Thanks to JimW for the idea and getting the ball rolling!!!
There's a tying tips thread in this forum. Please continue to post great tips and I'll keep pasting them in here so they're all in one place and kind of organized by topic.
In order to keep this a manageable size, I've included links to back pages where these tips originally appeared for pics (if given) instead of including them here.
Thanks for your help!
Tips for Beginning Tyers:
Take a class!
(all the cool kids say so) Best way to get started, you'll learn a ton of tips, techniques, get a chance to see how to use and select different materials and get a chance to see other vises and tools in action. Your local Trout Unlimited chapter, Federation of Flyfishers affiliated club, or local shop can hook you up.
Keeping your hook eyes clear of head cement-
(Thanks Fyshstryker!) “Clogged eyes are a pain to clear on the river, especially when the fish are eatin! This simple tip will save cuss words on the river. After you get done applying head cement simply run a small hackle through the eye of the fly from the top to the bottom. One pass should be enough, and you can use a single feather several times by just wiping it off by running it through your fingers or a paper towel. Disclaimer: Don't run the feather between your fingers to wipe off if you use "Super Glue". Lol”
Another way to clear the hook eye-
(thanks Dman!) “I have been a hackle feather user but was given this tip by someone and I like it much better. Use Super Dental Floss like Oral B etc... reusable and available at pharmacies.”
Making a dubbed body-
(many folks have suggested this) New tyers often use way too much dubbing, leading to fat lumpy bodies with dubbing that moves around on the shank. When dubbing onto a single strand of thread, use wisps of dubbing to color the thread—as opposed to building a dubbing rope or noodle around the thread. If you want a thicker, tapered body you can always take a couple of passes with the dubbed thread to build up a few layers.
Making a neat head-
(many folks suggested this) Another common mistake new tyers make is to crowd the head with thread wraps because they run out of room. Try and treat at least 1 eye length behind the eye as “sacred space” and leave the metal on the hook shank bare. All materials should be bound down so that butts and everything else are far enough back to leave this space bare metal. You’ll reserve this space for the head, consisting of just thread wraps only.
Building an even thread under body-
(Peregrines) If you want to cover the shank in an even layer of thread, tie on near the eye, but leave a tag end of an inch or so past the bend extending to the rear of the hook on top of the shank. Hold the tag end up at a 45 degree angle with your off hand, and with your bobbin hand, wind thread towards the rear of the hook around the shank and tag end of thread. You’ll be walking the thread down the shank towards the bend, and by holding the tag end up at an angle it will force each wrap of thread to lay down evenly right next to each other to build a smooth underbody with no gaps.
Cutting thread when finishing a fly-
(Peregrines) After you’ve whip finished and have finished the head, rather than snipping the thread with scissors, hold the thread under tension, and slip one of the scissor blades in tight to the head. By applying tension to the thread against the blade it will cut easily, and you’ll get a neater, closer cut of thread with no tag end.
Substitute Calf Body Hair or Turkey Flats for patterns calling for Calf Tail (Kip) wings-
(peregrines) Calf tail is crinkly and can be hard to work with. Calf body hair is straighter, stacks easier, and is easier to work with for wings on flies like Wulffs , Trudes and other patterns. For parachute patterns calling for calf tail, again use calf body hair instead, or turkey flat feathers which are even easier to use, especially on small patterns.
Pinch down your hooks before you tie-
(peregrines) If you're planning to pinch down the barbs of your hooks, and/or sharpen new ones for stuff like SW hooks with a heavy file, do it before you tie the fly. Sometimes a hook will break, so better to do it on a bare hook instead of one you've spent time tying.
Creating your own variegated chenille-
(Thanks fyshstykr!) “f you want to come up with some different color combinations for your chennille, try taking 2 colors(smaller size)tie them in and twist them to create the varigated look and then wrap them on the hook.”
Weighting flies with lead or lead free wire-
(peregrines) Standard advice would be to use a wire about the same size as the hook shank. There’s nothing magic about this, and feel free to vary depending on what you want to accomplish, and what you have on hand using more or less wraps to adjust weight, and overwrapping to get thicker profiles. But if you look at patterns you’ll often see a recipe listing “lead wire” without referring to size (diameter). So here’s just a rough guide for commonly available diameters for different hook sizes if you're ordering blind from an online shop:
Lead Lead free hook sizes
.035 .035 6 and larger
.030 6-4 and larger
.025 .025 10-4
.015 .015 16-12
Using a bucktail for streamers-
(peregrines) The deer hair at the base of the bucktail often has hollow hairs that tend to spin around the hook shank when you bind them down, similar to the deer belly hair sold for spinning bass bugs. If this is happening to you, try going further up the tail. The hair in the top 2/3rds of the tail will be solid, not hollow, and will behave better and be easier to tie in for streamer tails, wings and collars without flaring all over the place.
If you're tying with flashabou or krystal flash-
(peregrines) Because they're synthetic they tend to be slippery. When tying on, use long strands and tie in around the middle (in the center of the "v"), using 1/2 the strand on each side. This will help lock them in. And when you trim the ends on the finished fly, stagger the cuts so the flash ends at different points, instead of cutting all at one place like a paintbrush. It'll help distribute the "flash" of the fly, since a lot of light is reflected where it is cut. You may also want to try leaving a few strands extending past the ends of other materials on flies like clousers for a little extra sumthin' sumthin' in the water.
(peregrines) For helping to get more of a tapered body when tying in bulky material like deer hair, after binding down the material when going to trim, lift the butts straight up, and make a cut parallel to the hook shank with your blades closing horizontally. When you bind down the material over the cut, you'll will create a natural slope for your thread instead of a "cliff". The cliff happens when you cut butts perpendicular to the hook shank with the blades vertical instead of horizontal, and you'll have to use a ton of thread wraps to build up the gap.
Keeping deer hair wings from rolling on an Elk Hair Caddis-
(peregrines) Eventually you'll be able to do this in your sleep without any special methods, but if you're having trouble now here's a couple of things to try. Take a loop of thread around just the hair, and slide it down on top of the shank, then apply some thread wraps around the hair and the shank to bind them down. Another way is to bind down the wing, then work your way with the thread through the bottom third of the butts plus shank for a wrap, then the middle third plus shank, then over the top plus shank for a couple wraps. Then lift every thing up and put a couple wraps under everything to prop the butts up for then caddis "head". By going through different layers of the butts it'll help bind things down.
Greasy or oily feathers
- (peregrines) Sometimes skins can be a bit oily or greasy. A good idea is to slip a small piece of doubled over paper towel between the skin and cardboard on capes (necks) or saddles after you get them home. Check from time to time and change if you notice “spotting”. If you have greasy or oily feathers you can wash them in warm water with some Wool Lite or dishwashing liquid. Rinse and blow dry with a hair dryer if it’s on the skin or strung hackle. If the feathers are loose, you can put them in a paper bag or pillow case and blow hot air in to the open end with a blow dryer.
Homemade Bead Grabber
(Thanks for the tip Jimmie!). Put some beeswax on the end of a stick and just press down to pick up beads.
Tips for Saving Money:
Eyes for streamers, large nymphs, and shrimpy crabby stuff-
(Thanks dman!!) Go to a Dollar Store and pick out a hairbrush with plastic round tipped bristles...clip off and use as eyes with a peg....or you can heat the cut end for a double eye.
Stretching a Whiting 100 pack-
(peregrines) Today’s “standard” hackled dry fly, like an Adams typically calls for hackles with a barb length 1.5x the gape of the hook. But other styles of dry flies often use different ratios. Examples are an Elk Hair Caddis using a palmered hackle down the length of the hook shank, often tied with hackle even with the hook gap. Parachute style dry flies that use a hackle wrapped horizontally around a posted wing can often use a hackle that is 2x the hook gap. So for example, if you have a pack of size 14 Whiting 100’s you can use them to tie “standard” size 14’s, size 12 Elk Hair Caddis and size 16 parachute patterns. You can also apply this to feathers on necks and saddles.
Shaving brushes and paint brushes for dry fly tailing-
(peregrines) You can often find shaving brushes on sale or in dollar stores. They’re a good source of boar bristles for tailing. Paintbrushes from hardware stores or art supply stores are also a good source of tailing, some synthetic brushes are suitable for replacement “microfibbettes”.
Free sources of dubbing-
(Thanks liv2fish!) "Dryer lint can be made/mixed into specific colors as a cheap way to make your own dubbing. I have also made a few "Daisy" nymphs (-the dogs name), with my dog's hair.”
More great tips-
(Thanks MrEsox!) “One thing I would like to add is this; hair. I find it much easier to use a type of hair that is easy to get and easy to tie. For the most part I use hair from my cat. Yes I did say cat hair. Her color comes out very close to that of a grub, larva, or nymph of a lot of larva. That off cream color. It kinda sound a bity off but I get a ton of fur this way. It works great for dubbing. Second I recycle left over stuffs. Often I tie with marabou. I take bits that are left over from tying and pile it up. Makes some interesting color patterns and streamers out of it. Lastly don’t over look the possible things that you can find at places like WalMart or any kind of craft store. Not much can be found but then again what you might find could be the thing your looking for. I've found stuffs there that make some great looking adult bugs like moths and beetles.”
( I'll have to track the original poster down) Pick up a wax ring from a hardware or plumbing supply store. They're used to seal toilette bowls, and you'll end up with a lifetime's supply of dubbing wax.
Alternatives to expensive dry fly hackle for dry flies #1-
(peregrines) There are many patterns that are simple to tie and use inexpensive materials and are VERY effective. Some use snow shoe hare feet (Usual and many emerger patterns), CDC (many dun, spinner and emerger patterns), fine deer hair sold as "comparahair" or "coastal deer hair" (Sparkle Duns, Comparaduns, X Caddis, Deer Hair Emerger), or Poly (Poly winged spinners, emergers) for floatation that are very inexpensive to tie. Ask the board for recommendations.
Alternatives to expensive dry fly hackle for dry flies #2-
(peregrines) Whiting (Red Label stuff) puts out some great, high quality hackle in both capes and saddles in all grades. But the "start up cost" for someone that is just getting into tying, can be pretty steep for a range of feathers in different sizes and colors, and for many tyers that tie occasionally, tie a range of medium sizes as opposed to real small stuff, and are more concerned with the initial cost rather than the "cost per fly", might want to consider some other options. As of early 2009 prices are right around 30 bucks for Grade 3 Collins Hackle capes that come with a free dry fly saddle, Conranch Grade 3 capes (with saddles for a bit less) and Herbert Miner (now owned by Whiting sold with a Green label) Pro Grade capes (saddles also going for a bit less) are very reasonable, very good quality, extraordinary colors, especially in natural duns, and an excellent value. Many experienced production tyers use these too, these are not just for rookies. Capes from these grades easily tie sizes 12-18. Higher grades cost more but will extend down into smaller sizes. The Herbert Miners can be found in stores, Collins in very few stores, but both Collins and Conranch can be bought directly from the growers. They are great folks to do business with, and both Charlie (Collins) and Denny and his daughter Liz (Conrad from Conranch) will help you pick out the right stuff for whatever you're tying.
Thinners for head cement and other tying liquids-
(peregrines) There are different types of head cement so you have to know which type you’re using to get the right thinner. Always test with a small drop to make sure it doesn’t go cloudy to make sure you’ve matched up the type of head cement with the right thinner.
- “Deep penetrating” nitrocellulose based lacquers with that nail polish smell – thin with lacquer thinner from hardware store.
thin with water or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) it’ll dry faster when applied to heads if cut with rubbing alcohol (or vodka!), instead of water. And if you sip some vodka too it’ll seem even faster.
types like Softex, Dave’s Flexament- thin with Goof-Off, Toluene, or Xylene. You can make your own vinyl cement with a tube of Household Goop thinned with Toluene or Xylene.
thin with acetone or isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) or vodka.
Tips for Keeping Stuff Organized:
(Thanks Dman!) Use a 35mm film canister, cut a hole the size of a nickel and you can use it to store more than one bodkin, needles etc. Put a Velcro dot on the bottom to stabilize it on your desk.
Keeping your head cement from spilling-
(Thanks Hardyreels!) Sooner or later you will spill your bottle of head cement. In the old days we glued them to the lid from a small margarine container of the like. I'm sure you could also use the Velcro remedy to keep it from being knocked over but be careful when pulling it loose.
(Thanks dman!) A tie rack from a thrift store makes a great rack for holding all your bobbins. Here's agreat pic of it in action:
Flytying tips and techniques.......
Storing Flashabou and Krystal Flash #1-
(Thanks Fishstryker!) Your dentist gets tools like scrapers, plaque picks , and “hand mirrors” that come in small tubes about 9” long and ½” in diameter. They make great storage tubes for flashabou and Krsytal flash type materials.
Storing flashabou and Krystal Flash#2-
(peregrines) To keep these materials from getting snarled, you can leave them in their sleeves. Just cut a ¼” slit in the edge of the sleeve on one side near the top, where the flash is bound with a twist tie. You can use your bodkin to fish out however many strands you need for your fly, and snip off with scissors. By keeping them in their sleeves you can stack a bunch of different colors in an empty soup can like pencils
Hook storage #1-
(thanks Shorthaul!) “After spilling a 20 compartment box of hooks, and spending 2 days picking up and separating hooks from size 28 to 4, I came up with a great way to store hooks in the future: “I got a business card organizer that had pages of vinyl pockets (about 40) to slide 2x3 business cards into---I found some 2x3" 4 mil ziplock bags (McMaster.com) with a writable window on them and put a small piece of of index card in them to make them stiffer to slide the bags into the slots. I usually cut a part of the box to further identify the contents. Now my "accident exposure" is one bag of 100 hooks and chances are that they won’t fly out of the bag if dropped.”
Hook storage #2-
(Thanks livsfish!) “As far as the hook storage/dropping an open plastic container... you can get those weekly pill boxes from a drug store. Each "day" or hook size opens independently of the others, so while you tie one size you don't need to worry about mixing various sizes/styles.
Film can dubbing conatiner-
(thanks liv2fish!) "For dubbing containers, poke/drill a hole into old film canisters. You can then pull small bits of dubbing out as you need it."
Storage for wing and tail feathers-
(Thanks Aroostookbasser!) “My wife drinks that Crystal light flavoring stuff in her bottled water. The bigger paks are for making 2 liters at a time and come in a tall tube with a cover. I recycle these as feather storage tubes. Perfect for wing feathers and tail feathers. I also use the "Lays chips" tubes after the chips are gone for longer feathers.”
Mason Jars for storage-
(Thanks Frank!) “Another good idea is to use Mason large mouth jars for storage. I have some Indian Hen Necks that I bought in the 70's and they are as good as new. I stored one in each jar. I bought a case of canning jars that came with lids. The problem today is the jars are pretty expensive.”
Sample cups for storage-
(Thanks Frank!) “How about urine sample cups for storage. These are really neat. Get the kind with a screw on top. If you know some one that works in the medical field they will have a catalog for medical related items. Believe me you will like these. I went to my local hospital and talked to someone in the lab and she gave me 20 cups and lids.“
Great way to clean up spilled beads and help hooks stay put-
(thanks Wyatt!) "I use several plastic boxs that are divided to store hooks and beads and tipped one box, while I was on hands and knees picking up the beads the wife showed up with a stick roller that she uses for getting dog hair off of cloths or some such use, it picked up all the tiny beads and majority of the bigger ones, haven't found an easy way to sort them yet. I have also bought some magnetic tape at a craft store and cut to fit for the bottom of each compartment of my hook boxes."
Keep a magnet handy for spilled hooks-
(peregrines) If you tie with small hooks, in case of a spill you can sweep the floor carefully with a magnet. It’s pretty good at picking them up, even out of carpet. Use a pair of tweezers to pick them carefully off the magnet.
Make a simple tool caddy for the stem of your vise-
(peregrines) To make a simple caddy to hold a few tools, just get a scrap of wood about ½ - ¾ “ thick, and cut into a squat teardrop shape about 6” long and 4” wide at it’s widest point. Drill a hole 1” in from the edge of the tear drop at the pointed (narrowest) end about 3/8” in diameter for the stem of the vise. Towards the wider end of the teardrop, drill a series of holes 1” from the edge about a 1/ 4” in diameter around the perimeter of the wider end of the teardrop. These will hold a few tools to keep them handy- a bobbin, scissors, whip finisher, bodkin etc. To use it, just free the vise stem from the base or c-clamp, slide the teardrop on, reseat the stem in the pedestal or c-clamp and swing the caddy to the off side (from your tying hand). You can stick a few tools in the holes to keep them handy, but out of the way of your tying hand.
Simple homemade tool and glue caddy #2-
Thanks Arfishnbear !) “Get a piece of 1 by 8 or 1 by 10 or what ever width you want, then in the corner that will be closest to you put your glue jar on it and trace the outline, drill a small hole in each corner then cut out with a jigsaw, Then get a 1/8 drill bit and make a couple rows of holes to stick 1/8 " dowels in to keep your thread and anything else on a spool, then drill different size holes to stick you tool in, everything is in easy reach and doesn’t get strung all over your desk. Then you can give it a sand job and stain it. I made mine in like 2 hours maybe a little less.“
To keep tools handy-
(Thanks dman!) If you don’t mind drilling holes… Take a look: Flytying tips and techniques.......
Using a knife block for tool storage-
(Thanks dman!) ”knife holder from thrift store...drill your own hole pattern.” Great pic: Flytying tips and techniques.......
Simple waste catcher #1-
(peregrines) Just use one of those thin plastic bags from the grocery store. Slip one of the handles over the vise and around the stem. You’ve now got a place to toss clippings and fluff. But see below for an even better idea from Auntie Em!
Another simple waste catcher-
(from Auntie Em) "Here's one so you don't have to spend big bucks on waste receptacles. Visit Michael's Crafts, or Joann's or Hobby Lobby (or any number of yarn/fabric stores) and pick up a wooden 4.5" embroidery hoop. Take off the outer hoop, set a zip lock baggie on the inner hoop, and return the outer hoop over the baggie (the baggie will be sandwiched between the hoops). Add a rubber band to the set screw and loop the other end over the center post of the vise. Perfect garbage bag!"
Foam block for holding flies while the head cement dries-
(Thanks BigCliff!) “If you take a thicker piece of foam (1/4"+) and punch a hole through the middle the size of your vise stem, you have a super cheap and handy fly holder. a 2"x3" piece will hold a dozen flies or so without getting too crowded."
Holder for drying flies
(Thanks Fishn50!) “I get one those wooden, spring loaded clothespins & put a length of that foam insulating tape( The stuff is about 3/8 " thick) that you seal windows with on each or just one side of the clothspin. The foam will hold the fly fairly securely & I keep one on my vise stem to keep flies from the vise while they dry. I'll make up a bunch of wet fly or streamer bodies & put them on the clothspin & clip it to my light, so the heat from the lamp will dry it faster I've put one on my vest to hold that dropper fly I just took out of the flybox while I tie on the point fly.”
Using Pencil erasures for holding drying flies-
(Thanks dman!) “When finished with a fly and the head cement or other glued areas are still wet a quick and easy way to set them aside is to impale the hook on a pencil eraser...golfers have lots of pencils...and yes they have erasers. Flytying tips and techniques.......
Tips for sorting beads#1-
(Thanks Wyatt!) “Found a way to sort my beads, use a set of screens that I use when we go Gold Prospecting, each screen is a different size holes, so dump all the beead in and shake, the smaller beads go through to pan the bigger ones stay on top, then dump the pan of bead into next smaller screen and repeat down."
Sorting Beads #2-
(Thanks fxp!) “you can also sort different sizes by putting all the beads in a tube ,eg.a test tube, and gently shaking them up and down. the smaller beads will sort themselves out on the bottom and the larger ones will be on top (although this seems counterintuitive it's based on scientific principles of fluid mechanics. it's more commonly known as the brazil nut effect.)”
(Thanks FlBoyWray!) Well I did not see this one posted here yet, and I had posted it on another forum with great reviews. Just thought I would share.
What you will need:
* 35mm film canister’s
* ¼ inch drill bit
All of my canisters were free!!!! I just asked for them at any store that processes film, Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, etc…
1. First take and drill a ¼ inch hole in the top center of the 35mm film canister cap.
2. Take the cap off the 35mm film canister and insert pen.
3. Mark the top of the 35mm film canister on the pen.
4. Remove pen and tape down chenille just above the mark you just made on the pen.
5. Start wrapping the chenille just below the line on the pen. Wrap back and forth until all the chenille is on the pen, below the line. The key to making this work is the wrapping of the chenille. You want to keep some tension on the chenille but not too much, if to much is applied it will be tough to remove the pen later, and will also crush your chenille. Also note that the wraps must be side by side if there is any over lapping of wraps it will cause an issue later during usage of storage container.
6. Insert the pen with the wrapped chenille in to the 35mm film canister.
7.Remove the tape from the pen.
8.Hold the chenille in place with one hand and slowly remove the pen from the rapped chenille with the other.
9.Take the 35mm film canister cap and feed the tag end (the one you taped down) of the chenille in to the hole and place cap on to the canister.
10.Label and use. The chenille will unravel from the inside out. If the chenille will not pull out smoothly, redo steps 4-10 paying close attention to step 5.
Here’s a great series of pics that illustrate the steps:
Flytying tips and techniques.......
Tips for Fly Tying Tools:
Keeping a clean bodkin-
(thanks Auntie Em!) Take a 35mm film canister ( you know, the gray ones with the black tops, or sometimes they're an opaque white). Stuff it full of #0000 steel wool, put the top on it, poke a hole through the top with your bodkin, and run it (stab it) through the steel wool. Cleans any goop off the bodkin, sharpens it at the same time, and makes a great storage container for it set on the tying table.
Making a dubbing brush #1-
(Thanks Auntie Em!) Take a popsicle stick and glue on a short patch of the velcro LOOP-y stuff to one end. Use it to fluff out dubbed hair to give a buggy look to the fly!
Another Dubbing Brush #2-
(Thanks Joni!) Use an eyeliner brush- available from the make up counter of your local dept store.
Dubbing Brush #3-
(Thanks Frank!) “I have used Bronze bore brushes for ever to pick out dubbing. You can even add a handle, the end is threaded. I also included a picture of the urine cup that I use for what ever. I mentioned them in an earlier post.”
You can see pics of the bore brushes here: http://www.theflyfishingforum.com/fo...es-4051-8.html
A neat little idea for removing your thread from a finished fly without having to pick up your scissors-
(Thanks Fishstryker!) This is for Matterelli type whip finishers. On the bottom of the straight end I have taken a small "Triangle" shaped jewelers file and cut a small "notch or V" in the end, shaped it from both sides, (tapering upward from the bottom of the notch) it does not need to be too deep of a notch to work. All you want to do is make a sharp edge in the bottom of the notch. After you whip finish your fly, instead of reaching down for your scissors, now all you need to do is take the other end of your whip finisher and place the thread in the notch and push the tool against it and viola your done. Another advantage to this is you don't have to worry about accidently cutting hackle off like you do with scissors. Here's a link to pics: Flytying tips and techniques.......
Getting a better grip with your hackle pliers-
(Thanks fishn50!) “If you have trouble with hackle slipping out of your hackle pliers (for those who use the clamp type) glue a small piece of fine sandpaper on one or both of the clamps. It will make them hold a lot better.”
Smoothing a burr on a bobbin with a metal tube-
(Thanks Fishn50!) "If you get a burr in the bobbin tube & it starts to cut thread ( very frustrating) thread a peice of Kevlar Thread thru the tube, Grab both ends of the kevlar thread & spin the bobbin around the thread. It will polish the tube inside diameter."
More bobbin repair-
(Thanks fxp!) “if the bobbin tip is not ceramic you can fix the problem without deburring by using a glass seed bead to convert it to a "ceramic equivalent". a 2.5 mm bead (bead size 8/0) is superglued around the edge. you can use a bodkin to center it and hold it in place while you carefully apply the glue and let it set. $2 buys about 1000 beads. both ends of the tube can be treated this way
Threading a bobbin #1 -
(Thanks Fishn50!)For Threading the bobbin try those mono loops for pulling dental floss. You can get a lifetime supply for a few bucks in any drugstore.
Bobbin threader #2-
(Thanks mcnerney!) “I don't know how many years I have tied and manually threaded my bobkins. You know push the thread in on one end and then try to suck it out the other. Best investment I ever made was getting one of those threaders, boy do they make threading a bobkin easy. They come in those C&F fly boxes.”
Bobbin threader #3-
(Thanks dman!) “Speaking of bobbin threaders...how about the ... dental floss threaders”
Hair curler Dubbing fluffer-
(Thanks BigCliff!) If you can find the type of hair curlers made from the hook side of velcro, they work great as dubbing fluffers. I like the ability to twist them against the body of a fly to create lots of "bugginess" quickly.
Fly holder for drying flies-
(Thanks BigCliff!) Also, if you take a thicker piece of foam (1/4"+) and punch a hole through the middle the size of your vise stem, you have a super cheap and handy fly holder. a 2"x3" piece will hold a dozen flies or so without getting in the way.
Tools from your Dentist-
(Thanks Frank!) "Your Dentist has many things you can use. I have bought old dentist lights that are a great light for fly tying or other hobbies. The Focal length is several feet and you can get the light up out of your way. I had 4 of them when I was building guns. My dentist also sold me some dental burrs that were carbide and they last forever. Nice to work on epoxy bodies and making cavities for eyes. They also come in diamond but I didn't find I needed them."
Making a Tool for applying small amounts of CA glue
(Thanks Fishn50!) "Here's a tip for applying a small amount of thin CA (super glue):
1. First make the tool, it only takes a few minutes. Take a sewing needle and grind off one half of the eye with a dremel tool, and deburr it with a small fine file. You now have a 2 pronged fork. Drill a suitable hole and glue the pointed end of the needle into a 5" or so length of wood dowel for easy handling.
2. Stick a small section of masking tape on your workbenck and put a small puddle (1 or 2 drops) of thin CA on it, this will be thrown away when you're finished. You can now pick up a very small amount of the glue with the needle-eye fork and apply it where required very precisely and neatly. To clean unused glue off the needle hold it in the flame from a lighter for a few seconds and it burns off, then just wipe the needle clean and its ready to use next time. With this method you can apply very small amounts of CA, an amount roughly equal to 1/20th or 1/30th of a normal drop.
Another way that I use is to heat & flatten the tip of a needle & by tapping the tip with a ball peen hammer's round end you can both flatten & put a slight curve in it. It will pick up a little more head cement than a pointed needle but you can still control it & put your head cement right where you want it."
Tips for Working with Different Materials:
Leech yarn -
Thanks Joni and Fishstryker!) When you don’t want too much bulk, take some Mohair out of the yarn and spin it in a loop of another smaller diameter thread.
Using Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails-
(Thanks Fishn50!) Take the little brush in the cap & either replace it with a needle for small (24's & up) flies or just cut the brush to a point to apply it as head cement.
Using Postit Notes for mixing epoxy (Thanks jimw!) "I use small post it notes to mix epoxy on they are cheap and disposable and i use a tooth pick to mix and apply with. I keep using the tooth pick over and over and i now own the worlds strongest tooth pick.”
Mixing epoxy #2-
(Thanks rag!) “When I tied saltwater flies, there was a need to mix epoxy with coloring or sparkle stuff. On my tying bench, I fixed a white ceramic tile (so it wouldn't move) that I mixed 2 part epoxy on. I could see the color clearly and only needed one hand to scoop up a dab on a stick to apply to the fly. When almost dry, the leftover could be lifted with a razor blade. The tile is still mounted just to the right of my vise, and still serves as a background contrast for materials and small hooks (old eyes).”
Fix-It for quill wing cases and quill wings-
(peregrines) You can spray the fronts and backs of turkey, goose and duck quills with a fixitive for charcoal drawings (used to prevent smudging). It will apply a thin clear flexible coating that will help keep quills from splitting, and makes them sturdier and easier to work with (when cutting slips from the quill and using long sections on the backs of stonefly nymphs etc). There are several different brands, I use Fix-It, available in Art and Craft stores.
Tips for Tying Nymphs:
Keeping weighted nymphs from discoloring-
(Thanks Fyshstryker!) “After wrapping a hook shank with lead wire, coat it with head cement to keep the lead from leaching through and discoloring."
Tips for Tying Wets:
Tips for keeping your hands smooth for working with floss and fine threads #1- (Thanks fyshstyker!) “Saw in another thread someone mentioning their rough, and callused(sp) hands. Simple solution is to keep a little pumice stone on your bench, each time you sit down to tie just give your rough spots a quick going over with the stone. You can find pumice stones in the cosmetic section of your local drug store, probably ask the wife to pick one up for ya if your uncomfortable ." (for a another version for tough guys, see below lol.)
Tips for keeping your hands smooth for working with floss and fine threads #2-
(Thanks shorthaul!) Before settling down for a weeks tying on one of our trips---we brought 320 wet/dry sandpaper and sanded our hands. You can feel better if your fishin buddy sees you in the automotive department instead of cosmetics---save sending your wife in for HH "hard as nails".
Tying the wings on wet fly's-
(Thanks Fishn50!) “After you measure the length you want , place the 2 wings together on top of the body, have your thread hanging 1 eye diameter length behind the eye, rather than only using a double wrap of thread around the wing & pulling it upwards first push down on the spot on the wings that the thread wraps are with your thumbnail or the side of your bodkin to soften the wing fibers. then position them & hold them fairly tightly when you tighten the thread wraps by pulling up.....The wing fibers will crush straight down easier , rather than rolling to one side like they have a tendency to do. Wrap 1/2 dozen firm wraps & 1/2 hitch it. leave the thread hanging & when you cut the tag ends position the scissors along the top of the hook & cut at an angle being careful not to cut too deep & cutting the bound thread.... finish wrapping a tapered head, whip finish & coat the head.. I like to use thinned down Sally Hansen Hard as Nails for the first penetrating coat & then a coat or 2 of the Sally Hansens Hard as Wraps (in the blue bottle) for the gloss coat.”
Tips for Tying Dry Flies:
Simple Hackle Guard-
(many folks) If you have trouble making heads on your dry flies without binding down barbs of hackle, you can make a simple hackle guard out of a small o-ring, or cut a ¼” section from a plastic drinking straw. Slip it over the tip of your bobbin before starting a fly, tie as usual. When you get to the point where you’re ready to finish the head and whip off, slip the o-ring or piece of straw up over the hackle to hold it back. Wrap the head and whip off, cut thread and slid the o-ring or piece of straw off the fly and adjust the hackle and wings if needed between your fingers.
Tips for CDC wings-
(peregrines) CDC is very easy to work with and is great in a number of different patterns. It makes a good substitute for deer hair on comparaduns, sparkle duns and x caddis in smaller sizes. You can tie it in the same way you would deer hair for those patterns, or if you want the wings to sit up a little higher, you can tie in the tails and dub the abdomen, then tie in the CDC tips forward over the eye, but leaving a little stub of CDC extending over the top of the abdomen extending towards the bend. Fold the tips back from over the eye on top of the shank, and over the stub towards the bend. Bind down with thread, and add a turn or two of dubbing in front of the wraps. The stub under the CDC, and the dubbing wraps in front will help keep the CDC wings up.
Making CDC hackle-
(Thanks Tob1!) One way off making hackle from CDC is to strip the stem of a CDC feather, peeling a portion of the quill off the feather. Using a parachute tool with the clamp attached to the tip of the CDC feather makes this a bit easier. You’ll end up with a strip of stem with one bare side, and one side with CDC barbules. Wrap the stripped, peeled portion of stem around the hook shank. These pics explain this GREAT tip very well:
Tying Small Flies:
Tying off on a tiny fly #1-
(Thanks Joni!!) When tying smaller flies where less is more, I run ZAP-A-GAP (waterproof super glue) down the thread hanging at the eye about one inch, then wrap once and whip once. It seals the thread with few wraps. A must on #30's and #32's ;-)
Tying off on a small fly #2-
(Thanks Fishn50!) For small flies put about 1" of head cement on the thread before you wrap the head & when you wrap it it's glued together.
Tips for Tying Streamers:
Painting eyes on poppers and streamers #1-
(Thanks ArFishnbear!) “I use the heads of finish nails, I always keep a few different sizes around. Just dip the head in the paint and carefully dab the eye one, JUST ONE dab, then after that dries use a smaller one for the center. Being metal they clean very easy with a damp paper towel. “
Painting Streamer and Popper Eyes #2-
(peregrines)- a friend passed it along to me- use a 1/4" dowel and pencil sharpener. Cut the dowel into 4" lengths or so, and sharpen in a pencil sharpener to trim down the diameter until you end up with a flat end the OD diameter of the eye, flip the dowel and sharpen until you get the size pupil to match the eye. You can make a bunch of different sizes for big, med and small eyes and have the eye and pupil for sizes on different ends.
Blending colors of bucktail-
(Thanks jimw) “Being a saltwater guy and most of my tying is done with bucktail I like to mix colors in a stacker to give the fly that iridescent look that most bait fish have or just to come up with a new 1 of a kind color, sometimes i mix some flash in with it.”
Use a zip kicker for CA Glue-
(peregrines) If you tie long streamers with mono extensions (where you stretch a length of heavy mono between two vises and tie on material directly to the mono for example), it can often be difficult to tie off material. You can get CA glues like Zap-A Gap and superglue to set up instantly by spritzing with kicker like Zip-It, which comes in a spray bottle. Just bind the material, apply CA glue, spritz with kicker, count to 1, and snip the thread. It'll set up instantly and there's no need to whip finish or tie a knot. I use this method for squid flies, and adding a forked tail and mylar tubing to sandeel patterns like surf candies. To make a forked tail, just carefully cut the stems only of paired cape feathers to get the fork tailed notch. The downside is that it's stinky stuff (both the CA glue and the kicker) and not particularly good for you. And some people can be highly allergic/sensitive to the fumes of CA glues and/or kickers.
Resources for baitfish imitations-
(peregrines)- If you tie streamers to imitate natural baitfish, having a reference for size, shape, profile and coloration can be pretty handy to create your own patterns. Here’s one that's pretty good.
For Eastern and Midwestern FW
, Virginia Tech’s Virtual Aquarium is a great resource: