Now is the perfect time to think about fly tying supplies & materials to get you prepared for the upcoming fishing season. Fly fishing can be a brand-new experience for anglers who want a little bit of excitement with a more customizable approach.
Finding the best fishing gear for the job, however, can be difficult for beginners, which is why you’ll need this guide. If you’re curious about what fly tying entails and what you should be looking to buy for a fishing expedition, we’ve got you covered. Not only that, but this guide will help you achieve a new level of satisfaction from catching fish on your very own homemade fly.
What Is Fly Tying?
The main reason why anglers look into fly tying is so that they can amass their arsenal of favorite bugs. You might find one at a store that is frequently sold out, or you may want to express your creativity. Either way, you’ll always have an assortment of them at your disposal that you can tie up at any time.
When you start making your own flies, you’re going to want to replicate the bugs that you would find in the area you’re fishing. For example, opt for bugs that you’d find in your local stream. This will significantly increase your chances of attracting a new catch in far less time and with far less effort.
Supplies & Materials for Beginners
First, let’s delve into the basics that you’re going to need for fly fishing because an entire list of supplies and materials for everyone can be slightly daunting. In all reality, there are hundreds of thousands of items that you can use to make your own bugs. You can even find DIY kits that come with everything you need.
The more experience you get, the more you’re going to add to your fly tying kits, but as a beginner, you can start with fundamental items, along with the best fly fishing rods.
1. All-Inclusive Kits
Fly tying kits have boomed in popularity mostly because they come with all of the essentials you’ll need to begin making your flies. From scissors to materials, everything is included in one convenient package. Plenty of people prefer kits because it takes a lot of time out of selecting the right items for your flies.
The only downside to these all-inclusive kits is that they don’t allow for much creativity. You can surely add your own materials to the package, but the items they come with are rather basic. You’re also taking a chance on the quality of the tools, as they are mass manufactured.
If you’re searching for a convenient and easy-to-use solution, you can be far better off opting for a fly tying kit. Otherwise, you’ll need to consider all of the tools and materials below to create your very own package.
Similar to any other hobby or professional task, you need to focus on the tools before you get into the materials. These tools are quite affordable and well worth it, as they help to make the task far more efficient.
As you get more experienced, you can likely get away with not having to use a lot of these tools. For example, you might not find feather pliers to be as essential as they were when they first started. The most important thing to remember is that as a novice fly tier, you’re going to need everything that will make the experience more enjoyable for you.
A vise is one of the essential items you’ll need in your workshop, as it will hold your hook for you while you tie on your materials and wind your thread.
Without one of these, you’ll be responsible for maintaining everything incredibly steadily in your hands. Unfortunately, not everyone has the hands of a surgeon, and with shakiness, you can find that it’s tough and dissatisfactory to try to tie without the help of a vise.
Although they might seem ordinary, scissors are another essential piece of equipment that every fly tier will have at their workshop or flying desk. After you’ve finished tying your materials or winding your thread, you’ll need scissors to cut off the excess. You’ll also find that they come in handy when you’re cutting hairs, as well.
When you’re tying a fly, which you’ll learn more about below, you’ll be winding thread around the hook that locks in the materials. Doing a shoddy job at this point will result in your materials falling off your hook and rendering it useless.
With the help of a bobbin, you’ll find that the thread will be held correctly, and you can continue to wind the thread around the hook easily.
As previously mentioned, the way you wind the thread around your flies can make or break its longevity. You will also want to pay close attention to how you tie off the fly once you’re finished.
A whip finisher is an essential tool, so you don’t have to try to work with fishing lines by hand. It will give you a durable and simple way to tie off your knots so that your flies are finished professionally and with the highest possible quality. You surely won’t have to worry about your materials flying off the end before it even reaches the water.
Bodkin needles are an excellent investment if you need a fine point for a variety of tasks. Most anglers will use these to put down glue or any cement, but they can also be useful for picking out dubbing.
If you don’t want to invest in an actual bodkin needle, you can always opt for any other fine point to assist with more delicate tasks.
Also known as hackle pliers, these tools are incredible for when you start to work with feathers. We all know the stem of a feather can be very hard to get a grip on, which is why these pliers will become your best friend.
With a simple step, they will tightly grip onto thin materials so that you can easily tie them to your hooks.
Once you have all of the perfect tools lined up for the job, you can then get into the fun part of gathering materials. As soon as you think you have enough of both, you can begin looking into how you can make your own flies at home.
By far, the most addictive part of making your flies is choosing the materials, as there is a lot. This point is especially true if you’re particularly creative, as all of the bright colors and various materials can be exciting and overwhelming. From yarn to Arctic fox tail hair, there is a numerous assortment of elements to consider.
As the base of the fly, you’re going to need to invest in some hooks. You’ll mainly want an assortment, especially as they are what catches your fish for you. The size of the hook you choose will depend on the fly you’re trying to make.
For example, if you’re working with a streamer, you’re going to want a streamer hook. Alternatively, if you’re tying a midge, you can find midge-specific hooks, as well.
You’ll want to also focus on the type of catch you think you’re going to find to choose the ideal hook for their resilience and strength.
By now, you can likely tell that thread is a massive part of fly tying, as it has the sole job of keeping everything together. Even though you will be responsible for making sure the thread is wound and tied tightly, the thread itself needs to be high-quality.
You’ll also want to make sure you choose a thread that is highly visible so that you can always keep an eye on your line. You can find the thread in an assortment of sizes, styles, and colors, though you’ll typically want to choose a color that is closest to the colors on your fly.
You will also want to pay close attention to the type of catch you might get, as this can determine the strength of thread you opt for.
Have you created flies before only to realize they have little to no weight behind them? This issue could arise if you don’t have the right hook or if you haven’t put enough materials on the fly. Luckily, the best way to fix this is to rely on fishing wire.
Similar to a thread, types of wire come in many thicknesses and colors, making it quite simple to find the perfect shade that matches the rest of your fly.
It’s also easy to tie onto your design, as it can go on before or after. All you have to do is determine how much weight needs to be added and ensure the wire you choose is lead-free.
Coneheads, Eyes, and Beads
As another fantastic option for adding weight to your flies, there’s always the ability to find an assortment of eyes, beads, and coneheads. By sliding these onto your hook or an additional piece of string, you’ll be able to add the perfect weight and dimension.
If you take a look at professionally-made flies, a lot of them use tungsten beads to help flies sink quickly. When it comes to coneheads or eyes, they’re an excellent option for weighing down streamer patterns.
You’ll also find that coneheads provide a more natural profile to the fly, which is sure to attract even more fish.
When it comes to gathering your general materials, you’ll want to opt for brightly colored things that are also specifically designed for fly fishing. With this process, you can help to make certain dyes aren’t transferred to the water, and you’re using eco-friendly materials.
As they are also quite affordable, it can be simple to amass a giant collection of fly tying materials in no time. A few examples of our favorite general materials include:
- Furry foam
- Ice dub
- Afterglow chenille
- Arctic fox hair
- Badger fur
- Barred pseudo hair
- Beaded chains
- Peacock feathers
- Chockletts body wrap
- Regular dubbin
Head Cement and Glue
Most of your materials will undoubtedly be wound and tied together, but at times, having some cement and glue at your disposal can help to make the task much more straightforward.
For example, imagine you’ve tied all of your materials only to find you want to add another feather at the end. Instead of having to undo everything you’ve accomplished, you can take a drop of cement or super glue to add any extras to the outside of the fly.
There are plenty of adhesives to choose from, including gloss coated head cement, flex seal, or water-based cement, but traditional head cement seems to work the best for everything.
How to Tie Your Own Flies
Decades ago, before the popularity of the internet, the best way to get an idea of how to tie flies was to rent a DVD or VHS tape with an explanation of different methods. Today, you can find an assortment of DIY tasks entirely online.
There are plenty of free and versatile ways that you can learn to tie your flies and meet new people along the way, as well. Here are some of them.
If you’re a friendly person who is always looking for new anglers in your area to fish with, you’ll love this idea for learning how to tie flies. You can guarantee that there are local classes you can sign up for, especially if you live in an area that has fly shops.
The majority of these shops will have some type of fly tying class where you can learn from an expert before you start to get good at the task yourself.
What we love the most about local classes is that you can avoid making mistakes right from the get-go. You won’t fall into the habit of making poor choices or incorrectly doing one thing that makes your fly fall apart as soon as it touches the water. By the end of the class, you’ll feel like you’re a master on your own.
As with absolutely anything else in life you’d like to learn, YouTube is a phenomenal resource when you want to get informative detail about a task. In fact, you might find that using online videos is far simpler, more convenient, and more affordable than signing up for a class.
Although you won’t have the authentic in-person experience or the ability to ask questions, you can still learn the basics. There are numerous videos that you can use to put your tying strengths to the test.
As an added benefit, you can always pause, rewind, and fast-forward a video if you’re falling behind or speeding up. Depending on your skill level, you can make the YouTube video work for you.
Work with Friends
If you know people who are avid fly tiers, then why not pick their brains for some great advice? As someone new to the trade, you can gain invaluable knowledge from someone who has taught themselves how to tie great flies.
With their help, you can figure out what materials are most necessary and how to get the most out of the tools you have purchased.
Above all else, working with your friends can be a great pastime on the weekend instead of having to invest in classes. Working with others can make fly tying a ton more fun, which will encourage you to get even more creative with it.
DIY Fly Tying Tutorials
You can guarantee that once you start looking into the many different fly tying tutorials on the internet, there is an exceptional number to choose from.
A rule of thumb for beginners is to opt for flies that are relatively large. Otherwise, you’ll be in a position where you’re trying to deal with complicated minute details. We’ve selected a couple of fly-tying tutorials that you can easily use at all stages of your fly fishing career.
1. Adam’s Dry Fly
- Hook: Dry fly hook (16)
- Thread: Grey uni-thread
- Tail: Grizzly and brown hackle
- Body: Dry dubbing and Adam’s Grey Fine
- Head: Head cement and tying thread
Step 1: First, you’ll want to take your thread and hold it behind the hook eye, wrapping it several times until it is secured at the hook shank. Be sure to allow room for a tie-in location approximately 3/4 of the way to the hook shank.
Step 2: Take two hackles that you’ll want to use for the outline of your wings, and orient them so that the shiny sides face each other. Take the tips and pull back the lower fibers so that the wing segment is exposed. Use the tie-in point to anchor the wings with up to four wraps.
Step 3: Once the wings are tied in, cut away any excess and build a dam of thread at the front to help prop them up. You can use an additional couple of wraps to secure them in their propped position.
Step 4: Next, choose another grizzly hackle that has straighter and more stiff barbs. Choose a brown one. Align the stems of both pieces and pick away a couple of barbs that you’ll use for your tailpiece. You’ll want to make sure that you place the tail somewhere between the full size of the hook and the length of the hook shank.
Step 5: Loosely wrap the bundle of barbs you’ve picked to the top of the hook shank and adjust the length as necessary. You’ll then want to wind the thread all of the way down just before the bend of the hook.
Step 6: For this next step, we’ll be working with dubbing, which is much easier to add to a fly than it is to take off. You’ll want the dubbing to start at the tail, so begin rewinding to create a tapered body. If you notice any low spots, continue winding. Once this is finished, your dubbing should be correctly attached.
Step 7: You will now want to prepare your tackles for the tie-in, starting by tying the hackle behind the wing. Take the thread 1/16th of an inch near the eye and then continue winding until you’re around the hook shank. Use three wraps behind the wing and then two (or more) wraps in front of it.
Chimarra Caddis Larva
- Hook: 2x Short emerger hook (16-20)
- Thread & Underbody: Orange, 140 denier
- Body: Yellow Uni-Flexx
- Head: Brown thread, 6/0
Step 1: Using a size 16 to 20 emerger hook, flatten the barb and prepare one bobbin with orange 6/0 thread and the other with brown thread. With the use of two bobbins, you’ll be able to get this fly completed in far less time.
Step 2: Begin winding your orange thread on the hook shank, but be sure to leave a small gap of space behind the eye. Using a small piece of yellow Uni-Flexx, tie it in and then pull on it to flatten the piece. Wrap down the bend of the hook and then continue wrapping towards the eye so that you’re creating an orange underbody.
Step 3: Retaking your yellow Uni-Flexx, slightly overlap the orange thread near the hook shank but not too much, as you’ll still want the orange underbody to show through. Ensure you maintain optimal tension on the thread and then tie it off. Keep wrapping the thread until you reach right behind the eye and then close it by snipping off the excess.
Step 4: Using your second bobbin with the brown thread, begin overwrapping the orange thread wraps. Once this is complete, you can cut off the excess to close as well. Only by overlapping the orange with the brown, you should be able to seal off the base thread without the need for your whip finisher.
Step 5: As the last step, use your whip finisher to form a neat head on the end of your hook and then cut any remaining thread away. This version is incredibly simple to master, but you can guarantee that there are a few other versions you can find that are slightly more complex.
Fly Tying Supplies & Materials: Final Thoughts
You’ll seemingly never run out of fly tying supplies & materials, as there are a multitude of fabrics, designs, and colors to choose from. Once you have all of the necessary base tools, such as pliers, whip finishers, and bobbins, you’re well on your way to having everything you need.
When it comes time to create your fly tying workshop, we highly recommend all of the above items on this list.