Fly Tying Tools - The Basics
If you fill your fly box with your flies you have tied yourself, you know that a vice is one of the most important tools you need. Last week, we looked at sources for a variety of vices but of course, there are other items that are required for tying your own flies. If you are a beginner, or are thinking about fly tying, what are the other tools that are necessary?
You can spend a lot of money on a variety of helpful tools and gadgets for fly tying. Not all of them are absolutely necessary for the beginner. In fact, an excellent fly tyer is capable of high quality tied flies with a minimum of equipment. In a sense, it is similar to woodworking - you can provide a vast array of woodworking tools to a lousy carpenter. Regardless of the cost or number, he will still build poor furniture. A skilled craftsman can create a piece that will become an heirloom with simple tools and his own skill and ability.
One important consideration when choosing tying tools is the quality. Poor quality tools will only discourage the beginner and cause greater expense with the need to replace them sooner rather than later. Better to purchase a small quantity of the only the absolute necessary tools than to economize by acquiring lots of different gadgets for the same money.
A good pair of scissors is a must for the fly tier. This is definitely one item where you do not want to skimp on quality. A good pair must have excellent steel that retains its edge and blades should taper to a very fine point. Your first pair should be about 4 inches in length. This will do for most applications, although when you plan on tying larger salmon and streamer flies or other bigger patterns, a longer pair will be useful, and of course, a smaller pair for tiny flies. You will be using your scissors very often - many fly tyers prefer to keep their scissors in hand at all times while tying, so you will also want to ensure that they are comfortable and easy to maneuver while your finger grasps them through their handle.
Hackle Pliers are another important tool for the fly tyer. Designed to hold feathers, tinsel and other material that you will use to create your flies, it is important to purchase pliers that grip well. They are made to remain closed without pressure and to open when pressed. Some models are rotating. This can be a helpful feature but is not necessary to tying great flies.
Hackle guages are important especially if you want to ensure that the size of hackle you use is right for the myriad of sizes hooks that you will probably collect. Many of them are made to fit around the stem of your vice, keeping it always handy.
You also need to have some method for keeping tension on your thread. Many times, you will wrap several turns of thread around your material and hook, then be required to stop your wrap while you prepare other material such as tinsel, feather, fur or whatever else you will use to make your flie, for tying onto the hook. A bobbin is a great tool for the this very purpose. Again though, a good bobbin will be easy to use, of a size that is comfortable for you, and the tube in which the thread runs through will be of high quality metal or ceramic to ensure your thread does not fray. In lieu of a bobbin if you want to save money, you can set up your fly tying area with a rubber button screwed into the side of your table. When you need to keep tension on your thread while your hands are busy doing other things, you simply wrap the length of thread that is extending from your hook a time or two around it, and you have enough tension to hold your work. Considering though that a half decent bobbin need not cost you more than $13.00, its probably worth the money and is easier to work with.
You should also have some sort of tool similar to a hat pin, with a pointed end. This tool will become invaluable to you for many things, but especially for removing cement from the hook eyes of finished flies and for removing dubbing bodies. You can also use the smooth side of such a tool for burnishing your thread wraps, making them lay smooth, or pushing material slightly so it fits just where you want it to on your hook.
There are a number of other tools that you can purchase for fly tying, however, the above are the most needed and with them you can tie beautiful and correct patterns with practice. You may want to consider other tools later as your experience increases but for now, master the use of these basic ones and develop your skills.