View Full Version : Entry level fly tying setup

Brook Fan
04-02-2008, 11:56 AM
I would really like to start tying my own flies. Can you guys recommend any beginner kits that would have all the tools I would need to get started?
I know Cabelas has some beginner kits but I don't know what all tools I'm going to need.

04-02-2008, 12:58 PM
I just started tying in Feb and the guy who taught my class recommended the following. I've found it to be mostl what I needed and I'm going to add a few things I have added as well.

A good vise. Don't skimp on quality here. I bought a Peak rotary vise and really like it. Contact one of the gang at LRO to see what they carry. I'm sure what brands they carry are also going to be first rate.

Scisors designed for fly tying. Dr. Slick are good. Fly tying scissors have slight serrations to make close nipping of thread, feathers, and the like easier.

A "sacrificial" pair of inexpensive scissors. This is for cutting anything that is not thread, feathers, etc. You do not want to use expesnive scissors to cut wire, paper, wads of hair, etc.

Hackle pliars. for wrapping hackle around the fly.

needle nose pliars without serrations on the jaws. This is for flattening barbs on hooks and if they're small enough, for picking up brass bead when making bead head flys.

bodkin - this is basically a needle on the end of a stick or brass rod. It's really handy for fluffing dubbing, arranging hackle, applying head cement.

whip finish tool (not a requirement but makes the final knots easier to tie).

bobbins - I didn't get the ceramic lined ones but when the ones I got start fraying thread, that's what I'm going to replace them with. You should get 2 to start with.

Magnifying device - depending on your eyes, those little #18 flies are hard to see. I got the ones that fit over your head. They are 2.5X magnification.

Good source of light.

Materials as needed for the flies you are going to tie.

Thread (black, olive and tan cover most of what you need). 3/0 and 6/0 (or equivilant)

Head Cement - to help hold the knots together. Probably optional but as sloppy as some of my fiels were, it helped to hold them together.

Maribu feathers, chennile, dry fly hackle (grizzly, brown, dunn for starters), assorted other feathers and hair as needed for what you're going to tie.

Enough other stuff will be added along the way that you could probably put a child through college:smile:

Let me warn you, it is addictive. Especially when you catch your first fish on a fly you tie.

I'm sure there's stuff I missed but going from memory that's what I use. I'm too lazy to go downstairs and look at my bench but I'm pretty sure I've captured the important stuff.

I hope this helps.


04-02-2008, 01:33 PM
Hey Brook Fan...I just started tying a few weeks ago...and can confirm what Jeff told you. My wife bought me a kit at the local Super Gonzo Sport Store. I was really shocked and surprised and am very thankful that she pushed me into doing it (besides...she started it after all;) )

But within a week and a few flies, I understood all that I've read here on the forums about fly tying starter kits:
1. The vise is already wearing out in the jaws (cheap steel) no rotary...
2. The scissors wobble, and material "runs" from the cut.
3. The hackle pliers wouldn't hold a pencil, let alone a hackle stem
4. The bobbin uggh don't get me started.
5. The thread (see #4 about the bobbin)
6. The feathers, and tying materials were crap.

After about 4 or 5 Wolly Buggers I have ended up replacing just about everything that came with the kit. The only reasons the kit wasn't a complete waste of money was that my wife bought it for me...and, that it got me started in something I think I'm really going to enjoy. If you want to see some of my first flies check out:

Good luck in your new adventure...Pay attention to these Guys here...they won't steer you wrong.

04-02-2008, 02:44 PM
Getting a Beginners Kit from Cabelas or Orvis is a bit of wasted money, if you are going to keep tying after your first week...

There are two major problems with kits: 1) The tools and materials are usually of inferior quality compared to the tools and materials you would normally use and 2) The kits are stocked with feathers, dubbing, hooks and thread based on the patterns that they are instructing you on (so you better want to tie what they want you to tie).

If I was starting out I would decide which 4-6 patterns that I want to tie. Find a good book that covers the flies YOU want to tie (If you can't take a class to learn how to tie them). You won't get hooked (ouch, sorry...) on fly tying until you start fishing (and hopefully catching fish) with the flies you tie. Once you do...its all downhill from there:rolleyes:

From the book (or many, many websites) get a good list of the materials you will need including hooks, thread, dubbing, hackle and other materials. This list will then allow you to buy whatever quality and quantity of materials based on the patterns that you want to tie. Get enough material to tie about a dozen of a particular pattern (in the same size, if possible). You'll be amazed at how much the repetition will help, especially on the first few patterns. To save some money, at this early stage I would tend to buy the Whiting 100s instead of getting a full cape or saddle (hackle).

You will also need a good set of tools. I believe the Dr Slick makes a good set for less than $50. With it you get all the tools that Jeff mentioned (without a vise). You should pick up a 2nd set of scissors, at some point. In the beginning you could probably use one pair and then later add a good pair and use your original pair for wire, etc. You'll also need some head cement. I use Sally Hanson Clear nail polish and pour it into a fly tying squeeze bottle that I got at LRO. I don't know how I lived so long without it. I would probably also get some dubbing wax. It makes loading dubbing on a thread easier for us mortals...

Lastly is the vise. Here you can spend a little or a lot. Starting out you might be tempted to spend less, but you should try to get the best you can afford. A $30 vise will not be very functional. You get what you pay for...Good luck and enjoy!

04-02-2008, 06:05 PM
Most kits are nothing but a bunch of crap. They usually have a lot of stuff you will almost never use and usually very poor quality materials. You are better off just buying a decent vise and some good materials seperately.

04-03-2008, 11:55 AM
Brook Fan,
I would recommend going into LRO and asking Daniel or one of the other people in the store about putting together a beginner kit. I you go to a big box store they will probably push you or sell your more than you need and probably not the right stuff.
Daniel helped me put together the remaining missing pieces of what I needed to get started.
After taking all 3 tying classes I was able to broaden my fly selection, and then I would go back to LRO and get more materials as I needed them.

Make sure you leave yourself a healthy budget since some of the pieces like the vise can get a little spendy. But it is worth every penny.
I like the Renzetti traveler vise which I received as a present.

Hope this helps, I know it can be a little overwhelming at times, but stick with it and you will enjoy the whole process.

Brook Fan
04-03-2008, 12:13 PM
Thanks for all the advice guys and I'm glad I didn't just go out and buy a starter set. Looks like I may have to add some of this stuff to my Christmas list.

I don't belong to any organizatons, but I was wondering if there is any fly tying classes I could attend for the public. Ideally I would like to attend a class on my side of Knoxville (Halls, Fountain City, Clinton). If the class is on the weekend then the location wouldn't matter. Also in these classes do you bring your equipment or will there be equipment setup to use for the class.

Brook Fan
04-03-2008, 12:16 PM
Would you guys recommend as the 1st flies to tye streamers and wooly's because of size and being able to see, or what I would use on the Clinch which is #18 and #20.
It may not matter if you start large or small but I thought I would ask.

04-03-2008, 12:33 PM
I am also looking at getting into fly tying. About how much does a decent setup run you from LRO?

04-03-2008, 12:38 PM
Regarding classes, I know LRO has classes and I believe they are on the weekends, just not sure of the dates. You may want to call or shoot them an email to find out about the schedule.

As for flies,
woolie buggers and the like are good first flies. The hooks are larger, the materials are a little easier to work with. However, the techniques you learn in tying the humble woolie bugger are re applicable for just about any fly you'll ever tie.

I've been tying for about 6 weeks and after a couple dozen woolies, I branched out into trout flies. The smallest I've tied so far are #18 griffiths gnats.

The smaller flies are really no more difficult to tie, it's just that everything is in miniature. Once you get your mind wrapped around the fact that everything is smaller, it's not that tough. (as long as you can see what you're doing or have good magnification.

Just for grins, here are a couple of my flies. Be kind, I've only been doing this for about 6 weeks.


click on thumbnail to see larger image.
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_IMG_0678.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/IMG_0678.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3210016.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3210016.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3210008.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3210008.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3210005.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3210005.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3150002.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3150002.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3080013.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3080013.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_P3080012.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/P3080012.jpg)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/th_IMG_0683.jpg (http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b110/jeffnles1/Flies/IMG_0683.jpg)


04-03-2008, 01:15 PM
hey Jeff, looks like you have a good start.....did you catch any on your Father/Son trip with flies you tied....what an incredible feeling!

I know my head was spinning trying to figure out how to do certain flies. As for the LRO tying classes, I am a firm beleiver in the skills of Walter Babb and Brian Courtney (the instructers). After taking the final class, I was even able to spin deer hair and shape it for the Speck....I believe the classes are primarily winter classes though....


04-03-2008, 06:25 PM
Yes, we actually had a double header. We caught the first fish on one of my flies and the first fish on a custom fly rod I had built for my son's birthday. His birthday isn't until the end of the month, but I couldn't go fishing with him in the mountains knowing there was a new rod sitting at home so I gave it to him early.

Here's a link to a thread with photos of the first fish and the rod and mys son using it.



04-03-2008, 06:31 PM
Just learning to walk here...but aching to FLY.

Tried my first parachute the other day...pretty brutal...actually not pretty at all!:eek:

Brook Fan
04-03-2008, 10:06 PM
Great pictures I think
They look just like what I have in the box.