If you have fly fished for any time at all you will likely get round to thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool to tie your own flies”. You may think it will save you money having a near infinite supply of flies available on demand.
So, should you tie your own fishing flies?
Like in so many things there is no
Unlikely. The cost of materials rarely saves you money unless you are prepared to tie only patterns a fairly limited selection of materials would allow, thus allowing you to have dozens of the same or similar flies. If the plan is to sell some and or have a wee business tying then yes the usual economies of scale will apply, however for most tyers, that’s unrealistic. You will soon find you want to tie more than a very limited number or type of flies. Magazines, websites, Facebook Groups, Web
Go get the material, the special hooks and threads, and tie them flies….but honestly you won’t be saving cash, not in the short term.
So Why Bother?
Most fly anglers come to fly tying as a way of extending their interest in the sport. There can be little to better the feeling of not only catching a fish on a fly, but on a fly you yourself tied. It simply deepens the whole fly fishing experience.
You lose one up a tree or
You planned on fishing but the weather has utterly blown it out so how to get your fix? Tie some flies. One further reason to tie your own is Quality. Good hooks are expensive (unfortunately) and when you see boxes of 50 flies on sale for £10 (20p a fly) ask yourself how they can do it when a box of 25 quality hooks like
Do I need lessons?
If you know someone nearby or there is a club or open day somewhere, with tying demo’s, having someone show you a few basics
Should you buy a kit?
In short I would have to say no. While the temptation to get all the basics is there in one go you will likely end up with a load of stuff you end up not using and in my opinion you are better being more selective.
As far as basic materials go I would recommend you get started with the following.
Basics to Start with
- UNI thread 6/0 in Black, Olive and either Red or Fire Orange.
- Peacock Herl
- Cock Pheasant Tail
- Medium Gold/Silver Mylar
- Medium Copper Wire
- Medium Solid Wire ( silver)
- Hares Ear Dubbing (Natural colour)
- (Seals fur or Synthetic Seals fur in Black and any other colours you fancy, probably Red and Olive as starters)
- A selection of Cock Feathers, ideally in various colours but Black as a minimum.
- Black Chenile ( and maybe Olive)
- Some Marabou feathers in Black and Olive
- A selection of brass beads in various sizes ( you can usually get cheap multipacks)
- A packet of Flashabou or similar
- Clear Varnish
With appropriate hooks, the above will allow you to tie the following patterns right off the bat. Plus anything you make up yourself!
- Hares Ear Nymph
- Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN)
- Diawl Bach (DB)
- Black and Peacock Spider
- Woolly Bugger
- Montana Nymph
- Damsel Nymph
- Various Buzzers
- Soldier Palmer
These Step By Steps by Dom Garnet for Fishtec, are easy starter patterns to get you tying.
In simple terms there are five thread types you need to know for fly tying. Initially UNI thread will do the trick for most beginners. But you will soon start tying patterns that require others.
UNI: Is a prewaxed single strand thread. It is round in profile and stays pretty much that way when tied. Its not made up of filamentsor strands you can split or separate. Thicknesses are confusingly backwards- the higher the number the thinner the thread. 6/0 and 8/0 are most commonly used but much finer, 12/0 and 18/0 are available for very small slim patterns but it breaks easily.
UTC: In a similar range of colours as UNI but the crucial difference is its made up of a twist of multiple strands. By spinning the thread on a bobbin you can untwist it and split it. This allows a flatter profile when wrapped ona hook, and allows other materials to be spliced into the thread like Dubbing or CDC- the so called Dubbing Loop. Thicknesses are measured in Deniers and the higher the numbers the thicker the thread. 70 and 140 are most commonly used.
Floss: Covers a huge array of threads which are multi stranded often smooth and slippy but much thicker than tying threads. Some like Glo-Brite in a range of Flourescent colours are pretty strong and won’t unravel when cut, others have a tendency of ending up like a birds nest when cut. Used to make tails, tags and thicker bodies.
Silks: Less commonly used now, the most well known brand is Pearsalls. In a range of colours that are briliant for tying authentic old fashioned ( but no less effective) wet and dry flies. Usually quite thick and needs waxing. Using Wax liek Cobblers wax can make a multi faceted sheen on the thread which looks incredibly natural.
Nano Silk: These new Man-made fibre threads are very strong and fine, with a multi filament construction like UTC. Typically 12/0 is the usual one to use. While it is available in a range of colours, tying bodies with this fine thread can require a lot of wraps to get the colour pronounced enough and a body built up enough. However, incredibly strong, you will be hard pressed to break it through over tensioning, and use old scissors to cut as it will blunt good ones pretty quickly! Gauge is as for UNI thread, so commonly 12/0 and 18/0.
Hooks are expensive. Good quality hooks for fishing are a must. But here is where I am going to suggest you maybe curb your expenditure for now. *There are suppliers out there who do bulk packs of hooks in various sizes and styles and they are MUCH cheaper when you are super keen and the fly tying bug initially bites. And trust me in this, no matter how good your first efforts seem, once you have been tying a few years, you will look at some of your early efforts and say to yourself…what was I thinking?
You can, opt to use the best hooks from the off, and be prepared to strip the patterns back several times when you get it wrong, so you can actually get the use of the hook. Alternatively
Good quality tools can be pricey and initially you won’t want to spend too much until you decide if fly tying is for you. You can sometimes buy some cheap sets of beginners tools and by all means have a look at them to get started but if the bug bites you will want to upgrade.
As a minimum you need
- Fine Pointed Sharp Scissors- these will become your fly tying scissors- use them only to cut
threadand natural materials, definitely not wire.
- A Bobbin Holder-
tryget one with a ceramic insert as a minimum.
- Hackle Pliers
- Dubbing needle
- Dubbing brush- make your own out of some velcro and a lolly stick!
- If you are over 40 or have poor eyesight, Magnifiers of some sort.
- Optional- A whip finish tool, but learn to tie without one and this is
non essentialbut is nice to have sometimes.
- A vice. As you improve you will find a cheap vice becomes limiting quite quickly, but as a beginner you will not appreciate a good one. You want one that grips a good variety of hook sizes securely and
considerwhere you will tie, will you be able to clamp it to a bench or will you need a solid base? You can get a cheap and functional vice for a tenner, £20-£30 will get you something that might last you a good while before the urge to get something better comes along.
As you improve
If the bug bites, and it probably will, you will soon find yourself heading out to your local Angling shop or looking
Some more patterns to play with
Once you have mastered the basics check out these videos of patterns I have demonstrated myself from my Fly tying playlist on Youtube.
- Several Bobbin Holders ( adjustable ones are good and get one suitable for thicker material like floss)
- Deer Hair Stacker
- A rotary Vice, this keeps the hook in the same plane as you rotate it through 360 degrees. usually pricey but once you have used one you would never wish to go back!
- UV Resin and LED Torch to set it
- Consider dying your own materials, doing this you can buy larger quantities of neutral colours and then make up smaller portions of colours you want- remarkably easy to do.
- Fritz in Various colours, Orange, Yellow and Chartreuse are commonest
- Holographic Tinsel
- Partridge Skin
- Feathers ( Mallard, Starling and Grouse are all useful)
- Tungsten Beads
- Natural CDC
- Spectra Dubbing
- SLF Dubbing
- UV Dubbing
- Sets of UNI Threads ( you can get multipacks of smaller spools with 16 colours or
theraboutsthat are great for beginners)
- Consider trying Nano Silk in 12/0- its great stuff
- Good Quality hackle feathers for Dry flies, Saddle or Cape feathers in at least, Black, Grizzle and Brown)
If you really fancy pushing things along, Davie McPhail’s YouTube channel is a
You will soon find the materials list becomes endless, and you will ask yourself…. so this was to save me money?