By Nick Simonson
If you’re looking to give the gift that keeps on giving to your favorite angler, or maybe just trying to find a way to burn up these dark winter nights in your den, a fly tying kit is the end of both holiday shopping quests and the beginning of a great pastime. The creations that come from fevered evenings at the vise pay off handsomely each spring with trout, crappies, walleyes and more coming on your flies and lures. All you need are the basic tools and a quick tutorial and you’re in the fly tying and lure making game!
Most of the necessary tools can be purchased in a starter kit which contains a simple vise, scissors, bobbin, whip finisher, hackle pliers and other basic implements. Most starter kits will contain a selection of hooks, threads, dubbings, hackles, marabou and other materials along with a pattern book showing how to tie a number of basic flies. Some kits are more in-depth than others, teaching techniques as well as patterns, but ultimately one can start tying up simple fish-catching flies right out of the box. A selection of kits is available from online retailers, including a number of basic and expanded offerings from both Cabela’s (www.cabelas.com) and Orvis (www.orvis.com).
In addition to the books included with these kits, there are a number of excellent online resources to help the beginning tier get acclimated to various techniques, materials and patterns. The best tutorial I have encountered – and the one I used a great deal in developing my own fly tying skills – is the Beginning Fly Tying series created by Al Campbell for the fly fishing megasite Fly Anglers Online (FAOL – www.flyanglersonline.com).
After introducing the reader to the tools and basic fly tying techniques, Campbell walks the novice through patterns that are not only easy but are also ones that also catch fish. Each lesson builds upon the last and teaches a specific technique or two applied directly to popular patterns. While originally released as a weekly installment series, the tutorial allows the beginner to go at his or her own pace. Before his untimely passing, Campbell followed his basic course up with an Intermediate and Advanced curriculum, both also available at FAOL along with forums and weekly patterns to continue exploring the world of fly fishing and fly tying.
While one doesn’t necessarily have to know how to tie flies to make other lures, it certainly helps. The techniques learned on nymphs, dry flies and particularly streamers, will transfer over quickly if you’re interested in tying crappie and walleye jigs, trout spinners, bucktails and other standard tackle items.
Again, if you’re looking to dive right into lure making, a vise and basic tools are a necessity for holding hooks in place for dressing and stabilizing wire frames for component assembly, and these tools are available without the fly-tying materials from most online tackle retailers. Beyond these necessities, new lure makers can also find kits designed around their specific interest. Cabelas, Jann’s Netcraft (www.jannsnetcraft.com) and Lure Parts Online (www.lurepartsonline.com) sell kits for most lure types that can be bought in a tackle shop, including in-line spinners for trout, pike and muskies, spinnerbaits for bass, crawler harnesses for walleyes and jigs for everything from bluegill to walleyes to saltwater species. After a while, you’ll know the sizes and types of components necessary to make the lures you want for the species you pursue and you can place specific part orders to fit your needs.
For me, fly tying led to spinner making, and spinner making into jigs and muskie lures, so be forewarned that it is difficult to turn back when you start catching fish on the lures you make. The creation of a good-looking fly or jig keeps the fire for burning well into the coldest nights of winter and the rewards of landing fish the next season on your hand-crafted lures are some of the best I’ve experienced.
Featured Photo: A tying kit is a great gift that helps an angler take his or her game to the next level, and allows them to create the flies, jigs and lures they need to catch more fish. Simonson Photo.