Buyers Guide - What tools do I need to tie flies?

What tools do I need to tie flies?

We run tying courses over the Winter months.  Teaching someone from the ground up to tie flies has a steep learning curve.  However if you keep it simple you can get everything you need to get started and just add a few things as your tying game steps up

1. Needs - Have these with you at all times

You always need just a few things.  First thing is a vise.  Yes that may be understood but lets start at the beginning.  There are a TON of vises out there.  Whether it's a simple vise like THIS, a basic rotary like THIS, or any number of high end vises, buy one that fits your budget that will last you a while in your tying adventures.

Next, you need 3 main tools.  A bobbin, scissors, and whip finisher are in my opinion the things that you really need to tie flies.  The bobbin holds your thread to use to tie, the scissors to cut thread, materials, etc, adn the whip finisher to finish it all up once you're done.

 In my opinion that's all you "need".  There's lots of other tools out there to help with certain situations but the true needs of the sport are summed up in those 3 tools.

2. Wants - Sure does help to have these at the vise

There are a TON of tools for tying out there.  Many of these are very specific for a designed technique in tying.  So depending on where your tying takes you, you MAY need some of these.  For instance if you are getting into tying deer hair poppers you'll need a good hair packer.  That being said, the people that come into our shop that tie these specific flies is less than 1%.  So don't go looking for those ultra specific tools unless you're getting into those flies.  Here's a few things that I would add to your arsenal of tools as your experience grows.

A few different types of scissors.  You'll learn that specific tasks work much better with a certain kind of scissor.  Fine tuned work for some tiny flies compared to cutting big hefty materials can vary in which scissors do the job well for you.  Add a 2nd or 3rd pair to your desk and you'll thank me later.

Many vices just come with a clamp to attach them to a table.  Replacing that with a pedestal base helps the ease of placing your vise in a specific spot that fits you best, as well as packing up and moving if you don't have a permanent spot to tie in.

A bodkin can be used in so many different ways.  I honestly don't use it as much as I should but it's uses are unending.  Picking guard hairs out of  your nymphs, splitting your thread for a dubbing loop, applying head cement, and so much more.  It's a fairly simple tool but something you should definitely have.

A good set of hackle pliers is a must once you're tying dry flies.  This is probably the category that has the most options that I've seen over the years.  There are so many styles that I've lost count.  I think in the end it's personal preference, and you may go through a few before you find your favorite, but once you do, you'll be glad you have it.  Comfort and the right amount of tension and feel go a long way in handling those dry fly hackles.  You an use it for other materials as well, whenever you're doing any wrapping, but it's invaluable in tying dries.

3. Probably don't need

The random tools that have been invented for fly tying is infinite.  As stated before, some of these are for very specific techniques and if you get into that sector of tying then you may need it, but if you're really not diving into that area, save your money and go buy some more materials instead.  These can range from fancy dubbing chip clips, vises that cost WAY too much money, super odd scissors, complicated dubbing loop twisters and more.  I'm sure there's some of you who own more tools than you tie flies in a given year and I've touched a nerve, but this blog probably isn't for you anyway.  

In the end, tie flies because you truly enjoy that part of the spot.  Have a fun and relaxing sit at your vise and go stick a few fish with your creations!



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published