The Best Fly Tying Tools for Beginners to Start Out With
Interested in learning how to tie flies? Fly tying is something that every fly angler who's immersed in the sport should learn how to do. It's not just fun and can save money; being able to create or customize patterns that are tailored to exactly where you fish can also help boost your success.
If whipping up your own bugs seems even remotely intimidating, please throw that notion out the window.
Some flies can certainly require pricier materials and more expertise, but the truth of the matter is that many different patterns can be tied without extensive skills or excessive costs involved. Highly-productive and very basic patterns like Woolly Buggers and Clouser Minnows catch a lot of fish and are ideal for novice fly tyers.
Regardless of what pattern you want to tie first, you're going to need at least a few tools. Ok, so what tools should you buy to get started in fly tying? Simple. Below you'll find a short list of what I consider to be the "core" tools for tying many types of patterns. Of course, way more tools exist that can help in different ways, but the following are the most important ones to look at when getting your feet wet in the fly tying world.
Bobbin: Aside from a vise, it would be mighty hard to tie a fly without a bobbin. The basic job of a fly tying bobbin is to not just hold a spool of thread (or floss, wire, etc), but it also allows you to wrap the material in a more precise manner and under various levels of tension. There are some pretty intricately-designed bobbins out there, including some that even feature drag systems to set the spool tension, but a good-quality basic design works just fine. It's all I've ever used.
You'll find that there's various bobbin sizes and tubes available. To keep it simple, a good medium-sized bobbin of around four inches is a nice modest size for a variety of flies. The bobbin tube (the long cylinder the thread goes through) should have a smooth, rounded tip to prevent the thread from being sliced or chafed while wrapping material onto the hook. It's a pretty standard feature these days as far as I know, but just make sure that feature is included.
Bobbin Threader: To go along with that bobbin, you'll want a bobbin threader. Simply put, it lets you quickly pull the thread through the bobbin tube — a task that can be nearly impossible at times without one!
Scissors: On my fly tying desk I keep two different pairs of scissors. One of them is a premium scissor with a super fine and very sharp tip for precise cuts of thread and small bits of soft material. The other scissor is an older, cheaper pair that I use for general work, like cutting large chunks of material or snipping harder items like lead wire. A more typical small fishing scissor (like braid scissors) or utility scissor can also be used for these general duties.
Image: Loon Outdoors
Hackle Pliers: This small instrument helps you grab onto the stem of a hackle feather so that you can more easily/securely palmer (wrap) that feather around the hook. Hackle pliers are also extremely handy because if you momentarily need both hands to do something else while you're in the midst of wrapping, you can simply let the pliers hang and their weight will keep the feather from unraveling itself. While I typically just hold the feather with my hand while wrapping, hackle pliers (like the Loon Ergo Pliers above) are especially helpful if you're lacking dexterity or working with smaller feathers.
Bodkin: Resembling a miniature ice pick, a bodkin is a handy tool that's too cheap not to own. From teasing out dubbing to clearing a clogged hook eye, there's a lot you can do with one of these. This is one of those tools that you might think you don't really need...till you need it!
Whip Finisher: When you're done tying a fly, thread has to be secured before being clipped off. Usually, this is done by using a series of half hitches or, better yet, a whip finish knot. You can tie a whip finish knot with your fingers, but a tool makes it much easier in my opinion. Speaking from personal experience, it can take a little bit of time to first get good at using a whip finisher, but it soon becomes second nature and can actually be kind of fun once mastered.
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