Fly Tying - Introduction

For a fly fisherman, aside from the fishing itself, there is little more rewarding and relaxing than fly tying. It keeps you in touch with the sport when you cannot be on the water. Many consider it an artistic endeavor. If you do not have an unlimited fly fishing budget, fly tying can save a bunch of money.

Note: if you are on this page to find a bunch of new flies or some new technique, you will be disappointed. I have nothing new or unique to share about fly tying. I have tied flies for 40 years. I have 15-20 books on fly tying....been through them all (all were purchased before the internet and YouTube) . Many were written by the famous fly tiers like Eric Taverner, Doug Swisher, Dave Hughes, Jack Dennis and many other "masters". As good as these books are, they really cannot stand up to what we now have available on YouTube and the thousands of other fly tying videos that are literally at our finger tips. What I have tried to do here is use my experience with fly tying and fly fishing to wander through what the internet has provided and recommend through links those videos and articles I feel are worth viewing or reading. 

More or less, I view fly tying as I view fly casting. There are hundreds...probably thousands of excellent fly tiers as there are fly casters. Unfortunately, only a precious few can communicate their skills as teachers. In the process of thinking about and building this website, I have watched (previewed is a better word) well over a thousand videos on fly tying and casting. My criteria is/was as follows: (1) Topic...is the content really relevant? ...you can put a title on anything (2) Presentation...is the author (video or article) able to communicate their knowledge clearly? (3) Quality...is the video/article well "produced" or well written? 

A little fly tying history...

With respect to the history of fly tying, not a whole lot is known for certain. Historians have credited the Chinese with the first artificial "fly". It is said they tied a kingfisher's feather to a hook perhaps as early as 2000 BC. Not much else is known until the Macedonians sometime around 200 AD used feathers and other natural materials to imitate actual insects. They used colored wool for the body of the fly and  mounted two cock’s cape feathers for the wings, very similar to what we do today. We entered the "modern" era of fly tying as a result of the release of  the 5th edition of Isaak Walton's classic The Compleat Angler. A contributor to this edition was Charles Cotton (1630-1687). He was said to be an aristocrat of some sort but not a fly fisherman...he was a "dresser" or maker of flies. Evidently, he would study the local insect population (aquatic I assume) and work to imitate them. It was a simpler time back then...fly lines were made of braided horse hair and did not sink. There were two kinds of flies, dry flies and wet flies. The only difference was that the dry flies were those that had just been taken from the fly wallet...no fly boxes back then. The "wet" flies were those same flies but it describes the fly after sinking under the surface.

Today, flies are described in many different ways including as dry flies, wet flies, soft hackles, emergers, nymphs, terrestrials, bucktails and streamers, salmon (Atlantic) flies, steelhead and salmon (Pacific) flies, bass flies and bugs, poppers, panfish flies, saltwater flies, or pike flies.

Flies can be tied to imitate many different things that fish eat...from the smallest aquatic insect like a mosquito or gnat to pretty large "baitfish". There are flies that imitate other fish food items like frogs, mice and crayfish. I guess you could say that imagination is the only limitation. In this section we will discuss flies and fly tying. As you can imagine, it would be impossible to cover this topic completely...there have been hundreds of books written on just fly tying. I will do my best to cover some basics like fly tying tools, materials (natural and synthetic), hooks. I will recommend some good books and point you to some videos (mainly YouTube) that I have found to be very good.

Flies and the associated hooks come in many different sizes according to their usage, saltwater and predator hooks are usually the largest and range typically in fly fishing from 5/0 down to 1/0 (aught sizes) then 1 down to size 10. Freshwater flies typically range from size 4 down to size 32!

I recently ran across a blog post by Dan Frasier on the Gink and Gasoline web site. It is titled "Is Our Thinking About Flies All Wrong?" It really made me stop and think. I have been fly fishing for more than 40 years and I have to agree with Dan. Is a trout fly just a trout fly? I think the answer in many cases is no. I have caught more than one bass on a #14 Royal Wulff...one of the truly classic "trout" flies. The point of the article is that any fly that resembles any of a fish's food sources in a given area is worth a try. What a fish of any species eats is based on the food sources available to that fish at that time...not our perceived notion of what a fish should eat. So, you need to know more about what "fish food" is available in the specific are you plan to fish...not what some book or YouTube video says will work on a given species. In the article above, Dan says and I agree..."Segregating flies on a species level imposes extremely limiting and unnecessary restrictions on what flies we allow ourselves to use". 

If fly tying is something you may want to consider or you are already tying your own flies, the information in this section will be of interest. There is a lot to cover here...

NOTE: At this point, while building this website, I have watched probably 100 hours of fly tying videos...many for just 2-3 minutes. To date, I believe that if you consider breadth of content, quality of production and good educational presentation, the following sites offer the best  fly tying videos available on the internet. They are: tightlinevideoFly Fish Food, Fly Tyer Magazine, More like this are coming...