I'm planning on tying some stimulators and I have a ton of deer hair in the colours that I want my flies to be.

The recipes that I have read so far ask for yearling elk hair. I wonder if I can replace that with deer hair and still get the same flotation and similar looks. Also, would there be any reason to favour elk hair over deer hair in dry flies like the stimulator or the streaking caddis?

  • Elk are part of the deer family, so I don't initially see why it would be an issue to use another deer hair - what breed deer hair do you have?
    – Aravona
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 13:59
  • I don't know what breed of deer that is. The package says 'deer hair.' Seller is veniard, and they have roe, coastal, and a generic 'deer' product. Mine is the generic.
    – Kenji
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 14:45
  • The question is because deer hair is hollow and causes flies to float high on the water and look like wooly bears or spiders that walk on the surface. Elk may or may not share this trait, that's why he's asking.
    – Escoce
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 14:49
  • Yep, I understand that deer and elk hair are chosen by their flotation properties, and the materials seem indeed very similar. I guess my question is simplified as "does deer hair floats well enough as elk hair?"
    – Kenji
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 14:52
  • I mean, the recipes call for elk hair and I have deer hair, which seems very similar to me, but is it similar enough to serve as a replacement?
    – Kenji
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


From what I understand, the floatation characteristics should be relatively similar since both types of hair contain "chambers" that keep in air and provide floatation. An important difference is how they behave when tied. Deer hair will flare more when wrapped, while the elk hair will tend to remain straighter under the same wrapping conditions.

I found this article from MidCurrent to be pretty informative.

  • Great find. I was googling "elk hair substitute" and that one didn't show up.
    – Kenji
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:03

Elk is a little bit nicer to work with. It lays flatter.

I think sika is the best. Sika is a small deer; lovely to work with.

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