Introduction to fly tying tools

Beginners Guide - Fly Tying Tools Explained

With lots of different fly tying tools what are they all used for? This introduction to fly tying tools explains the basic fly tying tools used by the fly tyer and how to use them. All of these tying tools can be purchased individually or as fly tying tool sets.

Of all of the ways to catch fish, there are few are as exciting and rewarding as catching a fish on a fly that you have tied yourself. An artificial fly can entice the slow rise of a trout, gentle sip of a grayling, huge run of a Muskie or explosive strike of a largemouth bass. For many fly fishermen fly tying is as satisfying as landing the fish.

The art of fly tying is the craft of combing a few basic elements on a fly, that of the tail, body wing and hackle to create the final artificial fly. It can be achieved with just a few basic fly tying materials like wool, fly tying fur, fly tying feathers and thread or silks and a few simple fly tying tools. Once you have learned the basics your find many patterns that are simple to tie. The simple tools a fly tyer will utilize basic fly tying tools include a fly tying vice, bobbin holders, fly tying scissors, hackle pliers, threaders, teasers and hair stackers.

Fly Tying Vices

While it is possible to hold the hook with your fingers and it is amazing to watch old traditional fly tyers tying dressed salmon flies entirely by hand however this is not normal today, with hooks going down to size 24 or even 32 the majority of fly tyers would not dream of tying a fly and not using a fly tying vice. A good fly tying vise will be easy to use, hold the hook securely and adjust to a wide range of hook sizes. Actions can include lever action vices which is sufficient for most tyers, however for large pike, bass or saltwater patterns a spring loaded vice may be used. Normally fly tyers prefer a simple lever action vice that is pressed down once after the jaws have been adjusted to suit that size of hook. The jaws should be hard tempered in order to withstand many years of wear. Fly Tying Vices come with C Clamps which attach to your desk or tying surface or alternatively pedestal models, good vices may have both options. Vice pedestals need to be heavy enough so that they stay in one place as you tie. These are generally less portable than C Clamp vices because of the weight in the base. Vices may frequently have replaceable heads allowing different types of hooks to be connected. Specialist attachments may be available for tube flies tying. Finally you can get small streamside vices, very small vices that you use at the river bank to match the hatch.

Your Introduction To Basic Fly Tying Tools

We frequenly get asked for a fly tying tools list, you can buy basic tool sets which have starter sets of all of the fly tying tools from companies like Semperfli and Veniard and advanced kits from companies like Marc Petitjean. What are the tools you need as a fly tyer?

Essential Fly Tying Tools List

There are 4 absolutely essential fly typing tools:

  1. Scissors
  2. Bobbin Holders
  3. Whip Finishers
  4. Bodkins

Lets look at these in more detail:


Solingen ScissorsA fly tyer will have a range of different scissors for fly tying. Key is that they are extremely sharp and have a very fine point for close-up work. Fly tying scissors will be generally smaller than used by craft or domestic users. Tungsten blades are available which are excellent. The blades on scissors can be straight, curved or serrated according to the cutting requirements. Typically fly tyers keep two pairs of scissors handy, one as a workhorse to cut through tough materials like feather stalks, hair and tinsel and a second pair for delicate tasks like trimming hackle, thie second pair usually having smaller finer points. Generally it is worth keeping a razor blade handy also, especially if using some of the modern Kevlar or gel spun silks available like Nano Silk, frequently these are tougher than the scissors! check our range of fly tying scissors here

Bobbin Holders

Ceramic Bobbin Holder While it is possible to tie a fly by removing a length of tying thread from its spool there are many advantages to using a Bobbin Holder, ranging from reducing wastage to keeping tension. So the Bobbin Holder performs more functions than are apparent at first sight. Not only does a bobbin hold the spool of thread or silk as you tie, it maintains the tension on the fly Bobbin Holders - Bullet-Flared, Bullet-Non-Flares, Spigot Bobbin Holder & Flared Disk Bobbin Holder being tied so furs and feathers do not spring loose. Whenever you pause the bobbin simply hangs below the hook with the weight of the bobbin stopping the fly from unravelling. Additionally bobbins can be spun tightening the thread so that the thread or more modern tying silks like Semperfli Nano Silk which is a form of Gel Spun Polyethylene sometimes simply called GSP which is virtually unbreakable yet has extremely thin diameter equivalent to a 12/0 or 50 denier silk. It is small enough not to create build up on the smallest Klinkhammers or other flies. Bobbins come with brass, plastic or for modern silks like GSP with ceramic tubes through which the thread the silk. check the bobbin holders here

Bobbin Wire Loop Tool

A Bobbin wire loop tool is extremely simple. Put your silk thread on its spool into the bobbin holder. Now simply push through the bobbin holder tube, slip the thread through the wire loop tool and retrieve the tool through the bobbin holder tube and your thread is ready for tying. Many people suck the thread through the bobbin tube but the wire loop tool makes this an extremely simple process!

Hair Stackers

Fly Tyers - Hair Stackers A hair stacker is an essential tool which allows alignment of many different types of fibres, including naturals like elk hair and synthetics. Hair stackers come in different sizes ranging from small to magnum typically used for aligning larger bundles of hair for bass bugs, saltwater lures or pike lures. To use a hair stacker put a small clump of hair into the funnel tips first. Tap the stacker firmly against a hard surface or bench several times. The tapping aligns all of the tips. Remover the funnel and grasp the tops of the hair fibres carefully, all of the tips should now be perfectly aligned for tying.

Dubbing Needles or Bodkins

Dubbing needles for combing of underfur, applying head cement and teasing dubbed materials, dividing wing tips and freeing trapped hackle fibres.

Whip Finish Tools

Whip Finish Tools

It is perfectly possible to whip finish a fly with fingers alone, however many tyers find using a specially made tool beneficial. Models vary but generally most whip finish tools have a straight handle with a hook at one end with often a sprung wire arm. Check the whip finish tools here

Hackle Pliers

Hackle Pliers

Hackle pliers simplify the job of winding hackle. A set of Hackle Pliers will grasp the hackle tip firmly without slipping. The jaws should be smooth as rough surfaces could cut the hackle while winging. If the hackle pliers are cutting too many hackle tips then consider dulling the edges with a fine matal file or even a hook honer. There are different shapes of hackle pliers including traditional English, teardrop, rotating all have the same purpose of helping you wrap the hackle around the hook.

Dubbing Twister

A dubbing twister is a great tools for creating dubbing loops twisting dubbing and threads into a rope which can then be easily wound around a hook. Dubbing Twisters keep the tension on the thread loop to keep the fur in position. With sprung metal arms and a heavy circular body a Dubbing Twister keeps the thread taught.

Other Useful Fly Tying Tools

Other useful fly tying tools include; tweezers for holding small materials, small pliers for de-barbing hooks. Finally organisers are always useful as you tend to gather lots of small materials and bobbins with thread, chenilles and other materials.

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