Fly Tying Basics: Starting from square one

Fly tying tutorials and patterns from

I’ll admit it, fly tying is not nearly as easy as it may look. It’s challenging, frustrating and sometimes downright infuriating.

It’s also damn fun! As a fly tying rookie, I’m learning the ropes just like everyone else before me. It’s a process that many make look easy, and a process that I’m sure I’ll make look really easy some day.

As I document my fly tying journey, I wanted to pass along some info that I hope can help other beginners. These are tips that I have learned early on in my fly tying adventures.

Practice the absolute basics, a lot.

Wrapping thread around a hook seems pretty damn easy until you have to wrap thread around a hook.

I’ve spent a serious amount of time doing nothing but wrapping thread around hooks. Not tying a fly, not creating anything even resembling a fly, just wrapping thread.

Learning to lay down some neat wraps takes practice and honestly, mine still suck at this point. But what I’ve learned so far is how to control thread, how not to control thread and how to lay down some decent wraps that I’m becoming more proud of.

So, if you’re just beginning, spend some time wasting thread and laying down some wraps on a bare hook. Learn to do it neatly. Learn thread control and learn how to work with a bobbin.

Start with bigger hooks

To add to the previous, I’ve found that starting with bigger hooks is much easier. To get the hang of laying down thread and learning to whip finish, use the biggest hooks you can.

I started out just laying down wraps on size 8 and size 10 dry fly hooks. As I have gotten a little better, I’ve progressed down to 12, 14 and 16’s to prepare myself for the more common sizes that I will be tying.

I don’t recommend that you start fly tying with size 24-28 hooks. You’re asking for a nightmare if you do. I think there is a pretty valid reason why many people start out with bigger wooly buggers as their first fly.

Good light is essential

Do yourself a favor and get a really good light for your bench, table or wherever you plan to tie flies.

Being able to see what the hell you’re doing is super important. Spend a little cash on a nice desktop light that is adjustable and provides adequate lighting for you to see what you’re doing.

There are several different types and styles, but the important thing to remember is to get something that is bright and allows you to really see what you’re doing. When you can see clearly, you’ll work better and your flies will look much better.

Experiment with different threads

Before you rush out and buy 50 spools of thread, buy a few different brands and experiment with them.

Many people swear by a certain brand of thread. Others use whatever they have on hand and aren’t necessarily picky when it comes to brand. As with anything else, there are numerous options out there and I recommend that you experiment with several before you purchase large amounts of thread.

Some quick Google research and a few YouTube videos can quickly get you up to speed on the different types of thread and the differences between brands.

Depending on the type or style of flies you’ll be tying, not all threads work for all situations. Aside from that, I think that thread choice will be a personal preference based on experience using different brands.

If you’re just starting out with fly tying, I hope these tips will help you along the way. If you’re a veteran at this game, I’m sure you can understand and appreciate the advice above and I’d sure like to hear any additional input or tips you’d like to offer.

Drop me a comment below if you have anything you’d like to add.

Cory Perry
I'm a husband, father and fly fishing geek living in Greenville, SC. I'm down with slinging flies, tying flies and spending every minute I can enjoying the vast outdoors with my family and friends.

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