets.

Hot orange:  Darker and hotter and mottled like most of Steve’s blends, this is another offshore bottom fish selection that I will fish for Kings in 2014, soon as I catch my breath

Mullet Brown:  If you tie bottom fish flies, you gotta try this stuff.  Mottled and sparkly with browns and hints of black.  Smallie Clousers should be irresistible with this, but never tried it myself yet.

Bleeding Red:  Perfect mottled dark red with sparkly hints for my Patriot Clouser pattern.

Violet Night:  An awesome purple beauty for backs of unweighted offshore flies, including Albacore flies, and my dark day Clousers.

Bleeding Purple:  Adds the hint of red sparkle and

Bleeding Mackerel: Among my top 6 colors.  Difficult to describe.  This is a greenish, bluish, got some black and some sparkle and some red and some fluorescence and it works for backs and bellies and is just amazing stuff.  YOU MUST GET SOME OF THIS.

Top six Farrar Blend colors:  Bucktail White, Bleeding Mackerel, Bleeding Black, Bleeding Grey, Fl Chartreuse, Chartreuse, Pink, Dark Green.  OK, that’s eight top colors, but hey, I’m just say-in’ these are fantastic assets on the tying bench.  You literally can not go wrong if you start with these colors, remembering you will need several packs of the white to tie your bellies with different color backs……

Jay Nicholas, December 2013

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6 Responses to Steve Farrar’s Blend: Review and list of Must-Have Colors to tie this season

  1. mike doughty says:

    this is good stuff. i use it quite a bit.

  2. Jim Brown says:

    Hi Jay,

    Great article.

    Since we have had such a crappy spring I have been tying salmon flies for our trip to Winter Harbour this summer.

    I purchased 10 different colors of Steve’s blend. The Bucktail White and the Electric Yellow are straight with no curl what so ever and the flies I have tied with them are just plain ugly. I may have received a bad batch of these colors and have just discarded them. I am back to using my old horde of polar bear hair for the white and yellow buck tail for the yellow.

    The Herring Back, Bleeding Gray, Bleeding Yellow, Bleeding Mackeral and Bleeding Black are my favorite and I have almost used up my supply. This stuff is the best I have ever worked with and encourage every one to try it.

    Thanks for leading me to Steve Farrar’s Blend thru your article,

    Jim

  3. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Jim: thanks for your note. I have a lot of experience with this material and want to add to your notes about those two colors. Unlike some synthetic materials that are very consistent, The SF Blend is not always so. I have seen three varieties of the bucktail white and two versions of the electric yellow, two versions of the off-white and two versions of the UV white. Where all these are concerned, I also found some batches that were straight with no curl (just like you said) and quite unsatisfactory except when used in very small quantities (the electric yellow is bright enough to be useful with a half dozen strands). The bucktail white is now super consistent and very pleasing. I think that the quality control issues they had with this material have mostly been remedied, so it should only be “OLD” packages of early runs that are still hanging on pegs in shops that pose an issue. At least I hope so. The bleeding mackerel, bleeding black, and bucktail white, anchovy, Mullet brown, shrimp, pale olive are among my favorite colors. I have not ben pleased so far with herring back but the too curly materials may be coming out better since I last purchased some of this wonderful blue color. Good luck and have fun with your tying! JN

  4. Brian says:

    Regarding the comments on some straight and some crinkly SF blends I’ve experienced this too except for me I was tying smaller 3″ clousers with orange SF under mullet brown and a rootbeer angel hair back which kind of emulates a ghost shrimp . Both colors came without crinkle material in the blend and I think it works just great like that for those closer to standard size clousers. Once I ran out of my first packs of SF I went and got more mullet brown and orange and this time the mullet brown was loaded with crinkly slinky fiber which fowls like a mofo unless you can add some rigitity in the form of maybe a flash tail mid section with an inch or so clear cure goo’ed coming off the back of the fly to make a fowl guard so the SF doesn’t wrap around your hook. Since then I’ve found good use for the slinkier fibers but personally I wish they would offer SF blend in both varieties because both have their purpose. I used to have the luxury of going in to a local fly shop and looking through all the packages to find ones I wanted but now I have to order online which makes it hit or miss at best in regard to getting the consistency I’m after. Anyway if anyonee is interested in the clouser I describe it’s called the Liberace Clouser (because it’s loaded with flash) and I’ve caught every species So Cal has to offer on it. I’m moving to the north coast of CA in a month and I hope to test it on rockfish and I’m almost positive they will slurp it right up without hesitation as every species of bass has readily eaten it down here. FYI your flies are definitely on point and I look forward to trying your lingcod clouser when I land on the north coast. Cheers!

  5. Brian says:

    So I’ve figured out why there are two different types of SF blend, one with slinky fiber and one with only straight fibers. SF makes two types, one is the slinky and the other is what they call SF Bucktail which seems to come in many of the same colors as the slinky. So it’s not really a quality control issue it’s more of a package labeling issue because I have a bunch of the straight fibers but you can only see that it is named SF Bucktail on a couple of the labels. hope that helps. Keep up the great work with your blog!

  6. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    First thanks for your note. Second, give me a call if you would like to discuss this further, as it is a shifting playing field from year to year on several colors. JN

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