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falcondriver 07-08-2010 09:00 AM

fly tying starter set
Want to start "rolling" my own. Should I buy a "starter" kit with everything in it and go from there, or just start picking up stuff here and there. My experience with most hobbies has been that the kits usually have one or two pieces worth keeping, and the rest is junk. What about fly tying, is it the same or are there worthwhile kits available?

mcnerney 07-08-2010 10:18 AM

Re: fly tying starter set
Personally, I wouldn't recommend a started kit, most of the material in a kit you will never use. I'd recommend you pick up a copy of Charlie Craven's book "Basic Fly Tying". It is the best book I have seen for starting out. In the book he will recommend the basic tools and how to use them and starts off each fly with a list of matierials. Buying materials as you need them will result in a lot less waste then buying a basic kit.

Here is a good place to look for materials and tools for fly tying:
JS Fly Fishing: Rod Building, Fly Tying: Fly Tying


peregrines 07-08-2010 11:06 AM

Re: fly tying starter set

I think your experience with other hobbies is right on the money. Larry's advice is also dead on. (BTW Charlie Craven's book is an excellent book----- if you tie trout flies. Since you're from the South, if you chase something else let us know, there are some other books that might be a better choice for bass or saltwater for example.)

Kits for 60 bucks or so are a great way to test the waters if you're not sure you'd like to stick with it as a hobby, or on a limited budget where you want to keep everything to 60 bucks or so all in for vise, tools, and materials.

They'll generally include enough materials to tie maybe 100 flies spread out over a dozen different patterns or so.

The quality of the materials can vary from kit to kit, but the the main issue is likely to be the vise. Most kits come with a cheap Asian import vise worth about 10 bucks with poorly machined parts and soft metal jaws. The most important feature of a vise is it's ability to hold a hook securely- and if you stick with tying you'll likely want to upgrade the vise pretty soon. Most kits also come with a basic set of tools. Some will be OK, some you'll probably want to upgrade fairly soon.

Down the road you'll want to add additional materials of course and probably some additional tools not included in the kit depending on what you're tying--- but the cost of this stuff would be a wash whether you bought a kit or not.

In contrast, buying things separately:

Decent quality beginner vise - these will hold the hook securely, and you may want to upgrade at some point, but these will still be serviceable vises when you do, and you can pass it on or use it as a travel vise. Many are in use several decades after purchase. (Some examples include a used Thompson Model A for around 25-30 bucks (many of us learned on these), a new Griffin 2A for $60.00 and others)

High quality, no frills vise (examples Regal InEX $110, Dyna-King Kingfisher $120, HMH Silhoutte SX $130, Peak at $150 and others). If you do decide to upgrade down the road or stop tying, you should be able to resell these and recover a significant part of the original purchase price.

Good quality tools (bodkin, bobbin, threader, whip finisher, bobbin threader, scissors, hair stacker, hackle pliers) $30-50 bucks

Hooks and materials to tie dozens of flies in 2 or 3 easy to tie patterns (using core materials that will also build up your inventory of "stuff") about $30 bucks

And finally, I see you're from the South--- most kits are designed for folks that fish for trout since that is where the bulk of the market is. Kits designed for bass or salt water are generally not as common--- and there are some specific issues related to the them. Larger hooks with thicker wire on bass and saltwater flies and some of the techniques used to tie them (lots of thread torque to spin deer hair, tight wraps of heavy thread to hold dumbbell eyes in position etc) place greater demands on the holding power of the vise. A cheap kit vise will give you fits in short order if you're tying these flies.

A couple other thoughts... groups like the Federation of Fly Fishers have affiliated clubs all over the country, and Trout Unlimited has chapters mostly in areas with coldwater fisheries. Both groups generally offer tying classes-- or at least have folks that tie that can help get you started--- a HUGE help when you are beginning to tie. Here's some links to search pages to see if there is one near you:
Locate a Club

Council/Chapter Contacts | Trout Unlimited - Conserving coldwater fisheries

Do you have a local fly shop? It would be great if you did. You can poke around a bit to see the different styles of vises, and have a go to place to get materials, and have someone that can demo a few flies, and a ton of your questions answered as you get into it.

What do you fish for? This will help zero in on some suggestions for tools, materials, effective beginner patterns (easy to tie, use inexpensive materials and catch fish) and resources on the web (step by step instructions etc).

Hope this helps--- keep asking questions!

Jimmie 07-08-2010 11:08 PM

Re: fly tying starter set
The above advice is the best way to proceed IMO. I'd buy each tool that Charlie Craven recommends from his book then you would never have a need to upgrade. Best bang for the buck in the long run. I'm one of the people that kept upgrading tools rather than sticking with my original kit. That said I tie often with guys that are still using their original kits for years.

flyguy5 08-04-2010 11:25 AM

Re: fly tying starter set
im new to tieing my self . and i found a great starter kit for bass and sunfish at the basspro shop .

Fly2Fish 08-04-2010 12:21 PM

Re: fly tying starter set
As someone who recently got back into tying after a decades-long "time out", I can vouch for the excellent advice above on not buying a tool kit but instead buying the tools separately (good vise in particular) and materials as you need them. From my experience before when I bought a fly-tying kit, the vise was terrible and had to be replaced almost immediately, and most of the materials I never used. That's not to say there aren't decent starter kits, but the good ones are expensive enough that you can probably build up your own for about the same or less amount of money with more useful materials.

I also would highly recommend Charlie Craven's book. It takes the often-used path of starting with simple patterns that acquaint the beginner with certain basic techniques and then moves on to more complicated patterns that build on what you have already learned in the earlier easier patterns, adding new techniques with the later more-complicated patterns. Where I think Charlie's book really stands out is his terrific detail - very helpful for the beginner which many other "beginner" books gloss over - and outstanding pictures detailing the fly's features.

Another very helpful book for the beginner is Leeson & Schollmeyer's Benchside Introduction to Fly Tying, the well-known authors of the definitive Fly Tiers Benchside Reference to Techniques and Dressing Styles. The unique feature of the Benchside Introduction . . . is its innovative use of horizontally-split pages in a spiral-bound book, allowing the tier to follow the pattern picture and "recipe" on the upper half-pages which reference various tying techniques explained in the lower half-pages. Sounds complicated, but is really a helpful aid to the beginner and intermediate fly tier. Like Charlie Craven's book, however, it's limited to coldwater trout flies, although the Benchside Introduction . . . contains quite a few more patterns than the Craven book does.

monkeyboy 09-27-2010 07:57 PM

Re: fly tying starter set
i don't know what to say.
a piece of pumice to sand your fingers, every little skin burr is a snagging nuisance

a bobbin, some thread, some yarn, your wife's blender

a Thompson A vise.

and a few thousand hooks.

more latter


jaybo41 10-02-2010 11:43 AM

Re: fly tying starter set
Peregrines--Excellent post. Your advice speaks to advantages/disadvantages of both sides.

My first tying set was a kit that my father gave me as a Christmas gift maybe 10 years ago. I didn't know it at the time, but the tools weren't the greatest and the materials weren't either. None the less I still maintain that it was one of the best gifts I've ever recieved. Since then, that set has long been retired and tools and vise have been upgraded. Although I do find that I am able to use some of the materials from time to time.

It did get me into the game and allowed me to test my abilities with fly tying. Also, I considered those flies/materials as "practice". Once I realized how much I enjoyed tying, I knew it was time to upgrade. Buy the materials for the patterns you're tying. Add some years at a tying bench and undoubtely, you will end up with quite a supply of materials.

If you are considering going the seperate route, JS Fly fishing is having a sale this month on vises. I have dealt with these folks before and prices, selection, quality and CS are excellent.

JS Fly Fishing: Rod Building Supplies, Fly Tying Materials

Ard 10-02-2010 12:28 PM

Re: fly tying starter set

I still have some stuff from my 1968 E. Hillie's fly tying kit and every now and then I use some of it too. Thanks for the memory jog. I do wish I still had my original vise, don't get rid of the kit stuff, someday you will miss it.


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