Okay, so here goes. The fishing season is eventually going to end for the year at the end of next month, and I think when it's over I want to get my hands into tying, to feed the addiction during the cold, unfishable season here. Some questions come to mind that make me hesitant to get started:
1. What am I even looking for in a starting kit...and what tools / materials will I absolutely need to have to get started? I don't have a ton of places locally where I can buy this stuff so I will more then likely have to order from the net, so I want to have a good handle on what I'm looking for before I make the plunge.
2. What price range should I be looking at in a starting kit? I see some are cheap and others not so much. What I don't want to do is buy the cheapest bundle, but at the same time I don't want to buy the most expensive one just because it's the most expensive one.
3. I know there are a ton of books out on the subject, but is there one particular book I can look at picking up that will cover all my bases for tying?
Any assistance in these questions would be appreciated greatly. I'm sure everyone has heard these questions over and over again, but it just seems like a huge hurdle of information one needs to get started on this hobby.
Warning - any help / advice given will technically make you an enabler in the eyes of my fiancee. I'm already a junkie fishing the flies, and I could easily see myself falling into an addiction tying them too.
Your post gave me an idea but I will need some time to make something happen. This question has been ask many times and you may find similar threads by scanning the Fly Tying forums. I will gather as many threads as I can locate that deal with this issue and move them into one 'Sticky Thread' in the Fly Tiers Roundtable forum here.
I started with a kit and grew from there. If you have particular flies you want to tie then ala-cart is your best approach.
1) you're not looking for a kit- there are a few threads here on this subject and the prevailing guidance is DO NOT BUY A KIT... the tools are substandard, the materials tend to be a mix of junk and stuff you'll never use, the hooks are never the right type/size
2) plan on spending $200 to get going at full speed, but not all at once. you can buy an inexpensive ($50) but good quality vise (and upgrade it later) if $$ are an issue. but buy first grade scissors, other tools, and hooks. buy your material in stages, based on what you're planning to tie... if $$ are limited, stick to dries OR wets/nymphs first, then expand into the other. your materials for the two types of flies are different, so your costs go way up if you try to buy both.
3) a lot of people here will tell you to buy Craven's book... and this may be "heresy" here, but I'm not a fan of it. if I were to give anyone guidance on books, I'd say buy Randall Kaufmann's books (in this order) :
- Fly Tying Made Easy for Beginners
- Tying Nymphs
- Tying Dry Flies
- Fly Patterns
and although you're NOT tying in a production mode (yet) consider adding:
Production Fly Tying by A.K.Best
there are great tips and tricks to improve how a person ties flies.
And there are TONS of videos and SBS (step by step) tutorials on the internet to be had now that were never available in the past. I'm a big fan of Harry Mason's stuff t r o u t f l i e s . c o m but sadly, Harry isn't among us any longer and I fear his site may not stay up for much longer. =(
If I was starting out I would get a better vice, a good bobbin, great scissors, handy whip finisher, and start building your kit around your favorite flies. You'll need good threads and tinsels, and flosses etc. You can scrounge materials from hunters or trappers or any other source you can think of. Know anyone who knits? Wool makes decent dubbing.
I started out using the Fly Tyers Bible for patterns. Great book.
I started out with about a $70 kit from Bass Pro Shops, and it worked great for me for a year or two. Just long enough to really get into and want to invest more. It really whet my appetite. I would take a look at your fly box, pick out 5/10 flies that you fish a lot and focus on those. For example I started out only tying nymphs, especially hare's ear, Pheasant tail, and wooly buggers. I've since branched out to several other patterns, but I'm still a nymph guy at heart.
Finding a price range will help you decide what directions you can go as well. It certainly is addicting! I've almost gotten to the point now where I tie a few flies every night while my wife and I watch tv after work. It sure is a blast!
Really, the answers to most of your questions are in the "How to...." Basic Fly tying book that you're going to buy anyway. Why not start with that?
I bought a cheap kit and worked with the Pamphlet that came with the kit. Eventually, I bought Dick Talleur's "Basic Fly Tying". It will recommend tools etc, then tell you how to use them. Talleur does tend to be pretty traditonal when it comes to patterns and materials. You can go through the book and pick patterns you want to try and pick up materials as required.
The first tool I replaced from the kit was the bobbin. It (I) constantly broke thread in the middle of tying something. Not helpful while you're trying to learn to control thread tension. So get a good ceramic and save yourself some screaming frustration.
You may also want to look at the "Show me your tying station" thread for Ideas on a surface, lighting and storage.
Good luck. Have fun. My first fly was a hank of the Little Mermaid's doll hair tied to a baitholder hook with sewing thread. It caught fish.
As others have said, I've avoid the kit. Might not get quality tools and you'll get materials you don't want or won't use. Instead buy the basics; vise, scissors, bobbin (ceramic), bobbin threader, whip finisher, bodkin, hair stacker, etc. Lots of options, but Dr Slicks are a good place to start.
For materials. As others mentioned, pick a couple patterns you want to tie. You can find the material lists if you google the fly name + 'recipe'. You can also just ask us what to buy and we'll help you out figure it out. Search for the pattern you want to tie in youtube. Tons of great videos out there that will help you visualize how the materials are used. You'll come to understand how to read and apply the recipe that way. Davie McPhail's videos are amazing, though there are lots of others that are helpful. Personally, watching the videos got me excited to tie as I came to understand how flies are constructed and came to realize that it was something I could do.
I read the Orvis guide to fly tying, which helped me out. I suggest checking out what's available in your library (also check inter-library loan). I read a bunch of books on fly tying that way, and if I'd bought them I probably wouldn't have read them again, though they were helpful. If you find one you want to have as reference, then buy it.
p.s. remember, a vise is what holds your hook when you tie flies, and a vice is what fly tying can become as it takes over your life
I just started a few months ago as well so your pain I lived recently and here is what I did.
1) Peak Rotary vice ( I needed all the help I could due to limited skills) So I spent the money on a good vice
2) bought good scissors, hackle pliers, one bobbin and whip finish tool
3) Bought beads and hooks in two sizes to tie the few patterns I wanted to start with.
4) Got the thread, dubbing, feathers etc etc to tie the first few
My first fly was a Size 16 Rainbow Warrior, I tied up a dozen. Then I tied up a dozen of each Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail's and Lightening Bugs.
Then I tied up a dozen of each in size 18
Now 2 short months later I have over $900 in to this dang hobby but I have over 700 hooks , beads to match for everything from 4xl long shanked nymph hooks for stonefly, to size 24 midge hooks for tube midges / wd 40's etc etc. Last night I sat down and just started screwing around and ended up tying a size 14 bead hot two tone wire nypmh with olive hares ear thorax, flash over scud back wing case epoxied in the rubber legs. Then tied more of the same with Orange krystal flash as legs instead of the rubber legs.
This fly looks real good with Wine colored wire paired with Chartreuse in small size for segmentation.
Charlies book and website charliesflybox has great step by step how to. Just remember Charlies recipes are his and he sticks to the ingredients. Where he might call for a black goose biot wing case you can also substitute thin skin or scud back.Same with the dubs he recomends.
Spend the money on a good vice if you have it. Youtube the heck out of a half dozen patterns you want to tie. Make a list get your set up and tie the heck out of those patterns. Once you have gotten your confidence down, that is when all hell will break loose and you will start day dreaming of ways to deviate your patterns as you fall asleep at night.
I also found I would sit down to tie a dozen of a new pattern. And it always went like this
Fly 1 = Respectable
Fly 2 = Better
Fly 3 = Atrocious because I thought I had it down and got ahead of myself and didnt pay attention to detail
Fly 4 = Fantastic
Fly 2 and 3 then got dismantled with a razor and I started them over eventually ending up with a dozen nice flies
As I now say....if you thought hiding the true cost of your rods and reels from your wife was tough......start tying flies and you will soon discover you aint seen nothing yet
Thanks for asking, trout_onfly_junkie. I was just about to ask the same questions. Thanks for the advice, everyone else. I'm thinking of some Christmas presents for the wife to consider, and some tying supplies would be a good start.