Fly Tying

Getting Started in Fly Tying

There are several reasons to tie flies.  But there are two that stand above the others. First, only a small percentage of all flies are sold commercially.  And with tying, you have the ability to tie a nearly unlimited number of variation of sizes and colors of any pattern.  Second, crafting a fly is transcendental.... there's nothing more gratifying than catching a fish on a fly you tied!

Kisatchie Fly Fishers recognizes the significance of fly tying.  We conduct a monthly tying session, often on the 2nd Monday of each month (except December).  Time is 6:30 pm.

At each session, one or two particular flies are tied.  The patterns are usually announced in advance on the home page or on Facebook, along with a link to a video (if one exists) showing how to tie that fly.  Attendees are requested to bring their tools, if none, the club has a few sets for use during that session.  All materials are provided.

Below are topics of importance to beginners.

-  Tools fundamentals
-  Materials fundamentals
-  Helpful instructional videos 

Tying tools 

Essential Tools
•    Vise
•    Scissors
•    Bobbin
•    Whip finisher

•    Bodkin
•    Hackle pliers
•    Hair stacker
•    Dubbing loop spinner
•    Larger scissors

Vise.  This is the most important tool of all. It secures the hook so materials can be binded to it. There are many different types, and a wide range of prices, of vises based on how they are made, how they hold the hook and how the hook is presented.

For example, if you plan to tie bass and redfish flies, you’ll need a vise that can tightly hold large hooks up to size 1/0 or even larger. One way to test a vise is to put a hook in it, and tighten to the max. If you can still push the hook down with moderate pressure from your thumb, it’s not strong enough for large flies.

The best bang for the buck here is the Griffin 2A vise ($65). It’s made in the USA and carries a manufacturer’s warranty. The tension knobs on each side of the jaws give it the power to hold hooks from the tiny size 24 to a whopping size 6/0.

For big flies, the Regal ($175) is the bulldog of vises. It doesn’t require adjustments, as its spring-loaded jaws clamp tightly on a wide range of hooks. The head also pivots and rotates, making it the choice for many who tie with deer hair or other patterns that require examination of the fly from different angles. The Regal comes with a lifetime warranty.

Another option is an inline rotary vise. This one turns the hook such that its shaft stays exactly in the same plane. Rotary vises are great for quickly making lots of wraps of material around the shank of the hook. There are many good inline rotary vises on the market, but the Peak Vise and Renzetti Traveler are the most popular.

Most vises come with two support options. The C-clamp secures to a table or desk, and is the better choice for deer hair work. The pedestal base is convenient for travel.

Scissors.   A good choice is one with serrated edges for better cuts, such as the Orvis ($10) or Dr Slick ($15).  Another serrated model from Tiemco ($23) comes with plastic-covered handles for added comfort. For working with copper wire or other materials that can damage scissor blades, keep a small pair of pliers handy.

Bobbin.  This holds the thread used to tie materials to the hook, and acts as a pinpoint extension of the fingers to better work thread into tight spots. The rubber bushings hold the thread spool firmly so the thread maintains even tension.

If you apply too much pressure on the thread while tying a fly, the spout of the bobbin (where the thread comes out) will cut the thread. For this reason, consider getting a ceramic insert bobbin ($8-$15).

Whip finisher.  The Rotating Whip Finishers make tying the "whip finish knot" fast and easy. Whip finishing your flies provides a neat, clean look as well as securely knots your thread used for tying.

Bodkin.  This is just a needle on the end of a stick. It’s used to apply head cement to the thread and possibly parts of the fly. It also comes in handy for picking out dubbed bodies to give the fly a fuller look. The handles of some bodkins can also be used as a half-hitch knot tool.  Highly recommend getting one of those.

Hackle pliers.  These hold the tips when wrapping feathers or other fine materials around hooks (called "palmering"). Standard hackle pliers run $2, rubber tipped-models run $4, and rotating models run about $8.

Hair stacker.  A stacker helps align the tips of deer hair or bucktail. It is a necessity for tying more realistic-looking Clouser Minnows.

Hackle pliers.  These hold the tips when wrapping feathers or other fine materials around hooks (called "palmering"). Standard hackle pliers run $2, rubber tipped-models run $4, and rotating models run about $8.

Materials fundamentals 

Essential Materials
  • Hooks – basic nymph and/or streamer hooks (Start with size 10-16, based on patterns you tie)
  • Thread (black, olive, white, red, chartreuse, fl pink, brown – start with 140 denier UTC Ultra Thread or 6/0 Uni or Veevus) – again, based on patterns you buy
  • Head cement (Sally Hansen Hard as Nails)
Don’t buy material kits.  Generally poor quality and selection.

Commonly Used Materials (based on the patterns you tie)
  •  Wire (copper, gold, silver, other colors, etc.)
  •  Lead wire
  •  Beads in various colors and sizes
  •  Dubbing – variety packs are a good way to start

The materials you will need depend almost entirely on the types of flies you will tie.  Decide what you’ll be fishing for, find a few flies that work for those species, and concentrate on the materials and instructions for those few.


The hook determines the size and shape of the fly.  It is also the foundation for which materials will be secured to create the fly.  Hooks come in a wide range of size, shape, length and weight.

Hook shapes
  • Dry Fly– lighter wire to float (1x light)
  • Nymph – heavier wire (2x heavy), different lengths (1x, 2x, 3x long)
  • Streamer – like nymph but 3x, 4x + long
  • Jig – 60 degree, use with bead, rides hook point up.
  • Scud/Emerger – curved for emerger patterns, scuds, etc.

Again, selecting the proper hook will depend almost entirely on the type of fly you're intending to tie.  Each hook shape can come in a variety of sizes.

Helpful instructional videos

1.  Identifying different parts of a hook (eye, shank, bend, barb, point, gap)

2.  Loading a bobbin with thread

3.  Securing a hook in the vice

4.  Correct working thread length

5.  Half hitch

6.  Whip finish

7.  Hand whip finish