Selecting the proper hair for an operation is more art than science. Buying the proper hair is blind chance. This page is to help you pick out good hair while you are browsing the local fly shop and maybe save you from buying things you don't need. Don't blame the fly shop owner for selling deer hair that won't spin or elk hair that flares too much when you tie a caddis wing. These guys order what is available sight unseen and are stuck with what comes in. However,hair is cheap (relative to hackle) and you can usually find a use for what you bought even if it doesn't work for your intended purpose.

Body Hair from whitetail, muledeer or elk. Notice the different natural colors. They also come in dyed colors for bass bugs or those strange, out of this world patterns you create at 2:00 in the morning. Usually the same morning you have to get up at 4:00 to meet your fishing pals for a distant fishing trip.
Whitetail deer hair is usually brown at the tips and is used often in dyed colors that is intended for spinning. Deer hair differs in characteristics depending when and where(geographically) the animal was shot. Also varies depending on what part of the deer the piece came from. The back hair(top of deer) is usually thin and hard and the sides are thick and soft. If I was going to use deerhair for dry fly wings or tails, I would look for pieces from the back. If I was tying muddlers or irresistables, I would look for pieces from the sides. I once bought a skin from a hunter who shot his deer in Georgia in August. No hair from that deer would spin. A deer killed in Canada in December would be great for bass bugs because the hair is long and soft and would spin or flare easily.
Mule deer hair has light tan tips. It is a lot like whitetail and the same rules apply. Most mule deer have long soft hair that spins well.

Elk hair is light tan and sometimes a brown. This is the hair of choice for the elkhair caddis. Most pieces don't flare much and make a great caddis wing profile.

Calf body hair is white and can come dyed in a variety of colors. It is short, thin and hard. It is best suited for dryfly wings like royalwullfs and parachute patterns. Some pieces stack better than others. The straighter and less kinky the better.

Calf tail is white and comes in different colors. It is often too kinky for stacking but some folks like to use it for dry fly wings and like the uneven look. It is longer than calf body and can be used for small hair streamers like the blacknosed dace and clousers. Look for long hair with even tips.

Bucktail is brown on top and white on sides but can be had in dyed colors. It is usually straight, hard and long but doesn't flare. This is great for saltwater streamer wings.

Don't overlook the brown/dark hair found on bucktails, it makes great tailing and winging material for dries.


There are other types of hair like polar bear, moosehair, antelope hair, etc. While this list is not exhaustive, it could point you in the right direction for selecting the right hair. My first fly was tied with hair from my Siamese cat. Some folks actually collect road kills for the hair. I have found that buying the hair already tanned and deloused is so much simpler it is worth the money.

Hair Stacking, Materials

Light Cahill, Adams Dry,ElkHair Caddis, Wooly Bugger, Pheasant Tail
Hare's Ear,BWO Parachute, Prince, Red Quill, Royal Wullf, Irresistable