In the modern age of everything being automated, it’s hard to find anything to do that is completely manual, demands your full attention and gives you a great sense of satisfaction. Enter the world of Fly Tying.
I remember when I was about 10 years old I walked into a book store in Kelowna. I can’t remember which one, but I do remember what I saw. It was a beginner’s fly tying kit. I didn’t buy that kit, but I always think back wondering what kind of tier I would be today if I had started back then. 5 years ago when I moved to the interior, I really wanted to get back into fly fishing, and remembered that kit. I found myself really wanting to get into tying as well. The local shop has a master tier, who luckily for me gives lessons.
I took 3 lessons two years ago and was hooked…pun intended.
Fly tying, like any new endeavor requires a basic knowledge, patience and practice. After that, the skill level will increase. My flies now compared to those first lessons are not even comparable. There are some that are easy to tie, and some that are quite difficult. I am currently going through a learning curve with small dry flies. It is a work in progress, but with patience and practice, I’ll get there. For example, the guy who taught me those lessons saw some of my chironomids, nymphs, and buggers. He said my flies in that time period have improved 500%. Having said that, we were doing a fly tying night with the club and the theme was small dry flies. I asked him how one of mine were, just to see if I was on the right track. It was a humbling moment when he critiqued by saying, “There is too much hackle, the taper is all wrong, and the wings are off”. I know he was serious in his critique, but humorous in his delivery.
So, why do we want to tie our own flies? Really you don’t have to. You are free to go down to your local shop or box store (local shop is preferred) and stock up on the flies that the shop owner has meticulously tied for $2.50+ each. They will, and do work just fine, so why bother with your own?
Here is why I tie my own. There are a variety of reasons. When I do it I am focused on that task, not thinking of the daily stresses of life. I tie because I enjoy finding a certain bug in local waters and trying to imitate it. I tie because really there is no limit to what you can tie in terms style, colour, variation. I tie because I get a thrill out of feeling that tug on the end of my line from a fish biting the fly that I tied myself. It has become a little bit of an obsession.
Unlike my previous articles I intend this topic to be a selection of articles starting from the beginning and working our way up.
Let’s start with the basics. I would recommend you attend a lesson at your local shop, then buy yourself a beginner’s fly tying kit, like the one I did not buy when I was 10. Most good ones will come with a small but sufficient manual and amount of supplies. Some will come with a small amount of basic fly tying tools, however quite a few will not.
The basic tools you require are a vise, bobbin, scissors, whip finisher, some sort of tool for dubbing (there are a few kinds), hackle pliers and probably a bodkin.
The vise clamps and holds the fly while you work on it. There are a variety of vises available. I have been using a very basic vise since my first days of tying. It is all you need until you really get into it.
The bobbin is the tool which holds the spool of thread and allows the placement of thread onto the hook.
The scissors are self-explanatory. They cut the thread and excess materials from your fly.
The whip finisher can be a complicated beast. It is used to tie a knot in the thread when you are done tying the fly. It secures the thread and prevents the flies from coming apart. A whips finisher when used with some sort of glue (usually head cement) almost guarantees your fly will stay together, until a great day of fishing comes along of course. The complicated part of this tool comes when you try to use it for the first time. It turns and flips over itself. But again…with practice and patience, it too will come.
The dubbing tool allows you to apply the dubbing onto a fly, creating heads or bodies out of fur or feathers or other such materials.
The hackle pliers allow you to clamp onto the hackle (small feathers), and apply it to the hook. The pliers basically make it easier to hold onto the feather or other small material and wrap it around the hook.
I have used a bodkin for a variety of things when tying flies. It can pick out dubbing to make it look more realistic, it can apply head cement, small amounts of paint, or it can even clear out the excess glue that has made its way into the eye of the hook due to putting on a excessive amount…trust me it does happen.
I hope the next few articles bring a new level of joy into your fly fishing experience.
Tight Lines and Bent Rods.