Good tools make for easy fly tying

Follow the advice of the state’s former deer study leader, and you’ll make your small property the one place every buck wants to come to.

Here’s a question I’m often asked: Why tie flies when you can buy them online so cheaply? One reason is, trite but true, nothing is as rewarding as catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself.

But let me add several more reasons for tying flies: Jitterbee, Cap Spider, Redchaser, Tussel Bug, Shwimp, Coma Cocaho, 4M, J’s Minnow, Black Boudreaux.

Those are just a few of more than 300 patterns created by Louisiana and East Texas tiers that are proven killers for the bass, bream, reds, specks and other species that swim in our waters.

Odds are better of you finding Bigfoot than finding a website that sells these flies.

That leaves you with two options: have a full-service fly shop — such as Uptown Angler in New Orleans or Mayer Company in Baton Rouge — tie these flies for you, or tie them yourself.

Making flies is not difficult. Thanks to the internet, and especially Youtube, there’s no shortage of information to get you started, or show you how to tie an endless array of flies. Clubs and retail stores like Uptown Angler, Mayers, Cabelas in Gonzales, and Bass Pro in Denham Springs and Bossier City, all offer tying sessions and instruction. Most of these stores also sell the tools and materials you’ll need.

However, if you’re like many buyers, you want to know in advance what tools come highly recommended. This is where the internet can be counter-productive, especially some of the tying forums. More illustrious members will have you believe there’s no way you can tie flies without spending hundreds of dollars on premium tools. Others will advise that you get a cheap kit to get started.

Fact is, good quality equipment doesn’t have to cost much, and will jumpstart your success as a tier.

Here’s the basic tools you’ll need: a vise, scissors, thread bobbin, needle bodkin, hair stacker, hackle pliers and dubbing loop tool. And perhaps a whip finish tool for knotting off the head of the fly if you are unable to master whip finishing by hand.

Let’s start with the vise. Collet-type vises are usually cheapest, and OK for freshwater patterns. But when you bear heavy tension on the hook with thread, the hook tends to slip. This often happens when tying bass and saltwater flies.

The best bang for the buck here is the Griffin Superior 2A vise, which retails for about $65. It’s made in the USA and carries a manufacturer’s warranty. The adjustable head angle on the jaws allows it to firmly hold hooks from tiny size 24 to a whopping size 6/0.

If you’re willing to spend $100 more, you can get two of the best values in rotary vises. A rotary vise is one where the head can turn 360 degrees.

The Peak Rotary vise has become a new favorite among both novice and experienced tiers, because it offers many features, and is constructed of stainless steel, delrin, brass and aluminum. The standard jaws hold hooks from size 2/0 down to size 24.

This is an inline rotary vise. That is, the shank of the hook remains stationary even as the rest of the hook turns round — a great feature for quickly and efficiently wrapping the bodies of flies.

The Regal is not an inline rotary, but it can still turn the fly over and sideways without you having to remove the fly from the jaws. This is especially handy when applying epoxy to flies or when working with deer hair. The Regal’s spring-loaded jaws give it the strength to hold a hook even when kevlar thread is used.

The second most important tool in your arsenal is your scissors. I recommend either the Thompson or Tiemco, which have serrated edges and plastic-covered handles for comfort. For working with copper wire or other materials that can damage scissor blades, I keep a small pair of pliers handy.

Scissors come with either curved blades or straight blades. Curved scissors do handle some unique tasks, but can be awkward for beginners. Get the straight pair to start. You can always add a curved set to your collection later.

The bobbin not just holds the thread used to tie materials to the hook, it acts as a pinpoint extension of the fingers to better work thread into tight spots. The rubber bushings hold the thread spool firmly so the thread maintains even tension.

If you apply too much pressure on the thread while tying a fly, the spout of the bobbin (where the thread comes out) will cut the thread. For this reason, I strongly advise getting a ceramic bobbin. This is one with a ceramic insert imbedded in the spout. Like ceramic inserts on rod guides, it also protects the spout against wear from friction.

Trust me: Nothing will drive you crazy like having a fly nearly completed, only to have the thread break and the fly unravel. And this isn’t a rare occurence, either. Save your flies and your sanity, and spend the extra few dollars for a ceramic bobbin.

A dubbing loop is a necessity when creating dubbed bodies on trout flies. Some trout nymphs are excellent for bream, so you may want to purchase this.

Hackle pliers hold the tips when wrapping feathers around hooks. The Incredible Edible, Whitlock Baitfish and Ron’s Redchaser are some of many saltwater flies that use this technique (called “palmering”) with hackle feathers.

A bodkin is just a needle on the end of a stick. It’s used to apply head cement to the thread and possibly other parts of the fly. It also comes in handy for picking out dubbed bodies, like that on the Coma Shrimp, to give the fly a fuller look.

A hair stacker helps to align the tips of deer hair or bucktail. If you plan to tie Clouser Minnows — and you should — you’ll find this useful in creating a more realistic-looking minnow.

So there you have the basic toolset. Now comes material selection: hooks, feathers, fur, eyes, synthetics. Keep it simple — decide what you’ll be fishing for, pick a few flies that work for those species and start with the materials to tie those flies.

Next month we’ll go over three flies that will keep your rods bent in the marsh this fall.

School for instructors

For anyone interested in becoming a fly-casting instructor or improving their teaching skills, The Camp Fly Fishing School in Breaux Bridge is offering a special one-day clinic on Oct. 11. Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) Master and Governor Certified Instructors, including a member of the U.S. National Casting Team, will conduct the session.

Cost is $135, and includes seven hours of instruction, lunch and refreshments.

Contact Keith Richard at 337-332-0167 for more details.

About Catch Cormier 275 Articles
Glen ‘Catch’ Cormier has pursued fish on the fly for 30 years. A certified casting instructor and renowned fly tier, he and his family live in Baton Rouge.

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