How To Get Started Tying Flies: Best Beginner Equipment [2020]

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).

How To Get Started Tying Flies 

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 work).

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

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, scissors, whip finisher, hooks, material, thread and cement.

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 – Guarantee, 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 all about about the budget life and want to spend a little less money on your vice, I may recommend the Aventik Quality Aluminum Fly Tying Vise.  Now being under 50 dollars you will probably get what you pay for.  However, many fly fisherman have previously enjoyed the heck out of what they payed for in this vise.

Related Article: Ranking The Most Popular Trout Dry Flies of All Time

Scissors

You are going to want some high quality scissors in your fly tying kit.  This is a must, you’ll be using these a bunch while tying flies and a bad pair of scissors can be frustrating.  I would recommend these Dr. Slick Arrow Tip scissors for your first ones, they are 3.5 inches in length and have a micro tip for tiny clips you’ll want to make.  Dr. Slick makes very high quality equipment as well so you can’t go wrong with these.

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.  Get 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.

Fly Hooks

Depending on the size of the fish you are going for, will change the size hook you will want to purchase.  Obviously, if you are going to be fishing for bass, buy bigger hooks.  If you going to be fishing for brown trout, you are going to want smaller hooks.  That being said, you’ll want some high quality hooks for your flies.

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.  They’re high quality fish hooks that use Mustad’s Nor Tampering process to keep them light but strong.

Fly Materials

Buying options of materials for your flies are endless.  Different types of fish like different colors and options, so there is a lot of choices.  You’ll want to buy the type of material that the fish you are going for like!  The three big fly categories are dry flies, streamers, and nymphs.

Now in saying that, if you want a kit with a lot of material, I would recommend the Muskoka Lifestyle Products Fly Tying Material Feather Starter Kit.  It has a variety of materials that will be perfect for a beginner in tying flies.  It’s a solid beginner kit with a good price.

Thread

I would suggest buying this UTC thread to start tying flies.  It’s designed specifically for tying flies and there are a bunch of different color options.

Cement

To get all the hairs to stay connected to the head of your fly and keep the head shiny,  you’ll need some cement.  I personally would suggest going with this bottle of Loon Outdoors Water Based Head Cement.  It’s cheap and will do the job you want it to do.

Related Article: 10 Most Popular Brook Trout Flies Of All Time

Extra Accessories You Might Want

You’ll probably want a bobbing threader right away.  I would suggest getting the Dr. Slick Bobbing Threader, it will come in handy while you are tying flies.  What it does is it’ll help you pull the thread through the bobbin tube easier, which will make fly tying much more enjoyable.

Another thing to include in the kit will be some hackle pliers.  These Loon Outdoors Ergo Hackle Pliers will get the job done.  They will help you grab small feathers or pieces of hair to add to your fly, without having to use your fingers.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About The Elk Hair Caddis Fly

In the end, you will have a blast tying flies

Getting started with tying flies can seem like a lot right away. But any fisherman or woman will tell you that pulling your first fish in, on your own fly, is like nothing else in the world.  To pull a fish out of the creek or river with a lot more time invested is far more rewarding than buying every single fly in your box.

It’ll take some time and gear to get the ball rolling but when you finally do, you will not regret it!  Good luck on your adventure and go nail em!

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