Monday, October 21, 2013

Confused About Flashy Chenille? Me Too!

So, ever since I went to Idaho and found an amazing crystal bugger pattern in olive, I've wanted to tie it up! So, what do I do? I order a bunch of material that looks like it is used in the process of making this fine specimen of a fly. Only problem is this: I get the material and they all look the same!

You've got your krystal flash chenille, cactus chenille, pearl chenille (which is NOT the color pearl), and estaz! So, I've dedicated this blogpost to sort out all the problems as I have had problems discovering what is what! I will be comparing each product side by side in great detail comparing the actual thread base and the length of the fibers and show you which material looks like in a simple Crystal Bugger example. I hope that makes sense! If not, just read on and, hopefully, it will! This is definitely NOT perfect! I know there will be flaws but I hope this helps you determine what you want to use this material for so you don't have to spend money on something that you cannot use or don't want to use and return.

5, yes, five different types of "chenille"! Lots to talk about! Yes, there are 6 packs of material but there's medium krystal flash and just krystal flash. Just to clarify.
 After comparing the fibers, here's something to keep in your mind when thinking about tying with this material: essentially medium krystal flash chenille and cactus chenille are the same. The only difference I see is the core is much more durable i.e. the fibers don't come out as easily with the cactus as they do with the krystal chenille. Also, comparing core thickness and fiber length, regular krystal flash and estaz.
Showing the different fiber characteristics with the names....

Close up of the fibers.....
So, let's start out with the first part of my research: flashiness. It sounds silly but flashiness is honestly a big thing in material here and it gets confusing especially when I was trying to determine how to tie a crystal bugger or some other flies for that matter! So, on a rough scale, I determined that estaz was the most flashy as it had larger sections of pearl flash intertwined in the makeup of the entire material. Cactus and krystal flash chenille seemed equally as flashy while the pearl chenille had more color fibers to it than flash i.e. the fiber color in contrast to the actual flashiness if that makes any sense. Finally, the ice chenille had no pearl fibers to emphasize the flashiness of the material itself. The material just acts as a reflector of light.

Second thing I researched was the fiber length of each piece of material. Estaz came in first with the length of all the fibers being the longest. With that being said, the ice chenille, cactus chenille, krystal flash/pearl chenille all matched in size. Theoretically, there really is no size difference between any of these materials and the size is so miniscule that it almost doesn't matter.

Third on the list of characteristics I was looking at was the actual fiber thickness NOT the core thickness which is what I'll get to next. The fiber thickness of each material was the same. There was no difference between the width of any of the fibers as I could tell. They all looked uniform.

Fourth, I looked at the actual core thickness or thread thickness that was used to make these materials. I found that estaz and cactus had the same thickness, which makes them the most durable, which I will get to in the final part of the comparison before they go on a hook. The ice chenille, pearl chenille/krystal flash chenille all came in at the same thickness which was less durable and thinner than the estaz and cactus.

Finally, I wanted to look at the durability of the material I was working with. I determined that the most tightly woven or wrapped material was the estaz as well as the cactus chenille although the estaz is just slightly more durable. I pulled on the fibers at the end of each material to see if I could pull the fibers out with ease. These were the toughest to get out and can really take a beating not just from fish but also from the elements. The ice and pearl/krystal flash chenille were very delicate and the fibers came out with ease.

This has just been talking about what the materials look like when they aren't on a hook! Let's compare them to each other while they're on a hook!

5 different materials. Using 3.2mm copper bead and #8 TMC 5262 hook.

Krystal flash medium bugger.

Cactus chenille medium bugger.
 Both the krystal flash and the cactus look similar on the hook so no real difference there. As far as in the water, they both look exactly the same as well. Personal opinion, I don't like it as far as a crystal bugger goes. Possibly will do well with other flies, though.
Estaz bugger.
 The estaz bugger looks bulky and full of clutter. It doesn't deserve to be on a streamer hook in my opinion as a stand alone bug. I'll stick with egg patterns with this one. Pretty flashy in the water, too. Not saying it WON'T work but for a crystal bugger, it's not my cup of tea.
Pearl chenille bugger.
 The original bugger! Using pearl chenille, it's my all time favorite looking fly as it looks good in the water but it's not too flashy but gives off just enough flash to attract the big ones.
Ice chenille medium bugger.
Finally, ice chenille has very little flash if none at all. I personally don't like the look of it as it looks sloppy and feels like it's missing something important. However, it's good to experiment and try new things and discover what looks good and what doesn't!

I hope this has been informative and not long winded. I put a lot of work into this but it's ultimately up to you as the individual to discover what materials are right for you! Experiment! Fly fishing is confusing but it's also fun! Just remember you can always return material you don't use. : ) Good thing!


  1. Sam, thanks for your work this is exactly the info I was looking for.

    Doug P

  2. Sam, thanks for your work this is exactly the info I was looking for.

    Doug P