If you’re like me it wasn’t long after I picked a fly rod up that I wanted to start tying my own flies. After a days fishing at Raygil Trout Fishery near Skipton we took a detour on the way home and called in at Fly Only, a fly fishing shop in Huddersfield. Entering the shop I saw the shop owners son, Dylan, tying some flies. After watching him for a while and being fascinated, I looked to my dad and the next thing we were being shown the starter kits they had. I left the shop with a vice and a veniards starter kit. in my dads words “the biggest waste of money, you’ll use it for a week and it’ll get thrown away” if only I knew the journeys it would take me on!
One of the most asked questions I get asked over social media and at shows is “any tips for a beginner?” and with the lockdown I’ve seen many people picking up fly tying so the aim of this blog is to give you some hints, tips & tricks if you’ve taken fly tying up or you’re thinking about it!
After having a starter kit I would actually say don’t get one! instead pick a hand full of flies you’d like to tie, research the materials you’ll need to tie them with and get them. Then…. practice, practice & practice! there are many books that will show you how to tie them but I could never get my head around them so I took to YouTube where I came across Davie Mcphail , his video’s are fantastic for anyone who is learning to tie flies. the one thing I did struggle with is that videos didn’t answer the questions I had, this is where the fly tying shows play a big part in my opinion. the likes of the British Fly Fair International , the Glasgow Angling Centre Open Weekends and other shows that offer a huge amount of knowledge from fly tyers from across the world! I cant stress enough for people to attend these types of shows! they have helped me so much!
below ill list and explain the main tools you’ll need to begin tying your own flies.
Number 1 – A Vice
the vice is the bit of equipment that holds the hook in place while you tie your flies. they can be as expensive or as cheap as you want really, depending on your budget. in my opinion its best to buy a cheaper vice first to see if you actually like and enjoy tying flies. my first vice was around £15 that you just fix on to a desk. you then have the high end stuff like Regal Vices/HMM priced from £200/£300 +! for me I tie lots of small river flies anything from sixes 14 down to 24 so id recommend looking for a vice that has a good grip on the hook and will take all manner of hook sizes.
Ill pop some links below to some vices
Number 2 – Tools
when first starting to tie flies you’ll need the following basic tools. like the vice you’ll find there are cheap options and expensive options.
- hackle pliers
- dubbing needle
- whip finish tool
- bobbin holder
Scissors – Having a good pair of scissors will make all the difference to your fly tying, there are many types you can get. I have 2-3 pairs that I use when tying all for trimming different materials, a super sharp and pointy pair for getting right in there when cutting a waste end piece of hackle or thread when finishing them little delicate flies. a pair for cutting types of hair like deer and elk that have much bigger blades! *Top Tip* to keep your scissors in prime condition never trim away wire on flies! rather than cutting it just wiggle it until it breaks away. this will make them last longer!
Hackle Pliers – hackle pliers are used when tying in them smaller feathers and winding them around the body of a fly or the post of a fly to create the hackle. They will give you more grip and control when winding the hackle! there are all different types of hackle pliers, you can even get ones that rotate. I look to ones that offer a good grip!
Whip Finishing Tool – when you start to tie flies the whip finish is the daunting part! often frustrating and sometimes makes you swear when you cant get it right! its the tool you use to finish the fly off so it doesn’t unravel. I have a couple of whip finishing tools and struggled to learn how to use them. Like all fly tying equipment there are many different types, again you can get rotating ones and ones that you can do a half hitch on. if you’re struggling with using the whip finisher take a look at YouTube where you’ll be able to find 100s of “how too” videos!
Bobbin Holder – the bobbin holder is the tool that holds the tying thread, I would recommend a ceramic bobbin holder, without the ceramic you may find that your tying thread will often snap and fray. usually when at a crucial point in the fly which is most frustrating! however with a ceramic bobbin holder it will give the thread that little more protection. the ceramic ones are more expensive but if you’re serious about tying flies it may pay to have better tools!
for materials and hooks I can Highly recommend Fulling Mill for all your hook needs and Semperfli for a brilliant selection of threads and materials! I do hope that this blog has been some use to someone out there and maybe even inspired you to take up fly tying, id love to see your first creations!