If you wish to start tying your own flies, there are certain fly tying tools that you will need to make the job easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.
Here's a detailed list of the items that you will need...
One of the most important items in the fly-tying tool kit and something you should not skimp on when it comes to cost. There is nothing more frustrating than scissors that do not perform well or cut cleanly. Two pairs are ideal, one for fine, delicate work cutting thread, feather and fur and these should feature short razor-sharp blades with fine tips. The other pair should be kept for heavy duty cutting of wire, tinsels and quill and should have slightly longer and heavier blades. If you do restrict yourself to just one pair of scissors make sure the harder materials are cut with the part of the blade closest to the join, keeping the tips for more delicate work. Serrated blades will give a better grip on deer hair and fur. Just as important as cutting power is the size of the finger loops, you want a pair that slips easily on and off your fingers.
This needle has a variety of uses, including applying varnish, picking out dubbing fibres, splitting feather fibre, easing out trapped hackle fibres, or clearing the hook eye. They are available in different styles and materials, but usually consist of a wood or brass handle with a needle mounted in the end. If purchasing a shop-bought model look for one that won’t easily roll off the tying bench. You can make your own using a needle glued into a wooden dowel or piece of cork. For picking out fibres, the needle needs to be short and strong, while a long, fine needle is good for applying varnish.
This gadget dispenses the thread while maintaining tension. It allows you to lay the thread down precisely without having to touch it - rough hands can easily snag and break delicate threads. There are various styles but most have sprung steel arms, brass feet and a tube at the top. The holder should grip the spool tightly so the thread is released under control. The tube, made from stainless steel or ceramic, must be silky smooth inside so the thread doesn’t chafe, causing weak spots. The weight of the bobbin and spool hanging under the hook will hold the dressing in place, so you can carry out another task with no fear it will all unravel.
Whip finishing tool
When you’ve finished tying in all the materials, you need to tie the thread off so the whole thing doesn’t unravel. You can tie the finishing knot using your fingers, but if you’ve got rough fingers you could snag or break the thread at a critical moment. This gadget means your hands don’t come into contact with the thread and once mastered it provides a neat, yet secure, whip finish at the head.
These fine-nosed miniature sprung pliers grip hackles while winding them around the hook shank. While still gripping the tied-in hackle they hang from the hook, keeping everything under tension when hands are removed. They also wind tinsels, wires, chenilles and feather herls. They should grip any material securely and a rubber pad on one or both jaw faces enhance holding power. Jaws must have no sharp edges. Styles include rotary pliers that keep the hackle perfectly aligned and have a built-in spring to prevent breakages through too much tension.
It is possible to load a bobbin holder by placing the thread into the bottom of the tube and sucking on the other end until the thread appears. However, some pre-waxed threads cause a build-up of wax in the tube leading to a partial blockage, in which case a bobbin threader can be used.
The threader consists of a fine loop of wire attached to a handle of wood or alloy. The wire loop is pushed through the top of the bobbin tube until it appears at the other end. The thread is then placed in the wire loop and pulled back through the tube.
One tool I wouldn’t be without and it cost next to nothing to make! I used a thin piece of cane or dowel, made a long shallow angled cut at one end and glued on a small piece of hooked Velcro. Excellent for teasing out natural and synthetic dubbing fibres and no risk of cutting through delicate ribs, which you can do with a sharp dubbing needle. Equally adept at brushing out long fur or synthetic wings to give the right shape and profile and won’t become stuck or clogged like a comb. Plenty of shop-bought models also available.
Half hitch tool
An alternative method of tying off a finished fly uses the half hitch tool, a barrel or tube made from brass or alloy with a small hole or recess drilled into the end. You form the half hitch knot on the end of the tool, place the tool onto the eye of the hook and slide the knot off, repeating the process a few times until you are confident the thread is secure. Some dubbing needles have a half hitch tool built in to one end, or you can buy a purpose built tool. The end of an old Biro tube works just the same.
Good lighting is essential, not only to see what you are doing in fine detail, but also to minimise eyestrain. If you have the luxury of your own fly-tying room make the main light source a 100 watt daylight bulb and use an angle-poise desk lamp, also fitted with a daylight bulb, to highlight the fly in the vice. If you have a more mobile workstation, then just go for the angle-poise option. The daylight bulb is designed to simulate true daylight and you can view the materials the fly is dressed with in their true colours, especially useful if colour matching is important. Daylight bulbs are more expensive than standard light bulbs, but are worth it. Daylight and standard bulbs can produce a lot of heat, something to bear in mind if you are working under them for long periods. It may be worth fitting a daylight tube that produces much less heat.
So, we have covered the smaller tools that will make tying your flies a whole lot more easier, but all those little tools need storing somewhere to keep them neat and tidy. Here's some suggestions...
A home-made tool caddy for under £1! Cut a block of dense foam to the right size for your work station. Then stick sharp tools into it. Or cut holes in the foam for bottles of varnish and glue so they can’t be knocked over. Also doubles as a fly rack, place one end of a cocktail stick into the eye of the hook and the other end into the foam base to allow the fly to dry.
Made from wood, dense foam or metal, with pre-drilled holes of different sizes. Small ones will take slimline tools, larger ones can accommodate bottles of varnish or glue. Some have wooden dowels onto which you can slip spools of thread. Make sure the block is quite heavy so it can’t tip over. A rubber base or legs will ensure it doesn’t slide about on the table.
Carousels can be free-standing (like this one) or attachments for a vice stem. Tools can be stored in pre-drilled holes and slots, but also provides extra storage from hanging hooks. Some incorporate a magnetic strip around the outside to which you can attach finished flies to dry.