View Full Version : fly tying kits for newbies

Skunk Buster
11-26-2002, 02:14 PM
Please excuse the lame question, but I couldn't find anything on this topic using the search function.

I hope to spend much of this winter learning to tie salt-water flys in preparation for my first season with the long rod. Can anyone recommend a good starter fly tying kit? I've looked at some at Cabellas and don't know if I should pay for materials I may not use.

At this point I'm looking to learn basic clouser minnow patterns, pbunker/herring, sand eel, grass shrimp, and crabs....which I think should work well in my neck of the woods (scorton shoals flats area). If anyone has any input as to which flys would be best to start on, that would be appreciated as well.

Warm Regards,

David Churbuck
11-26-2002, 02:19 PM
I bought a starter kit when I first got started and wish I hadn't.

Get a decent vise, a good pair of scissors, and only buy the specific materials you need for a specific fly.

I strongly recommend tying a simple pattern to get your chops down. A good one would be Ray's Fly.

Get someone who knows what they are doing to help you learn the basic moves -- how to start wrapping, how to get materials onto a hook, how to pinch-and-bind, how to whip finish (took me six years to figure out a whip finishing tool on my own, I am not the brightest light in the string).

Don't spill head cement on the dining room table.

So, my vote -- save the money and buy a good vise, a few tools, and go from there to see if you like it.

Skunk Buster
11-26-2002, 02:25 PM
Sounds good...I thought a kit might be a waste. I actually have a couple buddies that get together and tie pretty religiously who will help me out. They're both at the Salmon river for a week right now hopefully hooking up.

I've been checking out some of the pics on this board and no BS: some of these flys are real works of art! I can only hope my globs of string and feathers will look like something edible!

Mark Cahill
11-26-2002, 02:51 PM
Those gobs of string and feathers are "bluefish flies."

11-26-2002, 04:33 PM
Definitely don't buy a kit. After the vice, scissors, bobbin, Sally Hanson's Hard as Nails clear(cheaper than head cement), get yourself a good basic learning book, one that has how to tie the fly in more than one page, or the buddies you spoke about. I started with the basic equipment, a half hour of watching someone tie clausers, bought the bucktail, thread, hooks, crystal flash, eyes, and voila, I couild make clausers. Buy some saddle hackle to match and you'll be able to tie deceivers. Yellow is good, so is white and chartreuse. That should set you back about $100 to start, depending on the vise you choose.

sage fly guy
11-27-2002, 09:57 PM

For a short ride from where you are please call The Rod Builders Workshop in Kingston. Ask for Smitty, tell him your interested in tying with Stan, if he has any openings. Stan Mackerwicz ties some amazing stuff, and is a great teacher. Took one of his classes several years ago, and haven't stopped.
Don't mind Smitty he's one outrageous SOB when you meet him for the first time. Once you get to know him he has a wealth of knowledge he's more than happy to pass on.

Phone # 1-781-582-1015

Best of all classes are basically free.

You can't go wrong. Learn from a pro.

11-28-2002, 09:14 AM
A friend of mine bought a CAbela's kit and regrets it as well. They just don't put decent quality in a kit like that.

Buy everything separate, and only buy what you need at the time. Sure it might take you a while to assemble a tying kit, but in the end you'll have a quality kit that you'll happily use for a long time.

May I also recommend that you don't use a bobbin that has a straight metal tube and not flared at the end, or doesn't have ceramic insert at the end.

When tying saltwater flies, you'll want to get the wraps pretty tight, and when using a cheap bobbin you'll end up cutting the thread.

12-02-2002, 01:19 PM
I agree with the advice you've been given. Get some good tools and then buy the materials that you'll need. Start off tying with a couple of materials. I'd start with bucktails and get a variety of colors. Have one of your buddies that ties show you what to look for in natural materials so you don't waist your money. Then you'll need flash, thread, some saddles, jiggy or clouser heads and you'll be able to tie a lot of flies that you'll use. You can tie flies with these materials which are staples such as decievers, flat wings, jiggies and clousers (both bucktail and half and halfs) etc. Flies that you'll use and that will catch fish.

Myself and a friend are going to do lessons down here in NJ and we're going to do a style or two of fly at a time so newbies will have simplified material lists and can learn to use the materials for the patterns we'll focus on. See if you can do the same up by you.

12-03-2002, 11:06 AM
The more you tie, the more you will learn, the better you will get, don't be afraid. It only gets better. I know what it's like,been there.I think I still have the 1st. fly I ever tied , and compare it with the ones I tie now, what a difference! AllI can say is good luck and have fun!

Bob Parsons
12-03-2002, 05:36 PM
My wife gave me a tying kit to help me get started. Most of the materials that came with it still are untouched after several years. The tools are ok since I like to make bluefish flies. I guess I have a few more years before I have to figure out the whiplash tool.

12-03-2002, 07:09 PM
Jeez, and I thought I was bad because I don't know how to whip finish by hand!

12-04-2002, 05:46 AM
I never realized the whip finishing tool was such a stumbling block until I was tying flies for a demo at Eastern States Exposition this past fall. This man stood there patiently and after I had tied two flies he confessed to just wanting to watch the finish. Told him to pull up a chairand I'ld try to teach him. Have to give it to the guy....he sat there for at least 10 minutes trying to learn how to do it with crowds of people walking by wondering what these two people were doing. He did get the hang of it and I hope he remembered once he got home.

David Churbuck
12-04-2002, 06:29 AM
This should probably be another thread in the fly tying forum, but since we're on the topic of finishing flies ...

I used to be obsessed with finishing my flies with perfect heads but never seemed to achieve the kind of effect that the pros did. I used to believe that the proper use of the whip finishing tool must have been the difference, until I learned how to use the damn thing and realized it didn't make any difference!

Now, I'm a big fan of a drop of zap-a-gap or superglue after a couple half-hitch finish wraps. Then I like to use a small dab of 5 min epoxy instead of head cement. Result: totally smooth head, rugged as can be. I picked up this tip from Page Roger's tying instructions for the bonito bunny and have since started using it on more and more flies.

Anyone else have any shortcuts to the perfect finish to a fly?

12-04-2002, 12:04 PM
The flyfishing shows will be starting up in a month or so. Last year, the Marlborough, MA show was filled with guys demonstrating fly tying. Great way to see what materials people are using and how they use em. Folks brought camcorders and everything.

12-04-2002, 01:30 PM
One possibility for beginners is to check all of the fly shops that are within driving distance. Down here in South Fla there's always a shop scheduling a fly tying class for beginners since it generates business...

Don't be shy. The vast majority of tyers, weekend warriors or professional really enjoy their time at the vise (except when you've got to produce 100 of the same pattern....). I've never met a tyer that wouldn't go out of his (or her) way to show someone with an interest a particular technique or method. All you usually need to do is ask... That's not to say you'll get to see that super secret special pattern which I wouldn't show my best friend, but you get the idea. For every new technique that I've developed over the years five others were shown by someone else.

12-04-2002, 02:53 PM
I bought the Orvis beginners kit a few years ago to get the basics. My roomate had all the gear and such but then he got married and took the vise and such so it was time to get my own stuff. But I had only fiddled around with his gear and can't say that I really knew how to tie at that point.

I thought that the kit would provide the basics while teaching me to tie different style flies. It worked. I now tie every type of fly from size 26 to size 4/0. Of course I now never use any of the kit except for the scissors, bobbin, and whip finisher. I wore out the cheap vise in a few months.

All in all though, I was happy that I did it. The vise I bought right after that was more expensive than the entire kit (a regal vise made right here in MA and an unbelievable product), not to mention the ridiculous amount I have spent on materials. Of course, the actual tying ended up teaching me more than anything else, but the kit did indeed give me the basic skills and got me obsessed with tying (which depending on your perspective is either a good or bad thing.) My main point is that I would never have bought a $150 vise straight off. It would have seemed ridiculously expensive at that time. Instead I would have ended up with a $60 vise or something which I would most likely still be using because it would have been good enough not to totally break but crappy enough to still be making me miserable. I guess it depends though. If you are seriously only going to do a few saltwater clousers then maybe you should just go ahead and buy a nice vise and a few bucktails and hooks etc. and that will do you, but once you start I doubt that you can be happy with just tying one fly. It is addicting. The companies should be selling those kits for $25. Once hooked any amount of money seems reasonable.

Skunk Buster
12-04-2002, 05:00 PM
Oh swell, another addicting hobby! Maybe if you guys didn't inhale the epoxy fumes so intensely this wouldn't be such a problem??

Thanks for all the great advice!

12-10-2002, 10:01 PM
If your new to fly tying and don't want to dump a bunch of money yet ( you'll have plenty of opportunity to do that in the future) www.fliesnsupplies.com carries the first all saltwater fly-tying kit with vice, tools and pattern sheets included. None of the material will go to waste. My advice to you is not to worry about things like having the best vice or tools on the market. Spend your time tying flies and learning your technique. Don't be intimidated into thinking you can't learn to tie flies without dropping a mortgage payment.
Good Luck

12-11-2002, 03:23 PM
A possible option is to contact Al Beatty at http://www.btsflyfishing.com/ and tell him what you want to tie and your budget. He puts kits together for specific needs, has an excellent reputation in the business and is a real gentleman. Might be worth a look.