Reader's Casts
January 26, 1998

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Help for Beginning Fly Tyers

by Ron Koenig

Chat Room Host Ron Koenig's article is written from a unique viewpoint. We thank Ron for sharing it with us.

To start you will want to have a list of suppliers who have a varied bill of materials, I have found the following to carry mostly the same products and materials, however, each has it's unique items and the pricing seems to be pretty much standard. The list is as follows and all of the phone numbers are 800 numbers. I suggest calling and requesting they send you catalogues.

Dan Bailey's 1-800-356-4052
Kaufmann's 1-800- 442-4359 (Good material and tool selection and the best instructional books I have found to date.)
The Fly Shop 1-800-669-3474
Cabela's 1-800-237-4444 (Make sure you ask for the fly fishing edition.)
Orvis 1-800-548-9548
Netcraft 1-800-638-2723
Feathercraft 1-800-659-1707

The following information is a result of 6 months of collecting information on various suppliers and many hours of conversation with experienced fly tiers and fisherman. And it is only my opinion.

In a way, I too am only beginning. I say in a way because I was a tier some 35 years ago and just recently started again. It has really been a great learning experience due to the incredible advancements fly tying and fly fishing have gone thru since I was involved.

Fly tying is a unique hobby in that it can be whatever you want it to be. It is first of all a practical hobby for the fly fisherman for obvious reasons. But it can also be an incredible art form plus it offers almost instant gratification (beauty is in the eye of the beholder). The tier has only himself to please because most fish will not view your creations as you do. Proof of this to me has been in the countless books I've read and am reading regarding new patterns which only vaguely resemble any natural item in a fish's diet. After you have had the chance to fish some of your creations you will no doubt find that sometimes the poorly constructed fly will do quite well. Poorly constructed referring to improper scale and dimension even color. In Vince Marinaro's book In The Ring of The Rise he explains to great length what the fish really sees and should be very comforting to the beginning fly tier.

Bottom line is not to fret if your first 1000 flies are not perfect. However as you progress you will want to refer back to the first few flies you tied purely for entertainment purposes.

After you have ordered and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the suppliers catalogues, it is worth considering locating the nearest fly shop. One that offers everything the fly fisher and tier needs including classes and or clinics on the fly tying. The shop will probably have a supply of books on tying. Buy one! One of the best books I have found and did buy is The Universal Fly Tying Guide by Dick Stewart, cost is $12.95.

Next you'll need a vise. Quality of the vise is important but not critical at this point. If you do tie for a long time you will no doubt end up wanting a vise you can take on trips so flies can be tied on-site. So a pedestal model may be your best bet plus you can easily take it to fly tying classes and/or clinics.

The style of the vise is important and I think pros and recreational tiers would agree that the rotary is going to afford the tier the most flexibility regarding material control, speed and it reduces waste of materials.

I personally prefer the Renzetti presentation 4000 which I own. However I am considering adding an A.K. Best to my bench because I'm interested in starting to tie midges and trico patterns which are generally tied on 22's and smaller. I feel that I will be able to work closer in to the hook with this vise and that more than one vise can be useful.

If you can try different vises before you buy, it will help. You should expect to pay $200- $600 for a quality vise with various attachments you may want. Although, good, serviceable vises can be found for much less.

On the subject of materials, quality is of paramount importance. Poor materials and tools will not handle properly for the beginner. The frustration that may occur could simply just shut down your desire to pursue the art. When first buying material purchase small amounts for the patterns you want to tie. A lot of starter kits give you materials you may never use.

Another consideration is the purchase of a comprehensive book on materials and tools. This will be a valuable addition to your library and one you will refer to for a long time to come.

Books, ahhh yes books! The more you have, the more you'll learn. If you are truly interested in fishing flies and tying them, you'll find them to be a quick read. When buying books with patterns and illustrated instructions try to find spiral editions They will stay open and lay flat.

A comprehensive library will not be wasted and may even increase in value as the years go on especially if you get them autographed by the authors at the many fly-fishing expos held around the country throughout the year. Sometimes authors will have book signings at your local fly shop.

You will also find some excellent instructional books in Kaufmann's catalogues. Once you've read some of the books available, you'll be able to appreciate what the tiers at the expos are doing and you'll be able to understand some of their tricks.

One problem I have experienced as I get older is that my vision isn't what it used to be. But I have overcome this slight problem with the use of magnifying lamps which bring me back to even with the younger tiers. So don't let this stop you, if you are concerned about it.

Finally one of the best places for information is the chat room here on Fly Angler's OnLine. If you have been there you probably have noticed the folks are more than willing to help and no doubt have thousands of years of combined knowledge.

They have been, at times, inspirational to me and always fun. Also there are a few regulars that are guides, suppliers, rod builders, etc., all willing to help the beginner. Most are fly tiers also.

Once you start it is a real good idea to leave your stuff set up and tie at least one fly a day. Good luck, have fun and don't hesitate to email me if I can help, or join me in the chat room. (I host under the name of Host Osprey) ~ Ron Koenig

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