It feels like a natural progression to at least flirt with the idea of tying your own flies once you get into fly fishing. I mean it happened to me and it just felt like the next step to help me improve my fly fishing. The first thing that made me want to look into tying flies was the possibility of saving on money when buying flies. Unfortunately I found out quickly that this would not be the case. The cost to get started and material to tie certain flies adds up pretty quick and makes it hard to justify at times. An argument could be made that making multiple of one or possibly two flies might save money but overall it will not save you any money.
Nevertheless, fly tying will help you in three other ways though. I will dive deeper into these three reasons and share with you the basic tools needed to get started tying your own flies.
You Are Forced to Learn About Bugs.
One of the benefits of learning to tie your own flies is learning about your local bugs. I have found that as I have wanted to improve or add to patterns that I have learned I tend to look up bugs and different critters that are in the river. Before fishing I always go to the river and pick up some rocks from the river bed. I find many different bugs that tell me a lot about the river and what the fish could possibly be eating.
Seeing critters that I do not recognize gets me curious and I start to do more research. As I have given more time and effort towards learning about the bugs I have come to understand more about their life cycles which ultimately helps me identify different types of bugs.
This knowledge alone has helped me catch more fish. It has allowed me to match the hatch easier or adapt quicker to different situations that may present themselves on the river. If there is one thing you get out of this it is that learning just basic entomology pays off huge on the river. Tying flies can help you learn the basics just by fanning the flame of your curiosity about the different bugs and insects in your local fisheries that the fish feed on.
You Can replicate your favorite flies and maybe make them better.
When you start tying flies you should start with basic patterns like zebra midges or other nymph patters that are relatively easy and do not require a lot of materials to make. Once you learn the basics of tying and get more comfortable tying, start playing around a bit and you might want to start challenging yourself.
Something I do to help me learn new patterns is by going to the local fly shops or outfitters, finding a fly that I like and feel I could tie, buy it and then try and replicate it. I have been able to replicate many patterns that are very good for my area. Once I got comfortable with tying the pattern I will start using different materials and keep the pattern the same but just add or change something up to make it a little more unique. These unique flies that come out of it are proven to be very effective on the water. I always seem to catch more fish on them. I feel like this is due to something different ,even though it might be a small difference, to something that the fish might be use to seeing. Making unique changes to common fly patterns is usually a good way to have a successful day on the river.
A Bad Day to Fish?
Whether you do not like fishing in the winter, or it is just not a good day to fish, fly tying can help get you through those days or breaks in the season. It is a perfect activity on slow days where fishing or traveling to fish may not be ideal.
I challenged myself last year and this year to only fly fish whenever I can. I would go out no matter the weather and try and fish. If I did not go out fishing on a day I would feel guilty and get down on myself for not following through with the challenge I had made for myself. There were days I would go out and the weather would be so bad that it would be damn near impossible to throw a few flies let alone feel my fingers. I was eventually compelled to realize that there are just piss poor days to go fishing due to weather or other circumstances. That's nature. These are the days were organizing your gear, cleaning your reel or fly line, and seeing what flies need to be replenished and tying those flies. Fly tying just ends up becoming a part of the process when cleaning up your gear in between trips.
So instead of day dreaming and sitting around and complaining on days that fishing is not optimal, day dream while tying flies.
What is needed to get started?
The vise it what will help you keep the fly in one place so you can get the tying done. There are affordable options starting at fifty dollars and then there are some that are four hundred dollars. To get started a more affordable option is best and will suite your tying needs just fine.
My suggestion: Try for a mid range vise. The lower end vices tend to be cheap in their build and do not always have options that make tying some fly patterns easier. I suggest a Renzetti Traveler 2000 Fly Tying Vise. This vice is easy to learn how to use and it is easy to break down and travel with. The price is a little high but in my book it is worth it due to the durability of the vice. If that price range is out of your budget try the Colorado Anglers Z797 Wooden Fly Tying Standard Tool Kit. This is very affordable and it comes with a lot of the tools that you need to get started. My brother got this kit to start off because he is a college student and money is tight for him. He says it gets him by just fine. He has been able to tie many flies that have given him success on the river.
Scissors will be one of the main tools that you will use while tying. They are used to cut thread, hairs, and tame "buggy" flies. They are a must have.
I will mention what my suggestions are for getting the tools near the end and you will see why.
Whip finishing tool
A whip finish tool is used to finish the flies or tie a finishing not with the thread on the fly you are tying. This finish helps prevent the yarn from unraveling after a couple of fish. There are other ways to secure the thread on the flies but whip finishing is the most common and one of the easier ways to do it.
You are going to need something that holds the thread and makes it easy for you to wrap the thread around the hooks. Some people have multiple bobbins due to some fly patterns requiring different threads or thread colors. You really just need one to start with and those fly patterns are pretty rare or can easily be mitigated some other way.
A bodkin is basically a fine point needle that will help in many ways when tying flies. It can pick out mistakes, dubbing material, and makes applying cement and resin easier. I have used it many times in many different ways. That is why it is a must have for beginner fly tiers.
Fly Tying Tool Kits
When it comes to acquiring these tools you have two options. Buy them separately or buy them in a kit with other tools included. I suggest the later. Some of these tools could be pretty expensive on their own. When they are included in a kit you tend to save money or get more tools that you will eventually use anyway as you continue to learn more patterns.
Budget Friendly option: Colorado Anglers Z797 Wooden Fly Tying Standard Tool Kit
What I recommend: Loon Core Fly Tying Tool Kit
Fly tying tool kits tend to be the best option when it comes to finding the right tools to tie flies. You ultimately want tools that will be durable and last for a long time as long as you use them correctly.
What Flies Should You Tie First?
Start with easy patterns that do not require a lot of materials. These usually include wet flies like the zebra midge, the classic woolly bugger, and Walt's worm.
Zebra Midge: By far a very easy pattern to tie and so many ways to change it and personalize it. Not only that, it is a very effective fly. I have caught many of my fish large and small on a simple small zebra midge that I tied.
Instruction video, material list, and purchasing of material: Fly fish food
Woolly Bugger: This is a tried and true pattern. It is very effective and is a go to pattern for many when the fishing is slow.
Instruction video and material list: Tightlinevideos
Walt's Worm: The Walt's worm is another tried and true pattern. It has many different variations and is so easy to tie. The simplicity of the pattern makes it hard not to fall into the temptation of changing the fly up a little to see how a new take on the pattern might work. That is why I chose this pattern. The simple nature of it allows the creative doors to open.
Instruction Video, Materials list, and place to buy materials: Fly Fish Food
Where can you go to learn more patterns?
It can be pretty hard to come up with ideas or find flies that you feel might work as well as challenge yourself to improve your tying skills. There are many resources out there that are free that you can learn and gain more knowledge when it comes to tying flies. Here is a list, it obviously is not limited. It is just a list of the common places I go to for instruction.
Tightlinevideos: YouTube Channel
Dave McPhail: YouTube Channel
Your local fly shop: Check google. You local fly shop sometimes offers classes that are either free or a minimal fee to join. This is a great opportunity to learn from experience fly tiers and to meet other anglers and hopefully make a fishing buddy.
Fly tying is something that many beginner and experienced fly anglers will find benefit in. It is a way to learn about the bugs that you are trying to imitate which in turn can help you read the hatches better and get you hooked up more. It can help you replicate your favorite flies that you are currently buying from your local shops shop. There is also the possibility that it can keep you sane on those cold or windy days. Whatever it may be there are lots of resources out there to help you get started and feeling confident. Will it save you money on flies? No, but it will definitely help you gain confidence in other aspects of fly fishing that will ultimately help you catch more fish and be a more well versed angler.
If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to contact me. I would be glad to answer and help in any way I can.