During the past 25 years of being a fly tier and fly shop owner I have tried just about every kind of hair, dubbing, leg material, hook, synthetic, wire, foam and tools that have become available to fly tiers from manufacturers worldwide. Every year someone comes up with a new material or tool that is claimed to save time and make fly tying easier. As I sit here looking at my fly tying bench I find ten different types of bobbins and scissors sticking out of their holders on the second tier of the bench. Out of all the tools available I still only use my favorite type of bobbin, two pairs of scissors, one hackle plier and one brand of hooks. I have learned over the years that these tools and hooks are the fastest and most reliable for me.
If you are interested in learning to tie flies I can give you a few tips and even though you have been tying for a little while some of these tips might save you a little time and energy. Your vise is one of the most important tools. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on one but you need one that will hold several sizes of hooks without any adjustments. A rotary vise is nice but if you learn to tie correctly what happens on your side of the vise will also happen on the reverse side. I have only one pattern that I tie that I could use a rotary vise so I have never invested the money in one for only one pattern. Two good pairs of scissors are a must when tying. One will be used to cut the thread and the other to cut materials. If you use only one pair in your hand for trimming thread this pair will last you for years without being sharpened. There are many other tools, like a dubbing tool, that will make your flies easier to tie and all tiers find these tools as they improve their tying.
Nothing beats taking a fly tying class or other type of personal instruction. Fly tying classes can take place in fly shops, with tying groups and independent clubs that can help you get started. I know a few people that are self taught and they tie very fine flies but most self-starters end up taking a class or getting some instruction from another tiers. Every time I watch another tier I find some technique that I might be able to use to improve a fly pattern or make my tying faster.
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There are many books that have been published about tying flies and different patterns and the two that I recommend are Skip Morris’ “Fly Tying Made Easy” and “Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference to Techniques and Dressing Flies” by Ted Leeson and Jim Scholimeyer. You can’t go wrong with these two publications but there are many more available for you to choose from.