How to get started tying

I love fly-fishing, and now am ready to consider tying my own flies. Some gear recommendation for a novice and books / classes / videos would be great. Also what kind of initial investment am I looking at to get started tying trout dries and nymphs?

Thanks in advance :confused:
look into your local club and first see what they have to offer then ask them for reccommendations.
I think that you'd be allot better off taking a class and see if it's really something that you want to do before investing in a lot of tools,vises and materials.
It may be a little far for you to travel but, I'm sure that there will be a couple of classes here on Whidbey Island this Fall.

David Prutsman

All men are equal before fish
My only recomendation for if and when you start tying flies, is don't buy a kit! When you buy a kit you are using the tools and material someone else has coosen for you. Also, you're getting materials you'll probably never use, in turn you loose dough. When you buy tools and materials separately, you get only what you need. You are also able to inspect the quality of your materials, spending as little or as much as you please.
If you are not sure, try to borrow some equiment. When you know you want to persue it, buy the best you can afford the first time or you will be replacing it with better within the first year. A good vice does more than hold the hook. It makes easier and more creative tying possible. Consider the rotary variety of vice. Attend some of the open tying sessions also. You can gain a wealth of knowledge from them. iagree with not buying a kit. Pick two or three patterns you want to tie in the beginning and buy just what you need for them and them expand. Wooley buggers are a good place to start. Good luck on a new journey. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
Pick one or two flies that you use alot, then just tie those to start with. That saves on materials, tools, money, and makes it less overwhelming. When I started I wanted to tie every fly shown in my books and magazines.

Art Sheck has a book called "Tying Better Flies" (I think that's the name) and it shows step by step how to tie popular flies and each chapter is a little harder than the previous. It's a great book.

Have fun. By the way, ugly flies catch fish too!

Step one is to increase the credit limit on your credit card. If you get hooked you will really get into it.
If you buy a vise I would suggest a rotary. I ended up get one after my first year of tying.
Don't get discouraged if your flies don't look like the picture. Often the ugliest flies catch the fish. Think cripple. :thumb: Years ago when my now husband tied his first hopper he said it was the worst fly ever. He tried it on the Madison and managed to pick up a 31" brown.
You need someone to get you started with the basic technics, be it a class or a friend.
Buy quality materials as poor materials just make tying more difficult.
I concur with what's been said above. You will want to tie every fly you see in books and you will want to amass every tying material known to man. Start off slow, with a couple of patterns and go from there. Go to a fly shop or Barnes & Noble and look through the fly tying books. Don't buy one off of amazon or something like that until you've looked through it in your hand. Look through it and get one with good pictures and covers a wide aray of tying techniques. Some books are based on trout flies, some on saltwater flies. I like the book The Handbook of Fly Tying by Peter Gathercole. It's the only tying book I haven't loaned out or given away, and that's because I want to keep it myself. I still look into it now after years of tying as a refresher, or because it'll show a different way than what I've been doing.


Ron Olsen

Active Member
Call your local shops or clubs and get signed up for some classes. There are so many "tricks" to learn, and the class shortcut will pay big dividends. Yes, a rotary vice is the way to go. I've been at it for nearly 30-years. The first few were frustrating until I signed up for a series of classes with Andre' Puyans (the AP nymph) down in California. What a difference!

Good luck, especially with the addition to your house to accommodate all the stuff you will acquire..... :thumb:



Active Member
I've been tying flies commercially a long time (25 years) and have taught several hundred people how to tie and I can't say this about a good vise being the most important tool strongly enough.

The first and most important thing to get when starting to tie flies is a good vise. This mean avoiding the cheap imports from India, Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan like the plague because they have poor jaws and are made of inferior materials. This doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune on a vise. Griffin has some very good vises (the 1A and 2A in particular) that are excellent vises with very good jaws, which sell for $50.00 or thereabouts. In fact, Griffin sells two very good tying tool sets: One has the 1A vise, and the other has the 2A vise, and included with the tool set is a good pair of scissors, a bodkin (a needle with a handle), a bobbin (used to hold the thread), and a hair stacker for less than $75.00. This is one of the best values on the market and the Griffin tools are made in Montana.

Another very good value in a vise is the Thompson Model A or Thompson Pro vise. They also sell for around $50.00 and have been around for over 100 years.

Good scissors are available from Griffin and Gudebrod for less than $10.00 or you could go to the notions section of a department store or visit a craft store and pick up a pair of arrow point embroidery scissors for about the same $10.00.

Bobbins sell for from $7.00 to about $24.00. My favorite bobbins and the favorite bobbin of A.K. Best as well are those made by S&M (they may be tough to find locally though) and they sell for about $7.00. I like them so much, I own 24 of them. There are other good bobbins readily available for around $10.00-$12.00 and I'd be surprised if all shops didn't have some in stock.

You will also need a bodkin (simply a needle with a handle) that is used for putting cement on the fly heads and picking out tied down hackle, etc.

A whip finisher is nice to have, but not necessary. The best whip finishers are those made by Matarelli and they sell for about $15.00.

As far as materials go, decide on 2 or at most 3 flies you want to tie that you will fish and get the hooks, body material, tail material, and hackle needed to tie those flies. This way you don't pick up a lot of stuff you will never use and it will keep you from spending money on stuff you don't need.

I'd recommend you start with simply wingless flies like the Woolley Bugger, Grey Hackle, Brown Hackle, Hare's Ear Nymph, etc. because they are easier to tie than those with wings and you will still learn the basics of good tying technique through tying them.

And finally, taking a fly tying class or getting tying lessons from someone you know who is a good tyer is one of the best things you can do because having someone show you what to do and then help you do it in person is invaluable and will shorten the learning curve greatly.
iagree classes are a great way to get started, and many clubs offer them. For additional help, there are some excellent online sources these days. Two that come to mind are Al Campbell's beginning fly tying series on and Harry Mason's wonderfully detailed tutorials on I'd concentrate on becoming proficient at tying a small number of your favorite patterns -- buy the those other "gotta haves" that you'll only fish once or twice.

Just wanted to thank you for mentioning Al's fly tying tutorials. Unfortunately, Al passed away earlier this summer from a brain tumor after spending a little more time fishing the Black Hills of South Dakota with friends and family. His tutorials are a never ending legacy to all fly tyers that follow in his footsteps.

Classes are going to do a couple of things for you right off the bat. First you are going to learn proper techniques and you are going to shorten your learning curve immensely. How to proportion a fly and what materials to use and how to use them are far easier learned under the quidance of a good instructor.

Puget Sound Fly Co in the south end offers begining classes starting every month in the fall and winter I believe. Both Clark and Anil are good tyers and good instructors. You could do a lot worse in finding a place to learn. They also have a good selection of materials and vises.

I was surprised by FT's comments about the Griffin vises. I use one of those $50 vises and I really like it. It is easy to adjust for hook sizes and it holds hooks where you want them and keeps them held! I have tyed hooks from 14's to 2's on it and have had no problems. There are quite a few vises out there that cost way more money that don't have as much versatillity nor do they hold hooks as well. they re certinly quite plain in appearance compared to most of the vises on the market but appearances can be deceiving.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Wetline, if you re read FT's response, he actually said they were good vises for the money. I actually tied production on Griffins for a couple years. Big thing with them is learning to adjust the jaws correctly. But for the money, it was well worth it, and held up through all the flies I tied with it. So no problems here either.

Now, onto tying. All mentioned above pretty much were spot on. So not much more for me to add either.
I believe I am agreeing with FT! What surprised me is the endorsement of an inexpensive vise when the trend seems to be more money spent is better. A trend I don't agree with by the way. You know it is like if a person spends huge bucks for gear and equipment it automatically makes them better. It amuses me greatly when I see someone equipped with a $650 rod and a $350 reel and they don't have the ability to utilize their set-up. Then they will brag about their 50 foot casts. I just love to punch out 70 feet of line and put it where I want it standing next to them with my $150 rod and $35 reel, :D



Active Member
wet line,

I have been impressed with the Griffin tying vises and other fly tying tools since I saw my first one, which was around 17 years ago. As you found, they are excellent hook holders that hold up very well, while not breaking the bank. The same goes for the Thompson A and Thompson Pro vises. I can't recommend the Griffin 1A and 2A to new tyers or those tyers not wanting to spend a lot, but who want a good quality vise, highly enough.

Although I personally use a Dyna King Baracuda vise, it is overkill for the average tyer. The top end vises are so much overkill as to be a joke for a beginning fly tyer. The top end vises have features beginners need like a hole in the head (yep, I'm pretty opinionated on this) and that actually make it tougher for the new tyer to concentrate learning good technique.

Glad to hear you found the Griffin to be what I said they are, a great value for the money.