The variety of fly tying materials available today is truly mind-blowing! From foam to feathers and thread to lead, the selection may seem totally overwhelming to the aspiring fly tyer. This vast selection, however, is part of what makes fly tying so much fun! Of course each fly pattern has its own unique "recipe" of materials, but we feel it's smart to familiarize yourself with the basics first. Below is a simple rundown of some of the most commonly-used materials that would make great first additions to your fly tying kit!
Thread is an obvious necessity when it comes to tying a fly. Available in an array of colors and materials, you'll also find many different styles like waxed or unwaxed, flat, round, etc. On top of this, thread also comes in many sizes commonly displayed as an "aught" or "denier" rating. In the aught system, the higher the number the finer the thread. So, a 3/0 thread is thicker/stronger than a 10/0 thread. However, with this system thread sizes can vary between manufacturers, so one brand's 3/0 may not be the same as another brand's 3/0. In the denier system, as the number goes up the thread size does too. So, a 140 denier thread will be thicker/stronger than a 70. This system is an industry standard.
These feathers are very soft and fluffy. They sport a lot of action underwater and are great for mimicking creatures that swim like baitfish and leeches.
Hackle feathers can be everything from short to long and from webby to stiff. A popular choice for patterns ranging from saltwater streamers to tiny dry flies, hackle is often a must-have!
Dubbing is either natural or synthetic material that can be twisted onto the thread to form some or all of a fly's body. After dubbing is applied then wrapped around the hook, it can be teased out with a tool such as a bodkin to give it even more of a "buggy" appearance.
This easy-to-use material works great for building up the body of a fly quickly. Chenille can range from dull to flashy and is made using material built around a thin core so it can be easily wrapped onto a hook shank.
Derived from the tail of a deer, this material has a nice movement underwater and is a popular choice when tying streamer flies. Bucktail comes in natural or a number of dyed colors.
Synthetic hair comes in a huge array of colors and is a popular option to natural fibers. Baitfish-imitating streamers are often tied with this material.
Fly tying eyes can be used simply for cosmetic purposes or to help a fly sink. There's several varieties of eyes ranging from stick-on to those you must wrap onto the hook, like dumbbell eyes or bead-chain eyes. Different materials are also used such as brass, lead, stainless steel, plastic, and tungsten that can affect a fly's sink rate.
Just like eyes, single beads can be made from different materials and are slid onto the hook shank (usually before tying begins) to help a fly sink faster and add a touch of flash or color. Beads are popular additions to nymphs and small streamers like Woolly Buggers.