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Steve's Beginning Tying Tips

The price of tying your own flies does not come cheap. The tools to get started are just the jump off point as far as cost. The real cost comes from buying materials. If you get really into it, like any hobby, the cost mounts. The rewards come from the pleasure of tying and fishing your own flies. Eventually, you will experimenting and doing new pattern development. There is great satisfaction and great deal of learning not only about aquatic entomology but also habitat and stream conservation.

  • The business end of fishing is the hook. Sharp hooks catch more fish than dull ones. Barbless hooks catch more fish than those with a barb. Buying your hooks barbless will mean there will be less stress on the metal than if you have to crush down a barb with pliers. Not all hooks are created equal, with respect to the barb. Some hooks have what is referred to as micro-barbs and these are easier to crush down than those with full sized barbs. If you are new to casting, a barbless hook will come out of your shirt or ear easier than one with a barb. Even an expert at casting can have a sudden gust of wind collapse a perfect loop. If a hook can easily penetrate a fingernail then its sharp enough, else, a few quick hits with a hook hone can impart a needle sharp point. Crimping down the barb is always done before you begin tying a fly. You would not want to break off the hooks on a fly you just invested time and money tying.

  • The best tools make fly tying easy. Bad tools may make tying practically impossible. Buy a good vice and good scissors even if you are just starting out. You will regret buying junk that later proves unworthy. Eventually, you will be tying smaller hooks made from finer wire. The test of holding strength in the vice can easily be gauged by bending a hook by pressing down on its eye. If the hook slips out of the vice, then it will be useless tying flies that size. To try the models out, go to where they are sold. Seek professional help. Assess the cost of the better models.

  • Thread is the underlayment that creates a platform on the hook shank to which all material of a tie are subsequently secured. Choosing the right type of thread will help you manipulate your materials better so you can consistently produce more durable and attractive flies. Nylon and polyester threads are thinner and stronger than silk. Polyester has less stretch than nylon, which should give you more thread control. The stretch in nylon, on the other hand, gives you a buffer against breakage and better grip against slippage. Kevlar and gel spun poly (GSP) are newer thread materials having increased tensile strength. In general, these don't handle as well for general use and are more expensive. Their best applications are for situations where strength is critical, such as flaring hair or egg yarn applications. Tying thread comes waxed or unwaxed. I prefer waxed thread provides better material hold and is easier to dub. Wax prevents thread fraying and bonds readily to itself. In general, the smaller the hook the finer the thread. For more info read article .

  • Jam Knot -The proper underlayment starts with the bobbin and thread position just back from the eye of the hook. Holding the tag end (loose end) of the thread, the first wrap and a half, overwraps the thread upon itself and binds it to the shank. That is called the "jam knot". Subsequent wraps move backward further wrapping the tag end. Holding the tag end 45 degrees from the hanks shank will help crowed each successive wrap immediate adjacent to the previous wrap making the wraps abutted with no "daylight" showing.

  • The pinch wrap is an essential method to keep material in a desired spot so that the material is under equal tension hence the material is crushed to the hook shank without undesired rotation. An even underlayment of thread is wrapped on the hook shank, bring the thread to a resting position at the point where the material to be tied in. Pinch the material to be tied in and move it in position immediately over the hook shank. Move a loose loop over the material to be tied pinching it between the fingers. Next, bring the bobbin above the hook shank and allow the slack in the loop to begin squeezing smaller until the material is crushed down. Form another loop, and repeat the process. Now, additional wraps forward will secure the material in place. No rotation occurred with the material crushed down on top of the hooks shank.
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  • Finishing the fly means tying off. Beginners often use several half hitches and head cement but a whip finish is easy enough to learn. There are also whip finish tools that facilitate the process. This picture (below) is from Tim Rolston's "Essential Fly Tying Techniques". I used to use head cement but I found that a good whip finish is all that is needed. Professional tiers go the extra distance using head cement as well. (It is convenient to stick a toothpick in the eye and simple leave the fly on this while he head cement dries. No cranky customers will complain they had trouble threading the fly to the leader.)

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Regal Rotary - Professional Vice


Fly Tying Bench - Refined Madness


How to attach the thread to the hook with a Jam Knot - AvidMax

Using the pinch wrap in fly tying by Bob Leverman of the


The Thompson style whip finisher ties the same knot the other whip finishers do, it just does it a little differently. This is a little more difficult tool to learn to use, but just as important a tool as the other style of whip finisher.

Thompson style whip finishers are best suited for work in small confined places. If you're trying to tie a whip knot on a small dry fly and don't want to tie the hackle down, this is the right tool for the job. This is the best choice of whip finishers if you're using a hackle guard to hold the hackle out of the way.

This type of whip finisher isn't very suitable for flies with bead heads or bullet heads. It won't maneuver around jig heads or lead eyes. It isn't suitable for flies that must be whip finished back away from the hook eye. It is the best whip finisher to use on hair heads and small hackled flies, because it won't bind the hair or hackle down.