How to Make Flies for Fly Fishing

by Zach Lazzari
The vise is an essential fly-tying tool.

The vise is an essential fly-tying tool.

Fly tying is a challenging art that requires practice and patience while developing muscle memory and proper technique. Tying flies creates a great advantage for the angler through cost savings and the ability to manipulate and customize patterns. Flies are tied to imitate insects, baitfish, rodents, reptiles and anything a fish will consume. Many patterns are simply tied in an attractive manner that does not resemble any living creature. The fly-tying process uses several basic tools and techniques, and a large number of natural and synthetic materials. The basic techniques are used in different sequences and with different materials to create the chosen fly pattern.

Set Up Your Desk

1. Set up a table with a lamp that provides direct light over your vise. A comfortable, well-lit work area makes fly tying an enjoyable experience.

2. Tape a piece of white construction paper beneath your vise. The color provides a neutral backdrop for visibility and the paper absorbs spilled glue and materials.

3. Organize and place your tools on a dedicated section of your desk. Keep a bobbin, bodkin, hair stacker, whip finisher and sharp scissors handy at all times. You can also purchase a tool caddy to hold the items upright, or drill holes in a piece of wood to serve the same purpose.

4. Place a small trash bin beneath the vise to catch trash materials as you cut them off the fly.

5. Place a set of drawers next to your desk to organize and hold materials. Leave a space on the desk for books that demonstrate techniques. Also leave a space for a laptop to show videos of different patterns as they are tied.

Practice Basic Techniques

1. Place a hook in the vise to practice the basic techniques before attempting to tie a fly.

2. Secure the thread to the hook by making five wraps around the hook. Continue wrapping and make cross-wraps to prevent the thread from slipping under tension.

3. Cut a section of marabou off a feather and pinch it between your left thumb, forefinger and middle finger (opposite for left-handed people). Hold the marabou on top of the hook shank and make two soft wraps followed by two firm thread wraps to secure the material. Reverse the wraps to free the material and repeat until your muscle memory is improved.

4. Cut a clump of deer or elk hair off a hide. Hold the hair on top of the hook shank and make two soft thread wraps followed by three very firm wraps. This will spin the hair into a flared pattern. Clear the hook and practice with new hair until you are comfortable spinning the hair.

5. Use the whip-finish tool to make multiple half-hitch knots. Place the tool flush against the thread and catch the thread with the hook located on the top arm of the tool. Twist the handle to form a triangle in the thread and wrap the thread around the hook shank. Remove the tool from the thread while pulling to cinch the knot.

Begin Tying Flies

1. Select a single, basic pattern to begin your fly tying. Place each item of material from the recipe on the desk.

2. Use a book or video and follow the instructions to tie the fly. Most patterns begin by securing the tail, wrapping the body and building the abdomen or head.

3. Tie at least a dozen flies with the same pattern to practice and perfect the technique. Tying a single pattern in bulk is also efficient because you have the materials readily available.

Items you will need

  • Desk
  • Lamp
  • White paper
  • Vise
  • Bobbin
  • Bodkin
  • Hair stacker
  • Materials

Tip

  • Take a fly-tying class for hands-on help with your technique. Small adjustments often make a world of difference.

About the Author

Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can view his work at zachlazzari.com

Photo Credits

  • Darren MacEachern/iStock/Getty Images