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The Beginning Fly Tier

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Fly-Tying Basics

The morning sun rising over the ridge on Huzzah Creek found me fishing just below the old wooden bridge near Davisville. I cast my black marabou near a ledge rock, and a 14-inch smallmouth bass slammed into it and jumped three times before I could strip taut my fly line. After I landed and released the fish, I knew I was hooked on fly tying. That marabou was my first attempt to create a bass fly, and I'll never forget the thrill of catching a fish on a lure that I made myself.

If you are a fly fisher, sooner or later you will entertain the idea of tying your own flies. It's a natural progression. Fly tying appeals to anglers for many reasons. Tying your own flies is economical because most commercial ties can cost $2 or $3, or even more! Fly tying is a fascinating hobby, too, and inspires creativity. In fact, the beauty of a well-tied fly was what first attracted me to the art of fly tying.

You will need some basic tools to begin creating flies. A flytying vise is essential. You can purchase a very serviceable fly tying vise for about $25. A vise should grip both large and small hooks securely. Some vises can be fitted with a smaller jaw for holding small hooks size 18 and smaller.

When selecting a vise, put a large hook in the vise and bend the shank down with your thumb. Do the same with a smaller hook. If the hook does not slip downward under pressure, it will hold hooks well enough to tie flies. A good vise can be adjusted up and down, and rotate in a full circle. It also should allow you to move the jaws to various angles.

The bobbin holds the tying thread under tension and under control while tying the fly. It lets you pause at any point in the fly tying sequence without unraveling what you have already wrapped. I prefer a bobbin with ceramic lining in the tube because it is less likely to develop rough edges that might cut the thread.

Your fly tying scissors should have sharp points and edges. Make sure they fit your fingers. Before buying scissors, test them by cutting some thread with the tip. If the tip severs the thread cleanly, then the tool is serviceable.

Tweezers are useful for picking up small hooks. You can purchase them at

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