How to Get Started Fly Tying: The Complete Guide for Beginners

So you’re getting in to fly tying, huh?

Buckle up, because you’re in for an adventure!

Whether you’ve lost too many flies in the bushes and you’re looking to mitigate some cost involved, or you simply want to become more in touch with the fly fishing experience—tying your own flies is a worthwhile endeavor for any serious fly fisherman.

Plus, in terms of rewarding experiences, there is simply nothing quite like landing a cutthroat trout on an elk hair caddis you’ve tied yourself.

Partly cloudy day in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.. no mosquitos.. rushing water.. BAM! Fish on. You get the picture.

On top of all that, tying your own flies gives you a chance to put a unique twist on things—after all, every good angler needs a couple curveballs in their fly box. Become good enough, you could develop a unique niche for tying your own flies and even turn it in to a business (though, that’s a story for another day).

Choosing The Right Fly Tying Materials (and where to buy them)

One of the most common mistakes you can make when you’re just starting to tie your own flies is purchasing TOO MUCH equipment. This is a big no, no.

When you’re just starting, my advice is to pick 1-3 fly patterns and master them. Don’t bore yourself, but by sticking to 1-3 target fly patterns you’ll limit your startup costs big time.

Pros and Cons of Buying A Fly Tying Kit Vs. Materials

Without question, the quickest way to get started in tying your own flies is by purchasing a fly tying kit (if you’re looking for a complete kit at a low price, this one from Scientific Anglers will do the trick)

However, the biggest con to purchasing a kit is also the biggest pro of buying materials yourself, which is what I recommend.

When you purchase a fly tying kit, there will be a certain percentage of equipment inside that you’ll never use (depending on what type of fishing you plan on doing), so why have it around? By focusing on 1-3 fly patterns that you feel you can master you’ll actually cut your cost in the long run.

Purchasing fly tying materials one by one is a good route to go for this exact reason. Plus, you’ll end up with material that’s a little higher quality than your average fly kit.

As far as getting started, you’ll need a vise, hooks, scissors, material, and thread.

  1. Choosing A Beginning Fly Tying Vise

When it comes to choosing a vice, it’s possible to spend anywhere from $50-$600+ on a fly tying vice. At the end of the day, we’re talking about holding a hook while you tie a fly.. so breaking the bank isn’t exactly a priority.

The Griffin Odyssey Spider Tying Vise is a lower budget option for beginners, it’s made in the USA, has a 100% Lifetime-Gurantee, has a jaw capacity of 28 to 4/0, and rotates 360 degrees.

As far as beginner fly tying vices go, the Griffin Odyssey vise should suit your needs perfectly.

If you’re not about the budget life and want to spend a little more money on your vice, I may recommend the Orvis Renzetti 2000. The Orvis brand should explain it.

For Your Remaining Fly Tying Material, It’s Important to Understand The Fish You’re Targeting

Obviously, if you’re fly fishing for bass, you’re going to want a little larger hook. At Fly Fishing Daily, we’re most interested in how to fly fish for mountain and river trout.

With that being said, some of the easiest flies to tie are nymphs (as you can’t really mess them up, they’re all ugly). However, for beginning fly fishermen in general, I recommend starting with dry flies—so if you’re picking a fly to start tying dry flies are a good route to go.

Choosing The Best Hooks for Fly Tying

Without question, one of the more popular hooks for tying your own flies is the Gamakatsu Stinger Hook (they’re razor sharp, made in Japan). The only downside to these hooks, they end at a #6. Start there, as with a bigger hook a novice in fly tying has a little more room to work.

However, for the sake of versatility, I recommend a set of Mustad hooks specifically for dry flies.

Buying A Whip Finisher

A whip finisher is pretty cut and dried. You’ll need one to finish your flies.

The last thing you want is to be nailing trophy browns and burn through your last fly because you had a bad finishing knot.

Buy a whip finisher, you’ll be glad you did.

The Dr. Slick Model has good reviews, a lot of versatility, and it’s about $7-$14.

Choosing The Perfect Materials For Trout

It would be absurd for us to recommend a certain type of material without knowing what fly you’re looking to tie, so, I recommend first choosing the 1-3 types of flies you’d like to tie and moving from there.

With that being said, a good all around starter materials kit for trout flies is the Cascade kit. You’ll get quite a bit of variety and it’ll fit your budget nicely.

The Cascade kit comes with Hooks, thread, floss, marabou, yarns, peacock, saddle and a basic instruction sheet (can’t beat that!).

Don’t Forget These Odds & Ends to Complete Your Setup

This is going to be a con of not purchasing a complete fly tying kit—you may end up forgetting an odd or an end.

Don’t let it happen to you, you’re looking for the following items. (or, just go buy the Dr. Slick toolbox.. a must have for novice to expert fly tying junkies..)

  1. Bobbin Threader (
  2. Hackle Pliers (
  3. Scissors (
  4. Head Cement (
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An avid fly fisherman, my work with is an effort to give back to the community that has given me so much. If you're interested in writing a guest post send me an email! (tyler at flyfishandcamp dot com)