• Fly tying: There's no new black.
  • Post author
    Magnus Nygren
  • fly fishingfly tyingfreshwaternymphingsalmonstreamer fishingtrout

Fly tying: There's no new black.

black fishing flies

It doesn't matter what happens in the fashion industry – when it comes to fly fishing, there's no new black.

We've all heard it!

"Orange is the new black," or "purple is the new black," or even that olive would be the new black.

Don't get me wrong – I know there are a lot of colors that are really effective in different types of flies. I love throwing white deceivers to snappers and other saltwater species, and big olive flies to pike, not to mention fishing a banana-colored zonker for salmon or a big gray articulated streamer for trout.

There are so many colors that are important when it comes to flies and fly tying, but none more important than black.

When I started fly fishing I was taught wise things like: it doesn't matter what fly you're using as long as it's black, or, you only need two flies – one big black fly and one small black fly.

Okay, I admit this might be a little exaggerated, but think about it. There are hundreds of different black fly patterns out there such as Black & Silver, Black Death, Black Gnat, Black Sheep, Black Zulu, Black Frances, Black Doctor, Black Ghost, and Black Prince, just to name a few. 

Why black? 

1. Black is a natural color.

Black fishing flies

There's a lot of fish food out there that's black

Leeches, stoneflies, gnats, beetles.

With a small black fly you're sure to imitate something most fish would like to eat.

2. Black is a highly visible color.

Night silhouette fly fishing

For night fishing, black is the color most frequently used by salmon and trout anglers.

No matter how dark the night sky is, a dense black fly will block out the little light there is and will be seen by fish as a black silhouette against a dark sky.

To increase the silhouette effect, I usually use deer hair or dubbing for the heads. My night flies almost always have big sculpin-like heads. The new black Fish-Skull® Sculpin Helmet™ provides another great option.

Black zonker strips are another optimal material for night flies. I usually use rabbit because it's a soft hair with a lot of movement. Rabbit is also available in pre-cut strips in many different widths.

The soft, dense hair, with the help of the skin strip, will give your fly a nice silhouette against the dark night sky.

3. Black works in dirty water.

Black fishing flies streamers

In dirty, ”Ganges”-colored water, it's important to use big, noisy, visible flies.

Once again, black is the go-to color.

A big black fly with a lot of flash and maybe a rattle and a muddler head is sure to get some attention.

4. Contrast!

Black salmon flies

Here's a subject close to my heart.

When it comes to salmon flies, contrast is an important ingredient.

There are a lot of salmon fly patterns with contrasting colors in them. Some of my favorite flies for salmon are built up with black as a base color and one or two brighter colors as a contrast.

The Black Sheep is a perfect example of a contrast fly. It has a black underwing/basewing that is surrounded with contrasting colors, a blue hackle, a yellow overwing and a red head.

This black contrast fly is a top fly and should be a must in every salmon fly angler's flybox.

Gray fishing flies streamers

There you have it! There is no new black.

But if there was, gray would definitely be the new black.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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About Magnus Nygren:

Magnus Nygren fly fishing dogMagnus lives in northern Sweden only a little more then a double haul from the closest salmon river, and with ten more rivers within a short drive. Since he picked up his first fly rod and bought his first vise everything changed. Magnus is a Flymen Fly Tying Associate and a contributor to Sweden's largest fly fishing magazine, Allt om Flugfiske.

  • Post author
    Magnus Nygren
  • fly fishingfly tyingfreshwaternymphingsalmonstreamer fishingtrout

Comments on this post (10)

  • May 04, 2021

    is the a fly called the “CONRAD” it was used by Ted Williams on many of his fishing trips Ted also used the “Black Does” I have not been able to locate either of the mentioned flies. Thank you for your trust and interest. Sincerely, Gary E. miller

    — gary edward miller

  • Dec 03, 2020

    You are absolutely right about dark fly,s at night,another thing that drive,s is when they say you should use bright colored fly,s in stained or muddy water,this is not true,black or dark fly,s again and I proved it myself on the St.Mary,s River in Nova Scotia.The river was swollen and dirty after heavy rain,s ,I took a grilse in the evening when we arrived and two the next morning before 9.30 all on dark fly,s,I only saw one other fish hooked on that trip.

    — Dave Barrett

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great article !!!

    — Giovanni Swierczynski

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Like it I enjoy wat you have to demonstrate tank

    — Bernard Poirier

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Black is a great color, great patterns such as the black gnat, black bear brown and black creeper, just to name a few . Black patterns produce when others won’t. I now troll for salmon and I usually have a pattern that contains black.
    Great article.

    — Randy Beavis

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Killer article hoping to see more about streamer types, anything bucktail, zonker, schlappen, pine squirrel, can’t get enough of these articles. Have purchased on ebay several Joseph Bates books and dang near read the words off the pages. Thanks for providing these articles.


  • Dec 03, 2020

    I love these styles of flies. I have Catching Shadows by Richard Strollis and have used his streamers to great success. I am now equipped to tye some on my own with materials purchased at Somerset, NJ Fly Fishing Show. Sculls are the best for realism and also getting down in waters to big trout.

    — Ron

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Another fun article that makes me think. Early on, I tied black almost exclusively. Lately its been almost all chartreuse with some yellow at times. At least for trout. My musky patterns have been mostly Fire Tiger. This week? BLACK. (with rattles and maybe a few spinner blades of course!)

    — Brad B

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great article, black has always been one of the standard colors to build your fly around. joe

    — flycatcherflies.com

  • Dec 03, 2020

    Great article.

    — Joe

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