For many fly anglers, wintertime totally stinks.
It's cold, snowy, icy, and there might not even be any fishable water around. This can be a totally depressing scenario from a fishing perspective, but I can think of no better time of year to tie flies. You don't tie flies, you say? Well, being only a few weeks into the new year, why not make it a late resolution of sorts to start tying?
Fly tying doesn't have to be difficult and doesn't require a lot of money or equipment to get started. Now, you can certainly go as wild as you want with the budget and amount of stuff you buy, but don't think that's what you have to do from the very get go. Heck, I've been tying flies for about 25 years now and have never owned a high-end vise or a ton of premium tools.
What tools should you buy to get started in fly tying? Simple. I've compiled a short list of the most necessary and useful ones that will allow you to tie most patterns you'll ever need. Far more tools exist that might make life easier in some other instances, but when getting your feet wet you're likely not going to be tying anything extremely complex anyway.
When starting out in fly tying, look for these 6 types of tools:
Bobbin: Besides a vise, a bobbin is an absolutely essential item for any fly tyer. The basic job of the bobbin is to hold a spool of thread (or floss, wire, etc) and allows you to precisely wrap the thread onto the hook exactly where you want it. Bobbins also let you apply additional tension to the thread (helpful for securing materials to the hook) either manually by squeezing the bobbin arms, or a fancier bobbin might have a type of drag system to set thread tension automatically. I prefer the standard, manual form of bobbin tension myself and have always used that.
There's different bobbin sizes and tube sizes too—small sizes excel at tiny flies, big ones are great for bigger flies—but a good medium-sized bobbin around, say, four inches long works very well for a variety of flies. Speaking of the bobbin tube, any good bobbin nowadays should have a smooth, rounded tip to prevent thread from being chafed or sliced while tying, so just double check that's an included feature.
Bobbin Threader: Along with the bobbin, you'll need a bobbin threader to quickly pull the thread, floss, etc through the bobbin tube. Bobbin threaders are usually long, thin wire that either come alone or may be attached to a second bonus tool like a bodkin. When selecting the bobbin threader, the typical threader will work fine with most small to medium bobbins. However, if you have a bobbin with an extra-long tube, you'll want to make sure the threader wire is slightly longer than the tube of your bobbin so it'll actually be compatible.
Scissors: I like to keep two pairs of fly tying scissors handy. One is a premium scissor with a very fine, sharp tip for snipping thread and making other very small, fine cuts. The other is a good but older scissor that I've had for awhile. I use that one for less-precise work, like clipping large chunks of material and things like lead wire that might dull my other scissor. A typical fishing scissor or utility scissor could also be used for these more general tying desk duties.
Hackle Pliers: These small, simple pliers grab onto the stem of a feather allowing you to easily palmer (wrap) hackle around the hook. They are also really handy because if you need both hands to quickly do something else while palmering hackle, you can simply let the pliers hang and their weight will keep the feather from unraveling itself. While useful, for the record I generally prefer NOT to use hackle pliers as I just like the hands-on approach to palmering hackle, but with very small feathers they can be a big help.
Bodkin: A bodkin is a pointy instrument that looks kind of like a miniature ice pick. These tools are too cheap not to own. A bodkin can serve a variety of purposes from teasing out dubbing to clearing a clogged hook eye. You might think you don't need one till you actually need one!
Whip Finisher: When a fly is complete, the thread must be secured before being cut off. This is typically done by either using some half-hitch knots or a whip finish knot. A whip finish knot is more secure and is extremely easy to tie with the help of a whip finisher tool. It takes a few minutes of initial practice, but once you get the hang of using a whip finisher the knot can be tied within seconds and it's actually pretty fun to do. While the knot can be tied by hand, for me the tool makes it way easier and more precise.
Need fly tying tools or other items?