How To Start Fly Tying: Beginner Tools & Materials

How To Start Fly Tying: Beginner Tools & Materials

Buying flies is similar to purchasing golf balls; you may spend hundreds of dollars a month on items you might lose within an hour. That's why it's a great idea to learn how to start fly tying.


A Vise

When tying their flies, the first tool one needs is a fly tying vise. A vise holds a hook to attach additional materials that make it a usable fly. The most vital element of any vise is that it doesn't damage the hooks.

There is a wide range of vises at varying prices to select, so it might be best to get your feet wet with a suitable vise for beginners. A rotary fly tying vise offers the greatest bang for your buck, especially if you plan on making fly tying your new passion.

A Light

Creating your flies is a delicate process that involves several tiny parts, making a fly tying light essential. Your eyes will strain when focusing on your project without the proper lighting. Thus, invest in a small LED light rather than a dim, hot desk lamp that you will have to maneuver to see.


Bobbins are necessary to hold and distribute thread onto the hook. It would help if you considered a comfortable, durable, and practical bobbin to tie flies. Everyone shares different opinions on what works best, so you should try multiple styles of bobbins to find your ideal option.

Multiple Pairs of Scissors

A quality pair of scissors makes a massive difference when fly tying. You'll want a pair that gives your threads a sharp, smooth cut. Sometimes, it's better to have multiple pairs of scissors with numerous tips that finely cut any rugged material.

Two Sets of Pliers

It's virtually impossible to wrap small hackle feathers without using special pliers. The benefits of using these pliers include less waste and free up one hand to prevent any unwinding of the hackle. In addition to hackle pliers, you'll want some needle nose pliers to smash the barbs on your hooks

A Knife

A craft knife is excellent for cutting things without making a mess. Without a knife, you'll need to use razor blades, which can get hair all over your workstation.

Bodkin & Toothpicks

A bodkin is lovely for applying head cement and manipulating fur fibers to give your flies a distinct look. You need the toothpicks to guarantee that the bodkin stays clean when using head cement.

Half Hitch

The most popular way for tying off the thread at the head of a fly is the half hitch method. Usually, your trusty bodkin will have a tool on the other side of the needle, allowing you to tie a half hitch over the hook eye.

Another way to tie a fly knot is using a whip finisher. You can tie off your thread in the middle of the fly with a whip finisher, getting a more assured knot than the half hitch.


Now that you have your tools in order, you need all the materials to put these instruments to good use.

Threads & Floss

Browsing the inventory of thread at any shop may cause confusion. There are hundreds of colors and sizes, so a novice may be apprehensive about which one to purchase. Hence, keep it simple and opt for any darker thread in color and size 6/0, considering you can do anything with size 6/0 thread.

If you want something more durable, albeit pricier, you can purchase gel-spun poly thread. Among many, it's a trendy choice that's thin, tough, and a terrific substitute for the slimmer 3/0 line. Silk floss gives a fly a glossy body to a fly. Generally, you will use floss on streamers and nymphs.

Head Cement & Wax

Having head cement lets you reinforce the thread to the fly's head. The head is usually the last area to wrap thread. Then, you can create a tapered head and glue it with head cement to make it more robust. Wax is another resource that helps your thread-sticking needs. You can light a candle and use some of its wax to do the job.

Fine Wire

This material gives your fly a distinctive color while adding some heft to your fly. Most fine wires are gold or copper to accentuate a fly thorax.


It's integral to have these split fibers to structure the nymph's body. You'll usually brush or pluck it to give it a buggy look.


Tying your flies with animal hair is a way to show off some personal flair. There is no right or wrong answer when selecting animal hair, considering it ranges from dog to elk hair. Also, if you are in a pinch, you can extract some facial hair from a fly.


Since athletes can use performance-enhancing synthetics to improve their game, you can use synthetics to build powerful flies. Using items like rubber and foam can give you more control over a fly.


Considering that feathers are one of the most vital materials in fly tying, it may be beneficial to investigate them further. To keep things basic, let's focus on the most common types of animal feathers that most anglers use, seeing as the preferences are abundant.


We briefly touched on hackle when discussing pliers. These feathers help replicate the wings and legs of a fly. The saddle and neck are the two types of hackle, and they both come from juiced-up chickens. Saddle hackle feathers come from the rump of the chicken and work well with generally any nymph or streamer.

Obviously, neck hackles come from the chicken's neck, and a pack of these fine, long feathers provides you enough supply to tie hundreds of flies.


You have likely seen marabou before to add some flair to hats or decorations. However, for fly fishing purposes, you can use it for tails and wings.


Most specifically, pheasant tails aid your efforts when tying nymphs. Their distinctive quality is perfect for bodies, wings, and fly tails.

Primaries & Herls

Both are long feathers that come from ducks and peacocks, respectively. In terms of herls, it gives your fly a glistening look.

There you have it! Having all beginner's tools and materials on how to start fly tying prevents you from spending money on flies that you may lose within minutes. Please check out our online fly shop at Ed’s Fly Shop for all the essentials to start tying your flies. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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