The Strange Christmas Tree

Published Apr 11th 2006

Minnow, sand eel, fry. This little fly will imitate most small, transparent fish


Small and hungry - Yes, that\'s a Strange Christmas Tree sticking out here.
Small and hungry
Braid and seal - Here it is clearly visible how the braided mylar forms a clear body over the red yarn and how shiny and translucent the seal\'s fur is.
Braid and seal
This fly is in essence a combination of the now classical Danish fly the Christmas Tree and a generic zonker.

Zonker love
I have always loved zonkers but never really enjoyed fishing with the Christmas Tree in its raw version. But after having added a seal's fur zonker strip to a slightly trimmed down Christmas Tree I have combined my way to a fly, which I'm quite happy with.
One reason for my happiness is the fact that the fly broke my cold spell of 19 fishless trips. The other reason is that it has kept on catching fish for me, which is always good.

Dirty and turbulent
A fly this bright would usually be considered best for dirty or turbulent water - or both. And sure enough, my best success with the fly was in slightly foggy water and waves. But I also used the fly a few times in clear water, and it seemed to work fine there too.
I tied a few flies where I exchanged the shiny mylar body with peacock herl to get a less visible and intrusive fly. I fished it a couple of times, but it still hasn't produced. I think I'll stick to the shiny version.

Newly tied - This is the first and yet unproven Strange Christmas Tree. Unmarred by trout teeth it clearly shows the structure of the body, tail, hackle and wing.
Newly tied

Translucent - It is pretty obvious in this picture how transparent the seal\'s fur zonker strip is. Also notice that this specimen has caught fish and has been severely trashed. That fact didn\'t seem to matter much to the fish.
With eyes - This version is tied with eyes to weigh down the fly
With eyes

Small sand eels - The Strange Christmas Tree does a very good job of imitating small sand eels like the ones shown here.
Small sand eels

Another one bites the Strange Christmas Tree - Another kelt has fallen for the temptation
Another one bites the Strange Christmas Tree
I know seal's fur can be hard - or even illegal - to obtain for tyers in some countries. Of course you can substitute it with another kind of fur like rabbit, mink or what you can find, but seal does have a very attractive structure with a lot fewer hairs than say rabbit. It also has fairly short hairs, which I usually prefer over the very long hair on some rabbit strips.
Seal's fur is at the same time very shiny and almost transparent, which blends very nicely with the mylar body. As an added bonus the skin has a striped structure that gives it the look of something fishing. The stripes stand out even more clearly when the skin strip gets wet.

The result is a zonker wing that doesn't steal away attention like a wing made from far denser and longer fur such as rabbit or mink. The fly would not be the same with these types of hair.
But I will probably have to find an alternative material soon, because I only have little of this material left, and haven't been able to find new supplies. I think light gray mink will be my choice.

The Strange Christmas Tree

HookKamasan B800, size 6-2
Tying threadRed 6/0
UnderbodyRed yarn or dubbing
Body/tail/hackleBraided mylar tubing, clear or pearl
WingZonker strip, seal or light grey mink
HeadTying thread

Tying instructions
  1. Tie in the thread over the hook bend
  2. Tie in red yarn at this point and tie it down the whole length of the shank
  3. Take the thread back to the bend
  4. Cover the hook shank with a layer of red wool yarn
  5. Tie it down over the bend and trim
  6. Prepare a piece of mylar tubing about 2 time the length of the shank
  7. Remove the thread core and fray the rear quarter of the tube
  8. Pass it over the yarn-covered shank and by the thread so far that you can catch the unfrayed tube with the thread just rear of the body
  9. Tie it down with a few wraps, whip finish and cut thread (you can also leave the thread and continue with a second bobbin)
  10. Pull the tube forwards to tighten it over the body
  11. Catch the tube right in front of the body with the thread and tie it down with a few, tight wraps
  12. Fray the front par of the tube
  13. Stroke it back and down to form a "false hackle" and tie that down with a few wraps
  14. Prepare a zonker strip about 1½-shank lengths
  15. Tie it down in front with very tight wraps and continue wrapping to form a head
  16. Whip finish and trim thread
  17. Lift the strip and start the thread over the rear tie in point again
  18. Split the fur just over this point and tie down the strip with some very tight turns
  19. Whip finish and trim thread
  20. Varnish both this point and the head
You may consider using dubbing instead of yarn under the body. The yarn has the advantage of being easy to get even and that it's quite durable. The mylar tubing has a tendency to break when fish bite it. This could be remedied with a layer of epoxy, but honestly, I'd rather tie a few more flies. And the fly seems to catch equally well after it's been torn. I have also expreimented with eyes on this fly. Since I like both the added weight and the appearance on the fly with eyes, I'm probably going to add eyes to some of the Strange Christmas Trees in my box.

Deep bend - The author fights a Danish sea trout on the coast of Bornholm. And yes, it did take a Strange Christmas Tree
Deep bend
Big kelt - This big post spawn sea trout also liked the shiny fly
Big kelt

The "Christmas Tree" in the name comes from the original fly tied by Steen Ulnits.
The word "Strange" is a translation of the Danish word sælsom (saelsom), which just means strange, odd or weird. That word came about because seal is sæl (sael) in Danish. Sæl... sælsom... sælsomme... you see? No...? Well, blame it on us Danes.
So the fly is called Det Sælsomme Juletræ in Danish, which translates directly into The Strange Christmas Tree.

User comments
From: Pike · pike007·at·  Link
Submitted February 22nd 2010

Martin, thanks for quick answer. I have seen very interesting muskrat zonker strips too, so I hope it will work.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted February 22nd 2010


I have tied lots of zonkers with mink, and it's very good for the purpose. But the seal has an extreme translucency compared. The seal is much coarser and has almost no underfur compared to the mink's very fine and dense underfur.

I do have some gray mink tails that reminds me a bit of the seal, but it's still much finer. It has almost the same shine. Seal is very shiny - almost as glass - as you can see from the images, and that might be one of the keys to the flies' success. I have a couple of patches of sealskin, both light and dark, and I intend to cut some zonker strips and tie up some Strange Christmas Trees for this spring, but darker and denser zonkers are on the tab too. But I prefer nutria over mink for those.


From: Pike · pike007·at·  Link
Submitted February 22nd 2010

Martin, have you already tried mink instead of seal? Thanks

From: Thomas Jansen · thomasjansen·at·  Link
Submitted April 29th 2009

moin moin
nice pattern. i tied it, when i first read this article a few months ago. today was its day, seatrouts are hunting but no take.... not even my all time favourit "the pattegris" could get their interest. there were thousands of sandeels
in the water and i tried "the strange christmas tree" - second cast, hand over hand stripped - first fish ! two other trouts take it in the next 30min after i fished other patterns for two and a half hour. - nice result.....

greets tom

From: Jaysen Palangio · mayflys·at·  Link
Submitted December 10th 2006

Thank you for sharing this wonderful little patten. I will try it for Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Tight lines!
Jaysen Palangio

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