Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Find a fly shop

Novice fly tiers need advice. The best place to find it is at a
tackle shop that sells fly-fishing paraphernalia. In recent years,
fly shops have proliferated across the Midwest. Likely, there is
one near you.

At a fly shop, you’ll find not only the tools and materials you
need, but also expert advice about how to use them. Most shops
offer winter fly tying classes for very reasonable rates. Sign up
and show up for class. There is no better way to learn the

In a class, you’ll learn about the types of flies wets, dries,
nymphs, and streamers and how to make them. Usually, you will learn
how to tie a few common flies in the course of several class
sessions. With basic knowledge about tying techniques, you can
figure how to tie commonly-used flies. You can even invent your own

Gearing up

You can buy a fly-tying kit to get started. The rub is that a
kit almost certainly contains materials you’ll never use — and will
be without some you’ll use all the time. If you are buying
fly-tying tools and materials for a child or someone who may not
get “into it,” a kit may be the way to go. Someone with more
serious interest is better off selecting the essentials on their

Again, this is where a fly shop (or a good mail-order company)
can be especially helpful. Generally, you’ll be getting advice from
an experienced tier. They’ll ask about what kind of flies you plan
to make and what species you plan to pursue with them. Then they’ll
point you toward the tools and materials that will best meet your

Generally speaking, you should easily be able to get what you
need with a start-up investment of less than $200. Focus on
quality, rather than quantity. Purchase tools that will last you
many years, or until your knowledge and interest leads you to buy
additional ones. All you really need to get started is a good vise,
a thread bobbin, hackle pliers, and a sharp pair of scissors. An
organized storage system is helpful, too.

Look at fly recipes and buy the materials needed for the
patterns you intend to tie. Avoid the powerful temptation to buy
colorful or exotic materials that are a pleasure to look at, but in
reality may be used to tie just a handful of patterns. Often, you
can buy material assortments or grab bags that contain small
amounts of these materials for a reasonable price.

Some materials, such as high-quality rooster necks for dry fly
hackles, may seem prohibitively expensive. Remember that the price
will be spread over the dozens of flies you can tie with one

Also, a beginner doesn’t need top-shelf materials. Reasonably
priced feathers and fur will more than suffice. Ditto for

Your initial purchases will carry you a long way into your
fly-tying career. Once you have tools and basic tying materials,
additions to your fly tying collection can be bought as you need
them. As a fly tier, you always have an excuse to browse in a fly
shop or fly-fishing catalog.

Since there is tremendous variety in fly tying materials, you
will accumulate them from a variety of sources. Many fly tiers get
duck feathers, pheasant feathers, and squirrel tails from friends
who hunt. Some go as far as stopping to scrounge material from road
kills. You can find all sorts of useful yarns, tinsels, and similar
materials in sewing and craft shops.

Learning more

Many fly tiers are avid readers. There are more books written
about fly-fishing and fly tying than virtually any other outdoor
subject. Novices can learn a tremendous amount from some of these

It’s a good idea to purchase at least one book about fly tying
techniques and others that contain recipes for fly patterns. Again,
the folks at the fly shop can steer you in the right direction.

They may point out pertinent videos, too.

You should also consider joining a local fly-fishing club, if
one exists in your area. Often these clubs host fly-tying sessions
throughout the winter months where you can rub shoulders with
experienced, talented tiers. Often, too, club meetings include
guest speakers who are experts at various aspects of

Many people find that fly tying is an absorbing pastime. Don’t
be surprised to find yourself sitting at vise until the wee hours
of the morning. Time flies when you tie flies. So does winter.

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