Back to Basics: Introduction - Fly Tying Tools and Techniques

This page talks about everything that is needed to get started in fly tying so that you can catch trophy trout like experienced White River fly fishing guides. The information provided is designed to simplify the fly tying process for beginners to advanced fly tiers.

There is too much secrecy in fly fishing and fly tying, so we have decided to share everything we know; from the simple tips we have picked up over the years, to the complex topic of choosing the most effective fly tying tools.

Fly fishing on the White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas along with Lake Taneycomo outside of Branson, Missouri, requires very specific fly patterns in order to be consistently productive.

We hope that you will agree that Taneycomo Trout is one of the best fly tying resources in the country. It took a lot of work to put all of this fly fishing and fly tying information together, and our goal is to make life easier for fly anglers who fish, or are thinking about fishing the White River Basin trout fisheries in the Ozark Mountains.

There are only so many different fly tying tools that a person can buy and I, for one, don’t think you need every little “gadget” to get the job done right. This page will go over what I think will cover almost every tying situation.

It’s really all about what you like working with. What works for you during the trial-and-error process of learning fly tying will usually be what you stick with over the course of the long run.

Fly Tying Station

My current fly-tying station: It’s about function, not form as you can tell by the mess. This is where I am at when I’m not on the water.

I’ll continue from what I was saying in the report about, what’s function and what is just for your own personal preference. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

I used to think that way, but now I think more on the lines of function versus what is for show.

What I like in a fly tying desk more than anything is to have a big enough space for all my tools , materials, hardware, etc. so I do not have to ever get up to get anything.

Another feature that is a must is to have a shelf that pulls out from underneath the desktop.

There are only so many different fly tying tools that a person can buy and I, for one, don’t think you need every little “gadget” to get the job done right. This page will go over what I think will cover almost every tying situation.

Must have Feature Pull out desk

So, it made sense for me to get a computer desk. I initially wanted an all glass desk, not wood, for one reason: to see through it, but I realized this was not as important as function and wood is superior in that regard.

When I’m learning a pattern, the part that slides out for the keyboard is the place where I like to put the book or magazine I am referencing. It allows me to look down instead of having to look up all the time.

The area that slides out is functional for many reasons. When I’m not in the process of learning a pattern, I use that space to store my hooks and whatever else I am using when tying a pattern.

The versatility of this extra space has become my number-one reason for preferring a computer desk over a “real” fly tying desk made for that purpose alone.

I haven’t found a true fly tying desk that I like, anyway. They look good at first, but once you sit down and start tying, you will usually find some reason to not like it. Usually, it comes down to there not being enough room.

I can’t emphasize it enough: the pull out feature of a computer desk is very useful. Plus, a computer desk costs a lot less than a specialized desk, which frees up extra cash for other things you might need like storage bins, trash cans, lamps, etc.

Choosing a vice

Another thing I would like to touch on is choosing a vice. If you think you will become really serious about tying, just come off the money and get the best vice the first time around.

Dyna King fly tying vises are my favorite, by far. It doesn’t matter which one either – they are all good. If I had to make a recommendation, it would be to get the King Fisher for travel and the Barracuda for home use. I prefer the clamp models and then adding an extension arm that pulls the vise out to you – this avoids the situation where you end up high with your body and arms. If you are straining in the least, you will pay the price over time. Just remember that you must feel comfortable when tying. It’s just like casting: feeling relaxed is the key to both activities.

Another little thing that I find very useful is the gallows tool. I use this for hanging my flash strands off of instead of for tying parachute dries, but when I need to tie some of them up, the tool is there for that, as well.

It is the little things that make you forget about the looks of your tying area and just focus on its functionality.

Maximizing tying space

You are probably asking yourself at this point: “Where does he put all the fly tying materials?” That is a great question worth addressing. The key is to only have what you need in your tying area as this helps your speed.

If you notice the portable studio with the blue background in the picture; that is where I would put my materials when I’m not taking photos. Just start prepping everything you need for whatever pattern you’re tying before getting started.

But if I’m working on a fly order, I keep everything close by and in one place. When everything goes smoothly, I can usually tie anywhere from 400 to 600 flies in a day – if it’s a two or three-step pattern.

A little bit of space is all you need, and honestly, it will keep the mess down if you tend to leave stuff around the table.

If I need extra room, I just take over the dining room table for a few days if the guys are coming over.

Speaking of function: I like to put my hooks is in the spot where you would put the computer tower on the desk if you were using it for computing.

I also like this area to be open and easy to access -not enclosed by a door. The clear hook boxes that have three rows down and six across are my favorite.

You can also get a magnet that fits perfectly in those slots if you buy the Tiemco 25 -packs. This will help keep your hooks organized. If for some reason you shift the hook boxes around, it will keep them from moving to another section of hook slots.

This all depends on how many hooks are on the magnet, but it can help. I have ten hook boxes in one spot which adds up to be quite a bit of hooks.

I hope this assists a few people who are getting serious about commercial or speed-tying and it should give those looking to get extra organized some good ideas. These concepts have helped me and made my life a little easier. This is why I wanted to share my set-up with you.

Recommended Fly Tying Tools

Everyone is different with respect to their preferred tools. All I can say is this: here is what works for me on a day to day basis.

I’ll explain why I use each tool and what they are used for. Another thing is: don’t worry about money (I know…easier said than done).

Get the best tools available so you don’t have to worry about them falling apart. Spending a little more at first will save in the long run.

The above mentioned products are what I would recommend if you are out looking for tools. I’m sure I missed a few, but these are what I use on a daily basis.

If you notice, I use a lot of bobbins, but who wants to change out threads all the time?

Keep buying bobbins when you have extra cash – you can never have too many and you will find it beneficial to you in the long run.

If you are attending one of my classes, I do furnish materials for the patterns we are tying, but if you’re getting into tying, I would bring your tools and “ect.” to class just to make it easier.

If you need to know where to get any of these tools, send me an email and I can point you in the right direction.