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Beginning Fly Tying - Where to Start

Updated on August 24, 2012
A contemporary mayfly tied with foam.
A contemporary mayfly tied with foam.

Some General Assumptions About You

This is the first of four articles about fly tying. Let's make a few assumptions to determine if this and the subsequent articles describe you and are therefore worth your while to read. I assume that you: 1) are currently fly fishing and are considering tying your own flies, 2) have a fairly good idea of what you want to tie, 3) are inherently cheap and are willing to spend time researching to save money, 4) enjoy, to some extent, intricate work. As a kid you may have liked putting models together or doing needle point, and 5) have not purchased anything towards tying your own flies. If you have answered "yes" to most of these assumptions, I believe this and the subsequent articles will help you.

The squirrel tail nymph is a classic cold, freshwater fly with the tail of squirrel fur, body of fox fur and wool, hackle of a partridge feather.
The squirrel tail nymph is a classic cold, freshwater fly with the tail of squirrel fur, body of fox fur and wool, hackle of a partridge feather.
The orange popper, a typical warm, freshwater fly with a deer hair tail, foam body, rubber legs, and plastic google eyes.
The orange popper, a typical warm, freshwater fly with a deer hair tail, foam body, rubber legs, and plastic google eyes.
A typical saltwater fly, it is large and has a  stainless steel hook
A typical saltwater fly, it is large and has a stainless steel hook

What Fish Do You Pursue?

The best way to get you started with fly tying is to walk the entire process backwards. In short, we start by asking what type flies will you be tying and indirectly what type of fish do you fish for? There are three categories for fly fishing. They are cold freshwater, warm freshwater, and saltwater. Cold freshwater fish (trout, salmon, grayling) eat a lot of larvae insects. Generally your flies are going to be small, have natural materials (read: dead animal parts), and be fairly intricate. Warm freshwater (bass, panfish, specs, carp, even catfish) eat insects also, but larger prey such as baitfish, crayfish, and leeches also make up their diet. You will be tying larger flies and using more synthetic materials. Saltwater fish eat baitfish, crabs, and shrimp. Your flies will be large, less intricate, on stainless steel hooks, and have more synthetic materials. The type of flies you tie will dictate the type of tools and materials you will purchase and use.


Getting Started

The next three articles will get into the details of the tools, materials, and the techniques that you will need. Again, the tools and materials you need will be dictated by the type of fishing (cold freshwater, warm freshwater, saltwater) you are currently enjoying. "Should I purchase a fly tying kit", you ask? The answer is probably no. Chances are good that if you do, much of the material in it you will not have a need for and the vice, if it is included, will not suffice. You will purchase another vice soon after you start tying. As a fly fisher, you should already have some favorite flies. My guess is that you can limit your purchase to the materials you need for your desired flies and still come under the cost of many fly tying kits. Should I purchase a fly tying book? Possibly. There are some great fly tying videos on the internet on how to tie certain fly patterns. What many of them lack are teaching you some standard, fly tying techniques. I'll be going over a few of these techniques in a video later, but it would not hurt to invest in a book on techniques if you learn best by reading. Unfortunately, my reference books are dated (1970's), so I don't have any recommendations. There no doubt are some good reference materials in publication. I would search book reviews before purchasing.

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    • profile image

      Tike 2 years ago

      As Charlie Sheen says, this article is "WI!GINNN"

    • Tod Zechiel profile image
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      Tod Zechiel 17 months ago from Florida, United States

      Thank you!

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