Fly tying is the art of creating artificial flies to mimic natural aquatic insects, in order to lure and catch fish. Fly tiers use a variety of materials, such as feathers, fur, and synthetic materials, which are tied onto a hook using thread. The objective is to create a lifelike illusion of insects at different life stages, prompting fish to strike. Tying is an engaging pastime for anglers who appreciate the nuances of fly fishing. It offers an intimate understanding of the aquatic ecosystem and insect life cycles, enhancing the fly fishing experience. Fly tying is also a creative outlet, allowing anglers to craft customized flies to match specific fishing conditions. In addition, it can be a cost-effective solution for dedicated anglers who regularly lose or damage flies.
Fly tying can be traced back to the ancient Macedonians, as early as the second century. These fishers crafted flies with wool wrapped around a hook, and used colored feathers for effect. The modern art of fly tying, however, was honed by the British in the 19th century. Through the years, technological advances have given rise to a variety of synthetic materials, significantly expanding the range of flies that can be made.
Beads, Coneheads, & Eyes
Beads, coneheads, and eyes are fundamental components in fly tying. They add weight to the fly and enhance their visual appeal, mimicking the eyes or heads of aquatic insects and small fish. Beads are typically made of brass or tungsten and used in nymph patterns like the Prince Nymph. Coneheads are used for streamers, such as the Conehead Bunny Leech. Dumbbell eyes are a type of fly tying eyes that give weight and realism to patterns like the Clouser Minnow.
In fly tying, brushes are commonly used to create bodies, tails, and collars on flies. They consist of various materials, like dubbing or feather fibers, twisted into a wire core. Brushes allow for rapid and even application of these materials. The EP Minnow is a perfect example of a fly created using a brush.
Cements, epoxies, and glues are used to secure materials onto the hook and to add durability to the fly. They can also be used to create a glossy finish or to build up certain parts of the fly. The Surf Candy, for example, uses epoxy to create a shiny, translucent body.
Chenille is a velvety cord used in many traditional fly patterns. It's used to create the body of the fly, providing both texture and color. Woolly Buggers and San Juan Worms are two popular flies that often use chenille.
Dubbing is a fuzzy material used to create bodies on nymphs, dry flies, and emergers. It's often made from natural or synthetic fibers. The Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear nymph uses hare fur dubbing to replicate the form of a variety of aquatic insects.
Feathers & Hackle
Feathers and hackle are used to imitate the wings, tails, and bodies of insects. Hackle refers to the neck or saddle feathers of a bird. The dry fly classic, the Adams, uses grizzly and brown hackle feathers to simulate the legs and wings of an insect sitting on the water.
Flash is a synthetic, sparkling material that reflects light and attracts fish. It's often used as an accent in tails, wings, or bodies of the fly. The Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph incorporates flash material on its backto imitate the shiny exoskeleton of certain aquatic insects.
Fly Tying Kits
Kits are starter sets that contain a variety of essential fly tying materials and tools. They are a good choice for beginners. A typical kit can enable the creation of a variety of fly patterns, such as the Woolly Bugger and the Elk Hair Caddis.
Foam & Foam Cutters
Foam is a versatile material used for crafting bodies, heads, and even wings on dry flies. Foam cutters help create precise shapes. Patterns like the Foam Beetle or the Chernobyl Ant are popular foam flies.
Hair & Fur
Hair and fur from various animals are used to add realistic texture and movement to flies. The Elk Hair Caddis uses elk hair for its wing, while the Muddler Minnow uses deer hair for its head and body.
Hooks form the foundation of any fly. Their shape, size, and weight influence the type of fly created and the species targeted. Ahrex hooks, Daiichi hooks, and Tiemco hooks are popular among fly tiers. Different hooks are used for different flies, like Ahrex PR320 Predator for big streamers, Daiichi 1150 for dry flies, or Tiemco TMC 2457 for nymphs and caddis pupa patterns.
Synthetic materials include a wide range of products like foam, flash, and plastic. They can add durability, flashiness, or buoyancy to a fly. The Clouser Minnow is one fly that uses synthetic materials, primarily bucktail, for its body.
Thread is used to secure materials to the hook. Tinsel and wire can be used for ribbing, bodies, or flash. The Copper John nymph uses wire for its body and tinsel for its wing case.
Essential tools in fly tying include vices (to hold the hook), scissors, bobbin holders (to hold the thread), hackle pliers, and whip finishers (to finish off the fly). All flies require the use of these tools, from the simplest to the most complex.
Vises hold the hook securely while the fly is being tied. They are central to fly tying, with options like Regal vises offering durability and ease of use. Accessories could include magnifying glasses or lights.
Ahrex Hooks, Daiichi Hooks, Regal Vises, Tiemco Hooks
These are renowned brands within the fly tying community. Ahrex hooks are known for their robustness, suitable for large predatory fish. Daiichi hooks are valued for their variety and quality, while Tiemco hooks are globally recognized for their innovative designs. Regal vises are treasured for their simplicity, durability, and the true rotary feature they offer, making the fly tying process smooth and effortless.