Hugo Harlin is a Swedish fly tyer who has exploded in the fly tying Instagram scene. His creations (as you will see) are as intricate as they are creative. Some tied for fishing and others simply for display, we wanted to hear a little bit more about Hugo’s ties.
Flylords: What was the first fly you tied?
Hugo: The first fly I ever tied was probably a wooly bugger. I remember a tying session with my dad as a 10 or 11-year-old, tying black buggers at first then it quickly derailed with pink tails and yellow chenille bodies. I started tying seriously in early 2015 when I read an article about marabou streamers in a Swedish magazine.
Flylords: What is your favorite pattern to tie?
Hugo: That is a tough question. I’ve really enjoyed tying parachute mayflies in the past, but if I had to give an answer it’s probably my own parachute caddis variant. It’s tied on a curved hook with a biot/pheasant/stripped quill body, a wing of CDC under deer hair and a parachute hackle with a CDC post. I like to tie in pheasant antennae for some extra realism.
Flylords: What is your favorite vise to tie on?
Hugo: I haven’t tried a lot of different vises but my current vice, a Stonfo Transformer, is really solid and pleasant to work with.
Flylords: What is your favorite species of fish to catch on a fly rod?
Hugo: Brown trout hands down, there is something special about a landing a spotted slab of gold. A big kyped male with turquoise gill plates is the dream fish for me.
Flylords: Do you have a different process for tying display flies versus flies to be fished?
Hugo: Since display flies are just that, creations for display only, I have free reign to put all emphasis on aesthetics and forego durability and function. I think of it as relaxing some of the constraints of traditional fly tying, and exploring where that leads me.
When tying fishing flies I have to balance aesthetics, practical performance, and time required to tie the pattern. This puts a limit on the amount of detail I can pour into a fly, and if tying a dry fly I have to make sure that it actually floats. I also try to add as much durability as I can without compromising the finish, by using superglue under biots and pheasant bodies for example.
Flylords: How do you find inspiration to create these works of art?
Hugo: The fly tying community on Instagram has been instrumental for my development as a fly tyer, there are lots of really talented people out there. Robert Strahl from New Zealand has been the biggest influencer on my style, his use of natural materials and his extremely crisp finish is second to none.
Flylords: Your Origami wings are insane, what was your inspiration to create them?
Hugo: There is a Swedish fly tyer named Peder Wigdell that ties some really nice realistic mayflies. He posted an image of an articulated spent spinner with origami wings a couple of years back, and it piqued my interest since I hadn’t seen that wing style before. I started experimenting and developed my own way of making them.
Flylords: Do you have any other special techniques you use?
Hugo: Other than origami wings, I have developed to my knowledge a new technique that allows me to seamlessly overlap biots to create a body of arbitrary length, I call it “biot stacking”. I use it mostly for display flies but it’s applicable on regular flies where a longer biot body is desired, such as on large stimulators.
Flylords: What set up do you use to photograph your flies?
Hugo: I use a clip-on macro lens and my phone. For lighting, I use desk lamps with paper towels taped over them to diffuse the light.
Flylords: Do you have any advice for other creative fly tyers?
Hugo: Use thin GSP thread. It allows one to achieve a finish and use techniques that are exceedingly difficult or impossible with regular nylon thread. The thinner the better, I use 30 Denier (18/0) for everything except large streamers and deer hair work. Don’t be afraid to back up and redo a part of a fly, sometimes I spend upwards of an hour on a single origami wing before I achieve a finish I’m happy with.
When it comes to being creative, there is lots of inspiration on Instagram. Save posts that are interesting and keep a list of new ideas and variants of patterns.
Be sure to follow along with Hugo on Instagram at @hugo.harlin.
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