Tips from a Professional Fly Tyer

Tips from a Professional Fly Tyer

The first thing to know about fly tying, is to put into reference what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Any information that you can gather about fish and their habits (especially feeding habits), aquatic insects, baitfish and other organisms, and just general fishing techniques will go a long way toward your ability to tie a killing pattern. The study of stream hydrology, which is useful for understanding why fish are found in some places and not in others will also be very helpful. "In-stream" study using a simple cheesecloth or window screen seine(1) will teach you a lot about the aquatic insects that you are going to imitate.

Next, we need at least a basic understanding of the tools, materials and environment used to prepare flies. Having your tools and materials conveniently laid out in a permanent space is very helpful. You will tend to tie more often if your space is handy, rather than having to pack everything away at the end of your tying session. Good lighting is a must, as is a light colored background behind the vise. A sheet of paper laid out on the table behind your vise works great. I have changed over to a tan envelope for my table, as it tends to be easier on the eyes.

You don't need an expensive vise and having one that clamps to the edge of the table allows you to adjust the location. An adjustable height office chair is another way of adjusting everything to your own best ergonomic layout. A good pair of fine point scissors, a good quality bobbin and hackle pliers make tying precise, avoiding errors and slippage. If you can, try to learn to tie a whip finish with a large sewing needle shoved through a cork. It is a fast method, and the "bodkin is also handy for other purposes. As an alternative, pick up a whip finisher and practice with it on a bare hook.

Having several thread bobbins available will help you to avoid spending time changing thread. The good ones are not cheap, so if you must, choose only one high quality version rather than several cheaper models. The latter will only tend to frustrate you. Lots of tyers use some sort of tool and thread organizer while they tie. I have one too, but I only use it for storage, not while tying. I find it much faster to lay my tools out on the table and return them to their respective locations when I put them down.

Another thing folks do is purchase expensive materials because their friends do. You don't need to spend a lot of money as some hooks, a few inexpensive India necks and a few shades of thread are really all that you need to start. Later you will probably want to add some peacock herl, wool, flash and another hook style or two. Just take your time with material and tool collecting, it can run into money and the practice of the skills of tying are a far better use of your time than shopping. The three top important rules to start are; keep your thread under tension, don't use too many wraps of thread and don't crowd the hook eye with thread or material.

If you set aside a time to practice tying, and spend 30 to 120 minutes every day sitting at your vise, you will progress rapidly and the appearance of your kebari will show it. Practice until you get a sample that looks good to you, then set that aside as a pattern, and try to duplicate it with a half dozen more. Do this repeatedly as you progress and you will be turning out great looking kebari consistently. I practice the "old school" techniques of cementing a thin layer of thread to the hook shank, waxing my thread with bees wax and using just a tiny dab of cement to the whip finish to complete the kebari. For commercial tying for customers, I also cement materials at each tying stage, but for my own use I skip this step.

A good way to begin a tying session is to lay out all of the materials needed to tie a dozen of one kebari pattern. This means sizing and plucking the feathers from an india neck and trimming as needed, getting out the properly sized hooks and setting up with the proper thread color (or preparing other materials as needed. It's a good idea to plan on tying 13 or 14 examples in case you should make mistakes beyond repair. Try to focus on quality, with speed as a secondary goal. Before sitting down, moisturize and use an emery board to smooth any rough spots on your hands.

Try to avoid distractions during your tying time. Nothing slows down or stops the process more than dogs needing walks, babies needing changing or multitasking. Think ahead when you plan your time table and you will set the stage to soon become a top notch fly tyer. Then all that is left... practice, practice, practice.

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