Dally’s How To: Start Tying Flies

SO you have finally decided to take the plunge into the world of fly tying.

There are many many reasons people, like yourselves start to tie. We most often hear the idea is to “save money” by not buying flies donated to trees, the bottom of the river or to trout themselves.

Sometimes its a curiosity at the craft, or a desire to learn more about trout food, to make a fly for a particular challenge or to simply immerse themselves deeper more into the world of fly fishing. I took up fly tying as a cure to boredom during an adult onset bout of mono.

All bar one (and more on that in a moment) are perfectly valid reasons. It also can be a lot of fun, and for many places in the world, a means to stay connected to fly fishing during closed seasons or bitterly cold seasons.

For some people fly tying becomes the passion over and above the pursuit of our finned quarry, no longer a means but an end in its own right. It can be entrancing, addictive and rewarding.

But the notion you will save money on your flies is long dark futile rabbit hole to dive down. The cost of materials used in each fly will be cheap. But you don’t just buy the materials for a single fly. In most cases each material you buy will contribute to dozens if not hundreds of flies. Hooks come in packs of 25, there are hundreds of feathers on a high end cape of rooster feathers. Then there are your tools, vise, light, a desk and eventually storage. Stay in the game long enough and you might end up with a dedicated room or even a shed. Rewarding yes, cheap no.

And smart tiers never stop buying flies. Go to a new river and there is always a hot local pattern. Keep one as a reminder, and a future tying model, if the others work. Some of us shy away from materials or patterns, we still love to fish, figuring we are better prepared tying the flies we tie well and buying the others from experts in another technique.

STAGE ONE (Find a Fly Shop)

JUst as not every fly fisher ties their own flies, not every fly shop is passionate about fly tying in the same way. Having a local fly shop to access materials and advice is invaluable, that being said we get a lot of phone calls from customers wanting details on our custom patterns, or our fly tying expertise.

We have 5 of our guides, (Davy Wotton, Chad Johnson, Steve Dally, Mike Sexton and Duane Hada) who have patterns in commercial production with the major flymakers, and some passionate and talented tiers on the shop floor. And everyone is eager to share their knowledge and expertise.

Montana Fly Co fly designer and guide Chad Johnson teaching a tying class

STAGE TWO (Your First Stuff)

Walking into a fly shop, or indeed an online tying materials selection, is pretty daunting,. Thankfully you really don’t have to make many decisions right now. The major fly tying companies like Wapsi, Orvis and Hareline have selected kits for people like you with the materials you need for commonly tied patterns. Wapsi kits have been popular here, when available, because the kits largely focus on standards for the White River system.

Depending on your kit it may or may not include a vise and tools. Most kit vises are older style vises which will be fine to get you started, but if the passion takes hold you may find yourself wanting to upgrade to a rotary vise like out Renzetti range. You are also going to need some scissors, a bobbin or two, a whip finish tool, hackle pliers and a bodkin (needle).

Our best kit for the beginner right now is Hareline’s 48-piece materials kit, which does not include tools or a vise but plenty of materials to get you started, and includes a 60 page instructional book.Try the Renzetti Apprentise vise to get you started with a quality vise and the Loon Core Tool Kit delivers quality essential tools.

If you prefer we, or most other shops, can put together a personalised custom set of tools, or materials to your needs and budget.

Guide Ben Levin tying for the camera for our White River Fly Tying Series

STAGE 3 Building Knowledge

Covid has put a damper on a lot of in-person classes, but there is a host of fly tying information out there on social media, particularly YouTube. How to get started with a hook in the vise try this video. Getting the fundamentals down is the basis for all other flies to come. Which is why I love the simple Zebra Midge to teach the basics of thread wrapping and control. If they all look identical you are doing it right.

There are a bunch of good basics techniques on the Orvis site. We also love Brian Wise’s Tying Tips videos (as well as his more advanced streamer ties) Try some beaded buggers (olive for our waters), perhaps some Sunday Specials (ask for this in the shop), Rubberlegs patterns, and the list rolls on.

We have 32 White River fly patterns, mostly developed by our team, on our You Tube channel, you can work through. And on You Tube there are a myriad of patterns to pursue.

STAGE 4 The World Is Your Oyster

About the time you finish up on the first batch of materials you purchased, there comes the moment of what next? Some fade away at this point or before. For others the passion will be grounded.

It was about this stage, I would walk a couple of miles to and from my waterfront office, regaining some stamina after the mono. As it happened the long route took me past the best fly tying selection in town. Here I’d walk the aisles perusing materials I didn’t know how to use let alone had a fly in mind for the materials. It was a period of collecting materials, then deciding what to tie.

On the other hand an older wiser tier now walks the aisles, checking out the new stuff, but acquiring what he needs for the patterns he wants to tie, be it an old standard, a new pattern from another tier, or perhaps the materials for something from the imagination.

In this vein last winter tying kits for specific patterns became very popular. We put out a range of kits for our signature tyer patterns, and brought in others from Flymen Fishing Co. We will be bringing back our Dally’s kits when consistency of materials supply returns. Shop the Tying Kits Here

But don’t be afraid to ask for us to put together from on-hand inventory, or ordering from our suppliers, the materials for any pattern you fancy. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask.

There is no such thing as a silly question.

Steve Dally