Table of Contents
Building a Foundation for Tying Flies
When I began tying flies in 1979 well written instruction manuals and guides were hard to come by. This was partly because the popularity of fly fishing was low in North Texas at that time. What little printed material I could find was either very expensive, vague or just poorly written. For the most part my early attempts at fly tying were sad at best. Even simple patterns were a huge challenge. Whether it was a basic Wooly Bugger or a more complicated Royal Trude they all seemed to turn out more like Royal Poo.
What escaped my attention for several years was the basic understanding of tying techniques. I was so focused on the finished product that the details eluded me. Once I started learning techniques instead of focusing on finished patterns my flies improved drastically. The focus on and mastering of just a few techniques eventually led to a better understanding of the art of fly tying.
Fly Tying Tools and Materials
Getting started is not as daunting as you might think. In order to perform any task properly the correct tools are essential fly tying tools are no exception. You needn’t spend a fortune but at the same time don’t scrimp. Wherever possible spend what you can afford without breaking the bank. Remember that to some extent the quality of your tools will be reflected in the finished flies. At the center of all your tying efforts is your fly tying vise. This is one area where research before purchasing will really pay off.
A good collection and understanding of fly tying materials is also essential. The particular materials you’ll want to collect will depend on the type and specific fly patterns you intend to tie which will of course be dictated by the species of fish you will be targeting. When considering the purchase of materials keep in mind that the quality of your finished flies will be a slave to the quality of the materials they are constructed with. Just like understanding techniques the understanding of tying materials is essential.
Instructional materials are the final step in your preparation. Over the years many fine manuals and pattern collections have been published concerning the subject of fly tying. Many inexpensive texts have been prepared with excellent step by step photography. A word of caution here is to start slow, study and practice with a judicious amount of text before possibly amassing an ineffectual library. By building slowly you will be able to tailor your fly tying library to your skills, style and needs.
The Three P’s of Fly Tying
There are three principals that are essential to tying good looking and durable fishing flies. Practice, patience and proportion will eventually take your fly tying from novice to polish.
Practice good techniques like dubbing, winging, hackling, tailing and finishing. Before trying to tie a particular fly gain an understanding of the techniques used and try them one at a time on a bare hook. Not only will practice allow you to become familiar with techniques but your tools and materials also.
Patience is paramount when beginning fly tying. It may be frustrating when trying to match a professional or highly accomplished tyer in action in the beginning. Keep in mind that most tyers who practice their craft in public have been at it for a long time. Refer back to the first principal and practice, practice, practice. Eventually practice and patience will bring speed and efficiency.
Once you have practiced techniques and want to begin tying whether it will be nymphs, wet flies, streamers or dry flies gain an understanding of the proper proportions for the fly you are going to tie. Each style of fly has a standard proportion that will make it perform optimally and attract more fish. Learn the proportion for the style you are tying and practice it with great patience.
Flt Tying Kits
Fly tying kits can be useful tools to the beginner or they can be a colossal waste of money. If you want to try fly tying but just don’t want to put the time and effort into researching tools, materials and patterns before trying your hand an inexpensive kit may be the way to go. If you are the type of person that likes to explore a new hobby with gusto a kit will likely disappoint.
If you do decide to start with a fly tying kit bear in mind that the quality of the tools, including the vise, is directly proportionate to the cost of the kit. Unless you are buying one of the specialized kits that focuses on one or a few specific fly patterns the materials supplied are usually a nondescript hodge-podge of scraps. Do some research before making a purchase to avoid taking home a non-bargain kit.
No matter what route you decide to choose to take you into the fascinating world of fly tying take your time, practice good solid techniques and understand your tools, techniques and fly proportions. With a little patience you’ll soon be tying flies you’ll be proud to show your fishing partners. Just keep in mind it might end up being as captivating as the fishing itself.