Fly Tying For Beginners

Most anglers will eventually hit a point in their fishing lives where they think about making their own artificial lures. Bass anglers will purchase their own molds to attempt to create their own soft plastic. However, it is in fly fishing where this hobby really begins to take flight.

You get a certain satisfaction from catching a fish with your own fly. Not only have you gone out and caught a fish in one of the most challenging ways possible, but you did so with a fly that you created yourself.

The path to creating your own flies is not easy. It takes time and effort to learn how to tie patterns correctly. So, below we’re going to go over some easy ways for beginners to get into fly tying. 

Why Tie your Own Flies?

Some fly anglers swear that tying your own flies will save you money in the long run. However, if you’ve tied for long enough, you know that this is most likely not true. This is because you will be spending money on a lot of different tools and materials to tie your own flies. If you do it because you think it will be cheaper, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Instead, you should be tying your own flies because it’s another way to get closer to the activity of fly fishing. Let’s be honest; almost all fly anglers are obsessed with this hobby. So why not add a new hobby that benefits your favorite one.

Immersing yourself in fly fishing is a great way to spend time, but it’s also a great way to learn more about the different types of insects and other forage in your area. On top of that, it’s just a gratifying way to approach fishing. 

Once you have the basics of fly tying down, you’ll find that you can get creative with the flies you tie; allowing you to create flies that no one else has ever used before. Potentially giving you a leg up in a fly-fishing tournament or just allowing you to get out and haul in more fish than your friends.

Fly Tying Materials for Beginners

Below, we will cover some of the basic tools and materials you will need for beginner fly tying. I would recommend getting most of if not all of these tools. They will give you a good base for tying and will help you build the skills you need.

Vise

Fly tying vice

If you want to tie flies, then you need to have a vise. It is the most essential tool for fly tying and is usually the most expensive as well. A vise performs the task of holding the hook while you wind the thread and other materials around it. 

Scissors

Fly tying scissors for beginners

Besides your vise, scissors are the tool you will be using the most. They will be cutting different threads, hairs, hackle, or anything else you need to be trimmed up on your fly tying bench. A good pair of fly tying scissors will make all the difference in the quality of your flies. 

Whip Finisher

 whip finish

Every fly you tie will need to be finished off with a knot so that the thread does not come undone on your finished fly. That’s where this tool comes into play. It is only used for tying the finishing knot, but that knot is fundamental to having a good quality fly. 

Bobbin

Fly tying bobbin

A bobbin is used to hold thread so that you can easily manipulate it around the shank of the hook. It’s possible to do this by hand, but a bobbin just makes it all so much easier. The overall quality of your flies will be much better when a bobbin is used.

Hackle Pliers

hackle pliers

In the world of fly tying, hackle means feathers. You will find that many flies are going to utilize hackle to give them a more lifelike appearance. However, they can be difficult to manipulate. This is where the hackle plier comes into play. They provide a secure grip on the stem of the feather so that you can wrap it around the hook.

Bodkin Needle

bodkin needle

This is one of, if not the most versatile tool that you could have at your fly tying bench. You can use it to help you with just about anything from picking out dubbing, applying cement and glue, or anywhere that you think a fine needlepoint would be useful. 

Fly Tying Kit

Fly tying kit

If tracking down all of the above products seems like too much work, you could just purchase a fly tying kit. It will come with all of the above tools and more. This makes it less intimidating when picking out materials and gives a great set of tools to help get you on your way to tying flies.

Beginner Flies to Tie

Once you have all of the tools at your disposal, then you have to decide which flies you want to tie. A handful of flies will work on waters across the globe, so we will be covering them below. 

If you want to tie flies that are unique to your home waters, I recommend going to your nearest fly shop and picking the brains of the people working behind the counter. Ask them what the best local flies are, and they will be able to get you headed in the right direction.

San Juan Worm

The San Juan Worm catches a lot of flack from hardcore fly anglers. However, don’t let any negative talk you hear from the local fly shop deter you from throwing this fly. The reason being is it has probably caught more fish than any other fly out there.

It is also incredibly easy to tie as well; making it ideal for a new angler. All you need is a hook, thread, and a piece of chenille. If you want to get fancy, you could attach a weight at the head to help it sink faster. 

Anytime you’re unsure of what to throw, you should be throwing a San Juan Worm. It’s excellent for new water or new anglers who may not have a lot of confidence in their skill. You can challenge yourself with other flies later. Right now, throw a San Juan and work on proper nymphing technique.

Wooly Bugger

Fly tying for beginners

A Wooly Bugger is one of the most versatile flies out there. It can be used to imitate different types of forage and can be used to catch just about any kind of fish, regardless of whether it is freshwater or saltwater.

This is mostly used as a baitfish imitation, swimming it through the water to imitate an injured baitfish. Or swinging through the current to help entice a bite from trout, bass, or anything else you could be fishing for. 

It could also be fished similar to the San Juan Worm. Drift it underneath an indicator and let it bounce off of the bottom. This could imitate a crawfish getting swept up in the current.

It is more difficult to tie than the San Juan. With practice, you shouldn’t have any issues at all. All you need is a hook, chenille, thread, and wire, and some hackle. Any color will do, but I have found the most success with olive green, black, and brown.

Zebra Midge

Fly tying for beginners

This is a great fly to throw when trout are feeding for emerging midge pupae. Anytime you see fish rolling in the current to eat struggling insects, you should be looking to throw a Zebra Midge. On top of being effective, they are also very easy flies to tie. Rust, black, brown, and olive are the colors I have the most success with.

Zebra Midges are going to be one of the smaller flies that you will be throwing. Usually, these are never bigger than a size 16. So, be prepared to tie these flies onto very light tippet. 5X is the absolute heaviest you should go, but a 6X is ideal.

Bounce this fly along the bottom under an indicator and be prepared for very light strikes. Use the smallest indicator possible, so you see those subtle takes. With such light tippet, you don’t want to set the hook too hard. Speed is more efficient over power in this situation.

The only materials you need to tie this fly are a hook, bead, thread, and wire. This is easier to tie than the wooly bugger but not quite as simple as the San Juan. It may take a time or two to perfect this fly, but you could master it in a night.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

One of the oldest and most popular flies around, the Pheasant Tail Nymph catches fish year after year and is one of the most successful flies out there. It imitates a wide range of nymphs and can be used in many different scenarios to catch fish.

It is usually tied onto a size 12-18 sized hook. So, you don’t need to super light for tippet if you are using a larger size. However, with the size 18 fly, you should be using something closer to 6X tippet. With a size 12, you might be able to get away with a 4X or a 5X.

As the name says, you will be using pheasant tail in this pattern, along with thread, beads, and herl. This should be in the same difficulty as the wooly bugger. Maybe slightly more challenging because the size of the fly will be smaller.

Conclusion

The above information is a great jumping-off point. If you find yourself falling in love with tying, please feel free to dig a little deeper, try some new flies to tie, or grab some new tools to use.

Fly tying is a great way to get deeper into the world of fly fishing. You will learn more about insects than you ever have before, and this will only benefit your time spent out on the water chasing fish.

Catching a fish on a fly rod is a great feeling, but catching one on your own fly is a whole other ballgame. It is addictive, and you will soon see why so many fly anglers spend all night tying flies, only to wake up a few hours later to go out and catch fish. 

So, if that sounds intriguing to you, then use the information in the article above to go out and find the best fly tying kits, tools, and materials for you! 

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