November 5, 2010

A Quest(ion) for Fly Tying Materials

I'm a rookie when it comes to fly tying.  I got my first "starters kit" earlier this spring, and it gave me a great introduction into the mechanics of making my own flies.  I feel comfortable that I can adequately tie a little bit of everything - dries, wets, streamers, nymphs, even tenkara flies.  No, they aren't works of art, but I've improved to the point that I'm not ashamed to take pictures of them and more importantly they are actually effective enough to fool the idiot fish I chase.

Little South Fork Fly Tying Bench Desk
No, this isn't my bench (or stream), but it's nice to dream

That said, it's getting colder, the urge to tie more has grown, and I need to re-stock my materials.  I've pretty much used up all of the good stuff that came in my kit at this point.

My short list would be more options (colors) in thread, some wire, foam and leg material for hoppers, perhaps some brass or tungsten beads for nymph heads (my kit only came with glass beads), of course some hooks...I mean the list could really go on and on, I didn't even mention feathers and fur.

Sure, this is a loaded question, but knowing I like to fish smaller dries, wets, and nymphs, are there any "must haves" that any of my fly tying readers might suggest?  Brands of hooks, types of thread, etc, etc...  I'm open and eagerly welcome all suggestions in the comments below.


  1. I've seen your flies and their results, both are good.

    I have used Gudebrod thread for tying my flies, and now that this good company no longer markets this thread I've found a very good replacement. Orvis threads. This is a small item but an important one.

  2. I've had great luck buying materials on eBay. Watch for great prices and high quality materials. Sometimes you can buy a large lot of different materials for little money.

    After I started tying, I took a short class from a local fly shop. I already had basics down and was able to refine my skills. It was well worth it.

  3. Troutrageous, Gudebrod thread is great thread but it's no longer being made :(

    My best advice is to pick the pattens you want to tie and buy the materials for that pattern. This will build up your stocks without breaking he bank.

    Having said that here are the must have materials: Strung Peacock Herl; Pheasant Tails, Hairs Ear dubbing (light and dark); Tungsten Beads; copper or brass wire; Deer hair patch (winter pelt, hollow fibers float better); black, brown and olive thread 6/0; Brown and Grizzly stiff hackles (Whiting Genetic Dry Fly Hackle, Tyers grade or Whiting Dry Fly Hackle 100's); Z-Yarn Antron; Poly Yarn; Marabou; Fly-Rite Dubbing in Dark Olive, Rust, Adams Grey, Cahill Tan and Reddish Brow; and for hooks Mustad or any chemically sharpened hooks.

    I know the list is does not cover every thing but is a good start. A good site to go to with good prices and is local (NJ/PA) is If you have a Cabela's Visa than you can use Cabela's dollars to offset the cost of stocking up.

  4. I would suggest getting the most bang for your buck. Kind of like using an adams dry or hare's ear nymph. They are not very specific to anything but are very versatile. The same could be said for fly tying materials. Pick items such as a full hungarian partridge skin. This will allow you to tie a ton of soft hackles in various sizes and different colors. I use partridge for tying sakasa kebari wet flies. with a few types of dubbing and colors of thread and a little peacock herl you could make an almost infinite variety of softhackle/sakasa kebari. I'm also a fan of Fran Betters flies, the haystack and usual in particular. Two patches of coastal or comparadun deer hair (light and dark) and the some dubbing you can match the hatch for mayflies. The usual only needs thread and snowshoe rabbit and your in business with a great versatile fly. For me, I not only have a budget to work with but having the kinds of materials that can be incorporated into many different patterns gives me flexibility and keeps me from becoming bored.

  5. I've seen you catch bass, so you better not forget rabbit zonkers and weighted barbell eyes!

  6. Mcflylon as a wing material
    Tiemco hooks 200rs 2457s 2488s and 100s
    whiting hackle, the dubbings wing materials, flash and thread is the inexpensive stuff, save up your coins for whiting 100packs and Tiemco hooks they are the biggest tying expence so get the hackle you need and youll find every thing else along the way or your be pulling dubbing off the pug.

  7. Awesome - thanks for the suggestions - this has the makings of an epic list that should keep me busy all winter (and then some). Keep 'em coming!

    Coincidentally, Gudebrod's old headquarters is literally 15 minutes from my house in Pottstown. Was a sad day on the local scene when they shuttered the doors earlier this year.

  8. I second just about everything. 2 things that I would like to add to the list.

    1. Never underestimate the craft store. Foam (I love foam), Marabou, pheasant tails, peacock, and the list goes on for a fraction of the price.

    2. If ever you are going to buy more hackle, wait and buy the better stuff. I have one really good neck and one crappy one. I wish I had waited to buy the better one in brown. It would have saved me time, money, and frustration in the end.

    Best of luck and look forward to a winter of new ties.


  9. Hooks are the basis of all you do so take a good look at your favorite patterns and get yourself hooked up. Next set up on hackle. The 100s Whiting Hackle is a great place to start. Cover the basic colors of thread you'll need and then play with beads if you're going subsurface. Once you get the basic stuff, running out to pick up this or that color or texture of dubbing or wire isn't a big expense. Last, buy a damned hare's mask and learn to tie an honest to God GRHE without having to depend on someone elses choice of dubbing color and texture. I can tell you quite honestly that after fifty years at the bench that you're never stocked up and I can always find something to buy when I look at the walls of a good fly shop!

  10. All good stuff from previous comments. I've been collecting fly tying materials for 18 of my 30 years. If you're serious about tying bugs, invest in a good vice and excellent sissors. This will make a huge impact in quality. Have fun.

  11. What a great set of comments! I read somewhere that you can use a blender or coffee grinder to make dubbing out of synthetic (non cotton) yarn. Not sure if your wife will be ok with you "borrowing" some yarn (or using her blender) but it might be worth trying to save some money.

  12. I don't know how I missed this post when you first posted, but, I did. I won't add to the list. Everyone else has given you some great ideas for your fly tying bench. I told you it was addicting!