This post is the first in what I hope to be a long string of posts about substituting cheaper and/or easier-to-find alternatives for expensive and/or hard-to-find fly tying materials. Today, I’m covering Kreelex Flash. Don’t know what this is? It’s what you need to tie this amazing streamer, video courtesy Headhunters Fly Shop up on the Missouri River.
The Original Material
Kreelex or “Kreinik” Flash is great stuff. This is a somewhat crinkled, muted flash with a great deal of inherent stiffness that’s ideal for streamer flies. It’s the primary material for Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex fly, one of the hottest trout streamers in the Rockies right now, though it was developed in the eastern United States, and also a great smallmouth and largemouth bass, pike, and even redfish pattern, when tied in the right colors.
The specific material involved is sold by only a handful of fly shops. Montana Fly Company dealers may stock it under the brand name “Fish Flash.” For the widest selection of colors, particularly blends of multiple colors, this is the best option.
Larger packages of this material, sold as Kreinik Flash, are available from a handful of fly shops, most of them in the eastern United States. The two most prominent are probably Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, which sells it HERE, and Eastern Trophies Fly Fishing, which sells it HERE.
HOWEVER, there are several cheaper alternatives, particularly for solid colors and pearls, both cheaper sources of the identical material that are great choices if you tie LOTS of Kreelexes, and other fly tying-specific materials that might be easier to find if you only expect to tie a few or want to try some alternate color combos that aren’t available with Fish Flash.
I’ll start off with the identical material.
Cheaper Sources for the Real Thing
The name “Kreinik” might be a clue. In reality, like so much in fly fishing, this material started off life as a craft fiber. Kreinik is the company that distributes it, under the name Kreinik Flash. I assume they source it in ton lots from China or wherever.
Here’s a side note: this company knows that fly tiers use their products, and even have a separate section of their website devoted to fly tying. I highly encourage you to check out some of their other materials in addition to Kreinik Flash, particularly the assorted braids and “blending filament,” which are useful for ribbing, bodies on medium-sized nymphs and wet flies, etc. Side note finished.
Kreinik Flash available from the company itself is available both in small amounts labeled “Flash-in-a-Tube” and in bulk amounts that will tie literally hundreds of flies. If you’re only looking for a small amount of flash, the “Flash-in-a-Tube” option is honestly not any better than buying from a fly shop, since the pricing is no better and it’s harder to choose the precise colors you want from their myriad options. If you love the Kreelex or are tying them commercially, as I do, the bulk option here is by far the cheapest way of getting a lot of this material.
Ordering this material is honestly kind of a pain. Though the link given above appears to provide a shopping cart option for direct sales, in reality the orders (including billing the last time I made an order) are fulfilled through the company’s independent dealers, who may or may not actually have the material on hand and ready to ship when you order and may or may not have any understanding of fly fishing, meaning they might not be able to help if you have questions or problems with your order. For that reason, shipping often takes a couple weeks and the process is something of a crapshoot. Nonetheless, the price is SOOOOOOO much better that it’s worth it, if you know what to order.
So what should you order?
The colors given on the link above are generally accurate, so choose the colors you like. HOWEVER, the material itself is not consistent across all colors. The materials you want to tie Kreelexes or similar flies are those whose color codes end in “HL” or in “V.” The “HL” colors are more popular as the “V” colors are rather muted. Do not choose colors ending in “L,” as these colors are actually constructed from a different material apparently identical to Holographic Flashabou. This material does not handle like the “proper” material and I do not think it makes very good Kreelexes. The holographic colors do make a perfectly good substitute if you are looking for Holographic Flashabou. I have not used any colors with codes ending in “F,” which are glow-in-the-dark materials, but I suspect these are identical to glow-in-the-dark Flashabou.
Much of the marketing around Kreinik Flash, whether sold under its own name or as MFC Fish Flash, is that it’s the ONLY material suitable for tying the pattern. While true if you’re looking to tie the specific color combinations Chuck Kraft, Montana Fly Company, and now Umpqua Feather Merchants produce, this is just marketing hype if you’re okay with slight variances OR deliberately want to tie something you can’t tie exactly using the available colors or blends of Kreinik Flash.
Before going into what you CAN use instead of Kreinik Flash, I should probably note first what you CAN’T, at least if you want a fly that performs in the water more or less like Kreinik Flash. You should not use Krystal Flash, standard, holographic, saltwater, magnum, mirage, accent, or lateral scale Flashabou, or any similar fiber that resembles hanks of tinsel. Unfortunately, these are the most readily-available materials in fly shops.
Two other types of Flashabou are my preferred alternate materials, with another Hedron (Flashabou’s manufacturer or at least distributor) product filling out the top three.
My favorite material for Kreelexes beside Kreinik Flash is Flashabou Weave. This product appears almost identical to Kreinik, save that it comes in combinations of colors rather than solid colors. These combinations are fascinating and make for some very “baitfishy” flies. I use the black/silver/gold combination for the backs of my Baby Whitefish Kreelex, for example.
My second favorite alternate material is Speckled Flashabou. While sold as regular Flashabou, this material does not seem to clump together as readily as regular Flashabou. Moreover, the myriad tiny black flecks interspersed with the base color provide a similar effect as the slight crinkling of Kreinik Flash and also mute the colors slightly and make the strands less reflective than regular Flashabou, both features of Kreinik Flash. This is the material I used to tie my Kreelexes before I got a hold of the standard material, and in all honesty these flies worked the same as later ones I’ve tied. This material comes in gold, silver, and copper, combinations of which are the most popular colors of the Kreelex.
The final substitute material I recommend is Polarflash. Texturally this material is great, with a coarseness comparable to Kreinik Flash. It’s much brighter than Kreinik, however, with even dark colors like black possessing a pearlescent or even iridescent glow. This is fine for bellies on baitfish patterns (I use the pearl color as the belly on my Baby Whitefish Kreelex), but it is somewhat limiting since many situations do not call for flies that light up like lanterns in the water.
Except for bellies on baitfish patterns, I suspect this material works best in dirty water situations, especially in smaller sizes for fish such as crappie, white bass, and bluegill. Tie a chartreuse and yellow streamer on a #12 jig hook with a black tungsten bead and let me know how it works under a bobber in an eastern lake—I still do a little warmwater fly fishing, once in a while.
What are you waiting for? Go tie some Kreelexes!