starting fly tying on a budget

I want to get into fly tying, but i don't have a ton of cash. What is pretty good quality vice that is not too expensive. Also what are the other most nexessary tools and materials that i will need to get started.


Active Member
How serious are you and what is "not too expensive"

If you know you are going to stick with it, get a regal vise. they survive decades with commercial tyers. It'll run $135, but if you know you are going to use it, it's worth it. You need one ceramic bobbin, get a bodkin in the "clay" tools department at an arts and crafts store for next to nuthin' instead of $10 from a fly shop, and get a NICE pair of fine point fly tying scissors (you don't need all the ceramic or titanium fancy ones, just a nice steel pair). Most other tools you can build from household/office supplies. Not a ton of tools needed. Just don't skimp on the vise.
How serious are you and what is "not too expensive"

Then again there are those who think Regal vices are over-rated. Besides clamping quickly and effectively they don't offer too much else except a name. If you want to spend the cash on a quality vice get a true-rotary vice, it will make tying much easier. There are many quality ones on the market for a reasonable price. If you just want to learn and try it out get the cheapest vice you can find.
As far as other tool go get a Rite-bobbin and and good pair of scissors. As Philster said you can scrounge up the rest.
For materials get what you need to tie one or two flies you use a lot and start from there. When you get into tying, you will find you never have everything you need.
Fish on!
If you want to get into tying, I recommend buying a tying kit. Most local flyshops have complete kits for under 100 bucks. Cabela's also has kits for about the same price.

These kits are not going to be the best equipement, but they will have everything you need to get started (at least enough to figure out if tying is for you). The kit will include materials, hooks, tools, and some sort of basic book on tying techniques.

If you find that you enjoy tying, you will slowly start to replace, upgrade and add to your equipment as your skill level increases.

I bought a kit 13 years ago, and still use the same "cheap" vise. I'll get around to buying a nicer one someday.

Another tool that I think you should have have, that a kit might not have, is a hair staker. They only cost a few bucks, but will make a huge difference in the appearance of your flies, and will greatly reduce your novice frustration when dealing with loose hair.

Good luck!
There is some good advice in this thread, but let me throw in my own 2 cents.

I learned to tie on a vise that I think is a darn good value. In fact, it's still the only vise I need. It's called the Dan-Vise (aka Danica vise.)

In the article entitled "The Best Vises" appearing in the February 2002 issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine, experts rated it "Best Under $100 Vise" on the market. It retails for about $75.

To paraphrase the FF article: It's part metal, part Delrin (some sort of plastic compound). And is a true rotary cam. Steel jaws hold hooks from #2/0 down to the smallest you can handle. If you want to tie bigger saltwater flies, you can buy a set of saltwater jaws for it that will run you an additional $32.

As far as tools go, I would recommend the Dr. Slick Tool Kit. It's high-quality, and has everything you need. I just saw it on for $40.

For materials. This is the tricky part. Here's what I would suggest: Set out to learn 2 or 3 patterns at a time. Start out with streamers or wet flies(the woollyworm is a good one)and also nymphs (bead head hare's ear, zug bug, copper john etc.) These are all effective flies and learning to tie them should keep you busy for a while. And best of all, you won't have to pony up a lot of cash right off the bat.

If you don't have someone to teach you how to tie, probably the most important thing you'll need to purchase is an instructional book. A really good one to get you going is called "The Art of Fly Tying."

Hope that helps, and good luck. All I require in return for my advice is a couple of dozen Hare's Ears once you've got 'em tied up.

(just kidding)

Cool runnings,


You can get fly tying kits at any store that sells fishing gear. But I would go to a tackle shop to get one.
I started out that way. And then I up graded. I now use a vice that I got out of Gorrila and sons. It is a big ugly thing,big jaws. But I can go big hooks to small hooks. The smallest that I tie is size 18 and it fits fine. So I say,why get an expensive one. Jim S.

I started tying as a result of getting a kit for my birthday several years ago. It was a great kit from the old Swallow's Nest store. I still use the vise that came with the kit, a Griffin, and I think it is more than adequate for learning. Now I am itching for a rotary vise to see what is going on underneath. The kit came with Skip Morris's book and video, "fly tying made clear and simple" or something like that. I highly recommend getting both the book and video, especially if you really are a beginner.

Another tip I have is to buy the more expensive dry-fly hackle. You don't need to buy entire necks or saddles anymore. The big hackle companies all sell halves and I think Whiting or Hoffman even sells packs of saddle hackle feathers that are sorted by size, which is perfect for the beginner. I just remember buying some cheap hackle as a beginner and having flies come out looking sad, even for a beginner.

Good luck
When it comes to rods and reels, I usually don't recommend buying cheap stuff (buying one good rod is generally less expensive than buying a "discount" rod, then having to replace it with a good rod once you discover it's inadequate for your needs). But vices, I don't know. It has to hold a hook tightly, for Pete's sake. I mean what do you really need, especially as a beginer. I haven't bought a fly in 12 years (except in emergencies, or out of politeness when I'm trying to pry info out of some shop clerk), and I've tied every one of the thousands of flies I've fished in that period, from tiny midge emergers to spey flies to 3/0 articulated decievers for chinook, on the same Thompson 'A' I bought when I was learning, for $25!

Sure, it's a piece of crap, and it's a pain to adjust for different size hooks, but it holds the hook tight enough for me to wrap thread and fur around. These days, I think you have more choice under 100 bucks, so don't rush out to get a Thompson, and it is true that the rotaries can make tying a lot of flies easier and faster, but as a beginner, your money will be better spent on materials than a fancy vice.

I'm not sure about kits, because as has been already mentioned, there are a few tools you definitely shouldn't scrimp on. Get as good a pair of scissors as you can possibly afford (WAY more important than the vice), at least one GOOD bobbin, and a high-quality pair of hackle pliers (go for the Griffens with the fine point). You can get a whip-finish tool, but half-hitch tools work as well. Make sure you have a hair-stacker, and a Bodkin. There's other niceties you can get later, but that will get you started. Use 6/0 or 8/0 thread. it takes a little more "touch" but will make better flies.

Good hackle for dry flies is expensive, but worth it. Good flies are only 50% skill. NOBODY can make a good fly with bad materials.

I'd recommend taking a class. They're not that expensive usually, and there are a lot of finer points that you'll have a hard time picking up from a book. At least get a video, though I can't recommend any, because I've never seen them.

Good Luck, have fun. It's one of the coolest things you'll ever do.
I agree. Spend your money on hackle and work off of a cheap vice for starters. The ceramic bobbin is key, but you will find the best deal offered by Cabelas. They have a kit with most everything offered in a nice wooden case for less than $40.00. In fact, it offers a vice with both C clamp and portable bases. This kit was enough to get me started and you will be able to tie most every kind of fly, with the exception of epoxy flies, but that comes later...

Streams are made for the wise man to contemplate and fools to pass by.
(Sir Izaak Walton)


Another Flyfisherman
Cabelas has some decent vises for the financially restricted such as my self. virtually any vise that costs more than 10 bucks will last many years with a good amount of tying. Cheap materials are easy to come by if you have friends that hunt. A patch of elk hair that will last you 10 years costs nothing more than a phone call. Bird hunters always throw away skins unless they tie flies. An entire pheasant tail will last you a long time and costs nothing. Alot of folks stick to the "high profile" names. Not entirely necessary. The $5.00 thread works no better than the $1.25 thread. I learned to tie in junior high school and spent no more than 150 bucks for materials - alot of which I still have! I have tied a massive amount of flies over the years since then. Spend the money on good hackles and good hooks. The rest is all about the same and ultimately - The Fish cant tell how much you spent on that one fly, as long as it looks like dinner!!!

Good Luck!


Paul Huffman

Driven by irrational exuberance.
I'm still hoping I can get a Hun skin from a bird hunter.

Vise Grip pliers make a surprisingly good vise. You can get a selection of sizes and beak shapes. The big ones have enough weight that they'll lay on the table without attachment. It helps to have a board table or sections. Then the rivet in the jaws can rest in a groove and lay flatter. And like a true rotary, you can flip them over. Sometimes you can hold the vise up in one hand to get the needed angle while you wrap with the other. Small pliers can be duct taped to the corner of a table.

When I tied flies a lot 30 years ago, 50% of my investment in materials and tools was one nice grizzly hackle neck. Quality hackles are still important, but what's changed over the thirty years is the very effective styles for duns you can tie with much cheaper deer hair and no hackles, like the sparkle duns, comparaduns and hairwing duns. With the use of poly yarn, poly dubbing, foam, and CDC, there's lots of other kinds of flies that don't rely as much on hackles.

It seems like the price on hackles hasn't keep up with inflation over the last thirty years. Tools and hooks have gone up, but it seems like the price of a nice grizzly neck is close now to what I paid back then. And the saddle hackles have become so good.
Good point. There are a lot of flies to learn how to tie, that will get you through almost any situation, dry or subsurface, without having to invest $50-$75 in a good cape. When I first started, I tied nothing but comparaduns for my mayflies. It's still a GREAT fly. To be honest, I actually have an easier time getting parachutes to come out right than comparaduns, but I did manage to fish plenty of hatches with my own flies before I could afford my first neck (that my dog subsequently ate!).
Nothing much else to add, but do agree with a couple other folks - spend your money on good hackle. I'm a tight wad and have been tying flies for over twenty years on a Thompson Model "A" vise. Every year I say I'm going to buy a better vise. Then fishing starts and I think to myself, this vise works fine (which it does) and spend my money on a fishing trip instead. Good hackle can make a so-so fly tier look pretty good and can decrease frustration.

Speaking of frustration, an evening or two of good instruction from someone can save you alot of frustration in the future. I would recommend a class if you can find one.
Fish till ya drop.
Then suck it up
and fish the evening hatch.

Already lotsa good info and recommendations here! Don't forget to stop for them ROAD KILLS. If ya don't have a sensitive nose and stomach,you can pick up some free stuff off the pavement. Take a sharp knife with ya when ya travel and be sure to flesh your finds out and process right away or you'll end up with a bag-o-maggots.