As anglers enter the world of fly fishing, picking up flies from a local fly shop or online is usually the norm. Many of those same anglers will eventually end up behind a vise and begin tying their favorite patterns. Over the course of the past several years, I’ve hardly purchased more than a few dozen flies from a shop. I’ve found that I get far more enjoyment out of catching fish on a fly that I have hand tied. There are certainly essentials when it comes to fly tying such as a vise, bobbin, and scissors but I’ve found a few other items to make fly tying a bit easier and more enjoyable than it already is. These are some tools and accessories that I have found to really enhance not only my time spent behind the vise but also the flies coming off of it.
Tying mats serve several purposes from protecting your desk or tying surface to also helping to keep your materials from bouncing and rolling onto the floor. The two options below from Hairline and Timber and Fins are at the top of my wish list and are sure to meet the needs of the beginner tyer and also someone who has spent countless hours behind a well worn vise.
The Hareline Mega Tying Pad is a favorite amongst many fly tyers. This oversized mat is made of a dimpled, soft silicone material that prevents materials from bouncing and rolling off of your tying surface. I can’t tell you how many beads and hooks have fallen into the abyss below my tying desk that this mat would have prevented. In addition to keeping your materials where you want them, this mat also serves to protect your desk, table, or tying surface.
If you have a dedicated fly tying room or maybe you just really like the finer things, check out the beautiful leather fly tying mats and goods from Timber and Fins. These mats have a hook size and bead chart along with dry hackle, and wet hackle charts to help ensure the most accurate proportions while tying. While they may be a bit pricey, they’re sure to class up any tying desk.
After beginning my tying in a poorly lit area, I can’t say enough about the importance of proper lighting. Having a properly lit vise and work area will help reduce the strain on your eyes as you tie flies. It will also help ensure your flies are of the highest quality. While there are fly tying specific lights out there, you can find great desk light options for a fraction of the price. I have been using an adjustable desk lamp with several different light settings that has really improved my tying overall.
Magnets are an incredibly useful tool in fly tying. If I’m sitting down to tie some bead-head nymphs, I will typically arrange 12 or so hooks that are threaded through a bead on a flat magnet. Doing this prep work ahead of time really helps me get into a groove as I begin to tie. Magnets are also great for picking up tiny hooks and beads on your workstation and probably off of the floor at some point.
You can also use a magnet to orient the hole on tungsten beads prior to putting them on a hook. There are a number of applications for magnets in fly tying so do yourself a favor and grab one off of the fridge or pick up a few different sizes from a local hardware store.
As you progress through your fly tying journey, acquiring more and more materials is almost a guarantee. I have found that keeping my tying desk and materials neatly organized makes me far more likely to twist up a few of my favorite patterns.
Storing materials like dubbing, beads, hooks, thread, assortments of hackle, tools and more can get overwhelming quickly. I have dedicated two drawers in a nightstand next to my tying desk to store my materials but I consider having that space a luxury. Many people use plastic bins to keep different materials organized. Plastic bins also eliminate the chance that any bugs can access and potentially ruin your hackle capes.
Loon Outdoors, known for innovative fly tying tools, released their Bench Rings as a simple and cost-effective solution for storing a number of packs of dubbing or hooks in their original packing. These rings are available in 3 different sizes for all your materials. I’d recommend picking up a few to keep your materials organized in a low profile way.
My desk tends to get disorganized while I’m tying so I try to stop every couple of flies to tidy up a bit. That process includes returning my most used tools to my Renzetti Soft Foam Tool Caddy. This organizer helps keep all of my tools at the ready and has made my time behind the vise far more productive. It may seem like an unnecessary purchase but trust me, you won’t regret it.
Inspiration for tying flies comes from many different places, maybe it was a natural insect that you were observing that sparks an idea or maybe you want to make a modification to a tried and true pattern. Regardless, I have found that thinking out of the box from time to time can lead to some really interesting flies that produce fish.
Another great source for inspiration would be guide books, fly fishing magazines, blogs, and fly tying books. Living in Colorado, I have leaned heavily on the hardback book Colorado Guide Flies from Pat Dorsey but the patterns found within could be applied just about anywhere that trout live. In addition to numerous patterns, Pat Dorsey provides great entomology information in a digestible way. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this book or doing a bit of research to find out some notable fly tyers from your region.
One last form of inspiration would be the beer! A cold one on the tying desk can really get the creative juices flowing. So be sure to check out The 12 Best Beers to Pack For Your Next Fishing Trip for some of our favorites!
How many flies will you tie this winter?
With winter in full swing in many places throughout the country, it’s a great time to take inventory of your fly boxes and twist up some of your favorite patterns. While none of these items are necessary to tie flies, they are sure to make your time doing so far more enjoyable. These are just a few of the items that I have found to really make a difference and hope they help you along your journey as well. I’m always curious to hear tips and tricks from other anglers so be sure to leave a comment below.