Bird Flu is Impacting Fly Tying
By Ed Stoddard
Bird feathers are to trout flies what leather is to Gucci. But concerns about bird flu are forcing the makers of the artificial flies used by anglers to turn to synthetic fibres instead of traditional material such as pheasant or duck feathers -- sacrilege in the eyes of some purists.
"The majority of our flies are made from synthetic materials and not natural fibres. This is mainly due to the global bird flu epidemic," said Garth Brook, one of the managers of Caledon Flies, a South African firm which manufactures flies for export. Trade bans slapped on countries that have had outbreaks of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu have included products from wild feathered game and untreated feathers. The European Union has banned all imports of untreated feathers until the end of July as a precaution against the spread of bird flu, which has killed at least 92 people.
Popular feathers used in fly tying include those of wild ducks, regarded by some scientists as vectors of the virus which are spreading it as they migrate. "A feather is a feather and that's the way the customs sees it. In these days of bird flu customs officials will become tougher and tougher as time goes on," said Brook. Synthetic materials used as substitutes for feathers include dyed nylon and mylar. "Some purists are still looking for flies tied with feathers from game birds but the risk of using these and having them incinerated at customs is just too high," said Brook.
Other industry players have reported such incidents. "We have experienced problems with a few lines of products -- in particular our turkey plumes. A shipment of turkey plumes was burnt at UK customs, as the vet could not inspect it in time," said Debbie Coleman of Bishop, a UK-based online retailer that sells flies and fly tying equipment.
A troll through industry Web sites reveals bird flu-induced supply concerns.
"At present due to the bird flu epidemic, there is a problem with
the supply of some ... colours," reads one. And the laws of supply
and demand dictate that a premium must be paid for some feathered products.
"Tragopan Pheasants: Just In!," reads one Web site. "Contains
body, head, tails and wings ... Beautiful and very hard to find. Limited
supply due to Asian bird flu. $75.00 each," it says -- by far the
most expensive item on the list.