Fly tying is a creative art steeped in history. Mastering (or even dabbling) in that art can give huge rewards and much satisfaction.
Fly tying is the skill of creating artificial flies to hook fish. It is a functional art form dating back to the 13th century.
The results of this time-honored tradition hasn’t changed a lot since the 1800s. But, new technologies, man-made materials and new tools has made fly tying easier than ever!
Flytying may seem as simple as twisting colored feathers and thread on a hook, but it isn’t as easy as that. Every fly is based on selected patterns and proportions and individual preferences.
To make your own fly, first find a couple of patterns you want to try out. There are several fantastic videos listed below to get you started.
List the necessary tools, materials and colors required for your fly making project.
Here are some basic fly-tying tools:
Flies are designed to imitate a real fly. And there are many variations on each fly available. So you may find several patterns for the same fly, especially for the more popular ones. But, all patterns will give detailed specifications of the required hook and materials.
Most hunting, fishing and sporting goods stores stock fly tying materials and kits.
In the old days, skills were passed down from generation to generation. Special flies and secret materials were kept close in the old days. But now knowledge is more likely to be gained by searching online,
There is no doubt there are many more resources now than in our ancestors’ days. Online is a huge and endless information base so keeping the ‘family’s secret fly’ is much harder.
But still many people love to create their own flies and there is a huge satisfaction from doing so.
Here are some of resources we love:
Tightline Productions offers high quality, detailed videos on a variety of flies. These include the Renegade, flying Squirrel Nymph, Muskrat Nymph, SBR Sulphur Nymph, the Insult and many, many more.
We love Jim Misiura‘s videos because, right up front, he includes a detailed list of all the needed materials.
Videos are a great way to follow all of the steps but having a book is something else. Books are wonderful resources with detailed instructions and fabulous images to dwell over. You can even pass books down the generations, creating your own fishing legacy.
Become a better angler and increase your knowledge base by reading our essential list of fly fishing books.
While this could be an article in itself, here are a few common newbie errors.
Getting the proportions wrong
Having an eye for fine details like the proportions of the fly is a learned skill. Start now by observing the proportions of flies you see in books and videos. This can be a challenge with the smallness of the flies. But, fly tying is about re-creating an artificial insect or bug so do follow the proportions of the insect.
Crowding the hook
Crowding the hook also relates into proportions. Leave at least a third of the hook shank for hackle and head.
Use the right tools
Tools can break the bank or they can be cheap and often unsuited to the task. There is the good middle ground where most anglers want to be. Without a quality set of tools you will struggle, so figure out what you want to do and invest in tools that last.
Check out Learning Curve – Fly Tying by Al Campbell of Fly Anglers Online, for more info on common mistakes.
If the learning curve seems a little too steep and your budget is small, there is one more path. You can buy ready made handcrafted ties and support a fellow angler. Check out:
TroutRoad for flies, lures, and artisan jewelry.
FeatherCraftShop has a wide variety of hand tied flies and also stocks a wide variety of feathers.
Hookers Fly Shop have a variety of ties like smallmouth flies, squirmy worms, mop flies and more.
As with learning to fish, making your own flies takes time. Unsurprisingly, fly tying requires a lot of the same characteristics as fishing. Your angling will thrive with patience and persistence as will your fly tying skills.
With the instant availability of readymade fishing flies, the art of making flies is decreasing. That’s a shame as there is a lot of joy and satisfaction in making your own fly.