The Beginning Fly Tier

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Fly-Tying Basics

most drug stores. Look for some that have flat ends.

A dubbing needle is inexpensive but invaluable. Use it to ruffle fur bodies to make them look more natural. It can also help you apply cement to the fly head or body.

Look for a dubbing needle that has a hook on one end; it works better for spinning fur on a loop.

Hackle pliers make it easier to hold hackle and other materials used in dry flies and wet flies.

Use a whip finisher to wrap fly heads. I prefer the Thompson type, which comes in a large and small size and includes instructions for use. This tool is easy to use with a little practice.

A high-density lamp with a gooseneck will help older flytiers see detail. This isn't a specialty item. You can buy one for about $15 at most department stores. A magnifying lamp lets you see even more detail.

Many threads for fly tying are made of flat nylon and come in various sizes. Threads are designated with a number followed by a zero. The larger the number, the smaller the thread. For example, 8/0 is much smaller than 4/0. The most commonly used thread for small to medium size flies (sizes 16 to 10) is 6/0 because it is fairly strong and does not become bulky under multiple wraps.

Fly tying wax comes in a dispenser tube, and it can be applied to the thread when dubbing fur or other body material. The dispenser helps keep the sticky wax from getting on your fingers.

Use head cement to secure the whip-finished fly head and to secure weighted fly bodies. It comes as a lacquer or as water base cement. I prefer the water-based cement because it does not thicken when exposed to air and is water-soluble. When necessary, it can be thinned with rubbing alcohol.

I recommend that beginners equip themselves with two packs of 3x long, size 8 and 10 streamer hooks and two packs of dry fly hooks in sizes 12 and 14.

People think of fly tying as an expensive hobby, but you usually can purchase all the tools necessary or helpful for tying flies for around $60. Threads, cement hooks, wax and materials may run another $40.

Fly Tying Materials

You can create fishing flies with almost any kind of material, including hair, fur, feathers, yarn and pipe cleaners, but fly shops are your best source of material for specific flies. Many

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