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Fly Tying
Maximize Your Effort

For many fly fishers winter is a time to reflect on the past season while trying to turn dreams into future plans for next year. Granted, there are some of us fortunate enough to fly fish year round. But for most, gear is checked over cleaned and stored. Fly boxes patchy and disorganized are due for repairs and reinforcements. Just about every fly fisher has made resolutions around the fly box including myself. By next season the fly box will be stocked and bursting at the seams. Now despite the best of intentions these resolutions tend to be swept downstream as activities of the winter season take hold. More often than not weeks or even the night before the first trip fly fishers burn the midnight oil to at least get a working team of flys in place. Driven by these deadlines it pays to be productive and efficient, maximizing the effort becomes paramount.

Since learning to tie my first fly I have become a devoted fanatic. This passionate pursuit led to delusions of riches as I tied flys commercially for a number of years. Under these conditions I was able to hone my skills and tying management techniques. While commercial tying is not for everyone there are many benefits transferable to recreational tying. The week or night before tying sessions wonít be solved but by borrowing a number of commercial techniques a tyer should be able increase production, satisfaction and the bottom line amount of flies in the fly box. Some of these ideas I have stumbled upon myself, others were borrowed from books and magazines, and some come from experts such as Jack Dennism, Andre Puyans and Randall Kaufmann. Give these ideas and thoughts a try.

  • In order to be productive a tyer must be physically comfortable. Learn to tie at eye level to avoid the shooting back pain caused by tying with the head down. For those who prefer to tie in front of the TV, try positioning the fly and the vise with the TV in the background. This exercises the eyes as they flip between fly and TV resulting in little or no eyestrain. I use a vice extender to raise the vice up and towards me making tying both comfortable and productive. A high back chair is another worthwhile investment.
  • This suggestion makes most tyers shudder. Keep the work area clean and organized so that only the materials and tools required for the pattern are available. All other hooks, materials and clutter should be stowed away.
  • Spread out the hooks so no time is wasted trying to pick one out of the jumble in the box. If the goal is 10 size 12 Adams, then lay out 10 number 12 dry fly hooks on the tying bench. This technique also works for tying materials too. Lay them out, cut them to length or sort them as necessary. Tying should become a matter of assembly not sorting and searching.
  • Learn to tie with hands on the vice and scissors in the hands. Time is wasted by constantly looking for scissors. Keep the other tying tools near by and in plain sight. Place them in the same spot all the time. Reaching for tools should be an instinctive reaction.
  • When tying a pattern only use the number of thread wraps sufficient to tie the material down. If two wraps are adequate donít use ten!
  • Tying at warp speed does not always lead to more flies but it often leads to poor quality. Tie under control. Proper material preparation and selection is a much better idea. For dry flies requiring hackle purchase a hackle gauge. Pluck the neck or saddle patches bald, separate the hackles into various sizes and put them into marked Ziploc bags. When tying size 10 Humpyís time isnít wasted sizing hackle since as it has already been done, just tie in the hackle and wind it up the hook.
  • Lead, wire, oval tinsel floss and other supplies dispensed on spools should be placed in a bobbin. A bobbin controls these materials, making them easier to handle and manipulate while saving on supplies.
  • When tying nymphs or other hefty patterns weight the hooks prior to tying. This goes for bead or cone head patterns as well, preload the hooks prior to tying.
  • Use the best tools and materials possible. Nothing slows tying down more than inferior tools and materials.
  • When tying flies with spun hair bodies such as Goddard Caddis, Muddlers, Bombers and some styles of dragon nymphs try this process:
  • Spin the hair all at once. For Muddler Minnows finish all of the rear body sections first. Once all of the rear sections are complete reattach the tying thread and begin spinning the deer hair heads.
  • When the flyís resemble a fuzz ball convention clip the hair to shape. Most find trimming the patterns easier in the hand than the vice.
  • Once manicured finish the balance of the fly. A dozen Goddard Caddis becomes a breeze using this approach
  • Tie against a light background using the best light possible.
  • Apply head cement in a one step process. By concentrating on one step at a time your productivity increases. A magnetic strip such as those in refrigerator doors holds the flyís perfectly for head cementing.
  • Many dry flies use moose for the tail. Stack the moose hair in a large hair stacker and then secure the butts using tying thread or fine wire to create a moose hairbrush. When it comes time to tie in the tail just trim out the necessary amount of pre-stacked hair. A one-inch diameter brush goes along way.


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