Ballpark Estimate: $150 to $400
There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of ways to catch fish. But none of them are as exciting as luring and hooking a sport fish on a fly that was tied by your own hands. In fly fishing terminology “flies” are artificial lures utilized primarily by fly fisherman for attracting or “baiting” of all varieties of fresh and salt water fish. Tying them by hand is an inexpensive hobby that’s not only considered a major aspect of the fly fishing experience, it’s an “indoor” past time that perfectly compliments those long dull wintertime periods when the trout and bass fishing is legally “Off Season.”
You don’t necessarily need to be a fly fisherman to get hooked on this hobby. Even people who have never before wet a fishing line see tying flies as its own form of artistic expression—a medium of exotic terrestrial and aquatic insect shapes; a world of vibrant colors and three-dimensional, fully serviceable miniature sculptures. But instead of utilizing oil paint, watercolors or charcoal to create your masterpiece, you use feathers, fur, yarns and tinsels. And as for your canvas? It’s a fish hook mounted to a vise.
How Does It Work?
At base, when you tie flies you are attempting to imitate the insects and foods that a fish requires in order to sustain itself. Technically speaking, the more proficient the fly tier, the more successful the fly imitation, the more productive the fishing experience. When you tie flies you wrap a thread around a bare fish hook and, at the same time, connect anyone of a variety of materials to the hook’s shaft to create a tail, a body, a wing and a hackle, thereby simulating an insect or other type of fish food.
Just how long has fly tying been around? Pretty much since the dawn of civilization. Cave paintings, fossils and artifacts have demonstrated that without a doubt, earliest man understood that by wrapping fur and feathers around little hooks, you could trick fish into “taking the bait.” Whether this is an indication of how much man instinctively loves to fish or how much he needs to eat in order to live is debatable.
In any case, the basic concept of fly tying has remained unchanged for millennia. As complicated the tying process seems on the surface, you’ll find that most patterns are relatively easy to tie. So easy in fact, that within a period of hours you can be tying your own artificial lures.
Gear and Learning on Your Own
First, you’ll need to acquire the right equipment – a vice for holding the hook during the tying; a bobbin for holding the thread; a pair of needle-point scissors for cutting and tying the excess trim material; a pair of hackle pliers for handling delicate feather and fur material; a vice material clip; a bodkin and half-hitch tool; a nylon-loop whip-finish tool; plus a tube of head cement.
Once you’ve collected the gear you’ll need to decide upon your method of instruction. There are almost as many choices as there are fly patterns. The most accessible is to purchase any one of the dozens of books dealing with the art of fly tying in publication today. Or, if a book doesn’t suit your style, you might try an informative DVD in which an expert fly tier will take you through the process step by step.
If you like the idea of actually seeing how it’s done, but don’t want to spend the money on an expensive DVD package, there are a number of websites available that provide instruction for free.
You can’t beat personal instruction. There is no substitute for immersing yourself in a classroom atmosphere far away from home-front distractions. One-on-one fly tying instruction forces you to practice under the watchful eyes of a pro. It makes you responsible for acquiring all the right equipment without cheating. It also provides you with that all important constructive criticism that every artist requires in order to hone their craft.
Just about anywhere there’s fishing and fly fishing in particular, you will find someone who is offering either personal fly tying classroom instruction, be it beginner or advanced level. Use an internet search engine to find an instructor in your neck of the woods. Just type in the keywords “Fly Tying Instruction” followed by the name of your hometown and scroll down the results. If the search happens to come up empty, don’t hesitate to place a classified ad that reads something to the affect: “Fly fisherman looking for experienced and/or professional fly tier to provide personalized instruction.” You never know the fly tying master you might lure into taking the job.
Once you’ve mastered the art of making even a few basic fly patterns such as olive wooly-buggers, pheasant tail nymphs or royal Wulffs, you’ll discover that fly tying is as therapeutic as it is creative. It’ll also save you money since creating a fly will cost you only pennies compared to the few dollars the local mega sports store can demand for a mass marketed product.
What It Costs
- Fly Tying Equipment (all inclusive “kit”): $150 – $200
- Fly Tying Instruction Book: $30 – $50
- Fly Tying Instructional DVDs: $15 – $30
- Fly Tying Online Instruction: Free
- Personalized Fly Tying Classroom Instruction – Beginners (three, two-hour sessions): $40 – $60
- Personalized Fly Tying Classroom Instruction – Advanced (three, two hour sessions): $60 – $75
Chances are you’ll take almost as much pleasure in tying these colorful flies as you will using them on a crystal clear trout stream or bass pond. After a short while, you’ll find yourself tying patterns you never before heard of. You might even find yourself inventing your own patterns, perhaps even marketing them to other fishermen and women.