Fly Tying for Beginners

In broadest terms, flies are categorized as either imitative or attractive. Imitative flies resemble natural food items. Attractive flies trigger instinctive strikes by employing a range of characteristics that do not necessarily mimic prey items. Flies can be fished floating on the surface (dry flies), partially submerged (emergers), or below the surface (nymphs, streamers, and wet flies). A dry fly is typically thought to represent an insect landing on, falling on (terrestrials), or emerging from, the water's surface as might a May fly, dragonfly, beetle, stonefly or caddisfly.

Other surface flies include poppers and hair bugs that might resemble mice, frogs, etc. Sub-surface flies are designed to resemble a wide variety of prey including aquatic insect larvae, nymphs and pupae.

Wet flies, known as streamers, are generally thought to imitate minnows, leeches or scuds.

Artificial flies constructed of furs, feathers, and threads bound on a hook were created by anglers to imitate fish prey. The first known mention of an artificial fly was in 200AD in Macedonia. Most early examples of artificial flies imitated common aquatic insects and baitfish.

Today, artificial flies are tied with a wide variety of natural and synthetic materials Every fly fisherman has his or her own reasons for starting into fly tying. Some do it to save money from all the flies left in the trees and shrubs streamside. Others do it to learn more about the life cycles of the flies they like to use. Whatever your reasons,

There are many websites, books and videos available that are much better at writing than I am. I also highly recommend a hands-on fly tying class. These are offered by many of the fly fishing clubs within your area or by professional fly fishing coaches.

When you do decide to take up fly tying, there are absolutely hundreds of books, e-books and video clips on the web for you to choose from to show you how to tie buzzers, wet and dry flies also hundreds of different kinds of lures to cover every eventuality when you are out fishing.

There is so many variations and hybrids to the original fly/lure designs, sometimes I find it a bit daunting myself after all those years choosing what to tie. In fact I have flies and lures in my many fly boxes that have been there for years and have never seen the day light never mind gotten wet. However; everyone has their own preferences on what they like to use on certain waters despite all the information and advice out there.

If you are new to fly tying it can be a bit daunting to know what you need in relationship to tools, materials, hooks and all the other requirements to tie your first artificial fly.

There is nothing better than tying your own flies and catching fish on them, it not only gives you self assurance that you have tied the fly correctly but you can also catch on them. Tying your own fly can also save you money in the long run as the materials you use can be used for a vast variety of flies and lures.

Below I have listed a general idea of all the tools you will require to start you off in tying your own flies.

The tools you will need

Vice - Today you can buy an adequate vice for as little as £20, but you can pay hundreds. Buy the best you can afford.

Scissors - You will need a pair of fine pointed very sharp scissors. Embroidery scissors are good. A good pair should last you for years as long as you don’t go cutting wire with them.

Bobbin Holder - The early models had no ceramic inserts in the tube and eventually started fraying the threads. It is worth the extra cost to buy ceramic models.

Hackle Pliers - Basic models are not expensive and will do the job adequately. I still have my original one that my mentor made for me from thick wire, and it still works.

Dubbing Needle - I still use hat pins. They are handy for cleaning out varnish from the hook eye and applying varnish to the head of the finished fly. You can buy the proper tool cheaply.

Threader - An indispensable tool for feeding your thread onto the bobbin holder.

Whip Finish Tool - If you can use one of these then use it. If you cannot , tie off with the traditional double half hitch ( like me ).

Varnish - You only need clear to start with. Apply with dubbing needle. Very good advice is to remember to put the lid straight back on the bottle when finished.

Beeswax - Indispensable for dubbing. Pliers - A pair of small fine nosed pliers for de-barbing hooks

Dubbing Brush - Used for raising dubbed hair. Make one easily yourself using an old lollipop stick and glueing velcro to both sides at one end.

You can buy beginners complete fly tying kits that offer all the tools, instructions and materials that you would require to start of with; they can vary in prices from £30 for a very basic kit to £100 for a more comprehensive kit. These are available from all good tackle shops and online stores beginners tool kits, with all the above items that you would require to start your fly tying with.

The information booklets with the beginners kits gives you all the information you will require to tie some of the best known and most used flies and lures today.

There are many excellent fly tying websites to choose from when you first start fly tying.

My favourite website is they currently have over 350 + fly patterns online to choose from with material lists. A complete online resource for fly tying; the website Includes fly patterns with step by step fly tying instructions and colour photographs. This site is suitable for all skill levels from the novice fly tier to the more experienced ones.

Have a look in “What's” new to see the latest updates to the site.

There are also hundreds of youtube videos showing you how to tie flies from the very basics up to full blown high quality flies, plus instructional details on how to use the various tools.

Unfortunately when I undertook a survey of the videos I found that some of them were no use and poor quality, you will have to search them all until you find the ones you like and stick with them.

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