Tubes and Cones for Spring Salmon Fishing

Tubes and Cones for Salmon
Before the advent of plastic fly lines, the weight of the fly determined the depth at which it could be fished. Today there are two ways to get a fly to fish close to the riverbed. The first is to use a sinking line of some sort. The other is to use a weighted fly or, if circumstances dictate, both.

Some anglers swear by the combination of a fast sinking line and a light, mobile fly, the idea being to impart as much action into the fly as possible. Others judge that in cold conditions a heavy fly is most effective; however, when determining which fly to use, all too often, that choice is made by nothing more scientific than bouncing the fly in the palm or your hand.

There has been a great deal of development in the area of weighted tubes – bottle tubes, in particular, have become popular. Even so, the classic Slipstream tubes sold by Veniard are still the most widely used. Brass has now been dropped from the range, leaving only copper and aluminium in lengths from ½ in-2½ in.

Guideline Bottle Tubes
Interestingly, loads of experienced salmon-fishers talk about the merits of the various types of metal tube, a surprising number assume that brass is heavier than copper. This is a fallacy, as brass, being an alloy of copper and zinc, cannot be heavier than pure copper.

Although copper and aluminium are now the most widely used metals, a relative newcomer is tungsten, which is much heavier. For example, a 1 inch tungsten tube weighs more than twice that of a similar-sized copper one. This enables very heavy flies to be produced – even relatively small ones. In fact, tungsten’s real benefit comes to the fore when a small fly is needed, especially one that must sink very quickly.

There are still some of the old 2½ inch brass tubes kicking around - mainly in cupboards and old fly tying chests. At the time they were the best solution when a big fast sinking fly was needed, such as the Willie Gunn.

Aluminium And Copper

Aluminium & Copper Tubes
Aluminium and copper tubes are sized in quarter-inch increments from ½ in-2 inch. The longest is actually 2½ inch but available only in copper. The list provided (above) matches the weight of each tube to its length and material. While perfectly adequate for tying flies, the manufacture of these tubes has a degree of tolerance. Batches of the same type and length vary – but this, while noticeable, has little bearing on the fly’s action or sink-rate.

Slipstream Copper Tubes

Replacing a Liner

Lining Tube
To add a cone head to a Slipstream tube, you need to replace the lining tube, as the existing one isn’t long enough. If tying on a pin rather than a collet-style vice, the tube can rotate on the plastic liner. To stop this, add a tiny drop of Superglue to the burred end of the liner before pushing it into the tube. This will be enough to lock liner and tube together, while still allowing the liner to be removed if required.

Replace a Liner

Cone Heads

Cone Heads are an important element of the modern salmon fly and can be used in conjunction with plastic tubes as well as with the metal ones already discussed.

Guideline FITS Turbo Cones
Cone heads, which were initially made of brass, are now also manufactured in tungsten. These are usually added at the head, and on metal tubes – unlike plastic – this is the only position they will fit.
Various sizes can be used, however the diameter of metal tubes means that the smaller cones aren’t really suitable. For this reason, medium and large are the two sizes of cone most appropriate for a metal tube, whether it is aluminium, copper or tungsten.

Cone Heads
Depending on the make, the size of the recess in the back of the cone varies. Most, such as Veniard’s Scandi, Guideline’s Fitz and Pro Cones, are large enough to accommodate the front of a metal tube. Eumer’s brass cones are perfectly fine, too, though their tungsten cones have a very small recess – which works well enough with plastic tubes but won’t accept a metal one so well. To use a Eumer tungsten cone with a metal tube, tie the hackle directly on to the plastic liner.

Scandinavian Tungsten Coneheads

Overall Fly Weight

With different combinations of tube and cone, it is possible to select the weight of your fly according to the strength of the current and the depth at which you want it to fish. This can be illustrated using a Cascade tied on a one-inch tube (aluminium, copper, and tungsten) with or without brass or tungsten cone, plus a hook:

Cascade Tied with Different Combinations

  • Aluminium tube with no cone weighs 0.57g
  • Aluminium tube with brass cone weighs 1.14g
  • Copper tube with no cone weighs 1.48g
  • Aluminium tube with tungsten cone weighs 1.67g
  • Copper tube with brass cone weighs 2.06g
  • Copper tube with tungsten cone weighs 2.53g
  • Tungsten tube with no cone weighs 2.71g

The plain tungsten tube is heavier than any other combination using a cone. Adding a cone to this may make it too heavy to cast, but you might want to add a cone head for cosmetic reasons. Some cones are very light and have a large recess, which are ideal for this purpose.

This experiment, if nothing else, shows that it is possible to fine-tune the weights of your flies. It also shows that, while modern fly lines play their part, it’s a good idea when tying or buying flies to have a wide selection of weights of fly at your disposal.

If you would like to try tying our own tube flies, we have a fantastic range of fly tying materials, tools and fly tying kits available at fishingmegastore.

Dyna-King Tube Fly Vice
And if you are still unsure about what combinations work best, please call us on 0141 212 8880 and our team of fishingmegastore experts can advise you on the best tube fly materials to purchase.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout & Salmon Magazine.