beginning fly tying materials [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: beginning fly tying materials

05-15-2002, 09:13 PM

After wading through all the vises, now I have to deal with figuring out all the materials. It's extremely daunting and must dissuade many people from learning to ty. I'm really surprised the feather merchants and natural fur companies don't get together and market their products better.

I found it very interesting to read about the genetic breeding of chickens to get the required feathers for fly tying, and any beginner who is thinking of buying materials should check out this link:

especially the part about hackles (or just remember this brand name: Whiting). But, the feather companies really should try another approach to selling their products. Do they really think many beginning tyers who want to tie sizes 16-24--which require Grade 1 or Platinum hackles--are going to spend $50-$75 for one neck hackle and then buy the four most common colors to the tune of $200+? It's ridiculous! A beginner doesn't need enough material to tie 8,000 flies. I did see some half hackles, but they weren't priced fairly: some were only $10 less than the full hackles. They also have specific, single hook size hackle portions good for 100 flies but they aren't useful for beginning tyers who want to tie a range of flies.

Then you have all the dubbing colors and brands, and other necessary animal hair products like deer hair, elk hair, calf hair, etc? (Are there any animals left alive on the planet after fly fishing season ends?)

I don't understand why someone doesn't put together a beginning package that isn't a total rip off and contains decent quality stuff. How about a package for people tying larger than size 14 flies and another one for people tying smaller than size 14 flies. Chop the top off the neck hackle for the small fly tyer package, and use the rest for the large fly tyer package, and include the 4 basic hackle colors: grizzly, blue dun, ginger, and brown. Then throw in some small pieces of animal fur like elk hair, deer hair, calf hair, etc., and 5 of the most common dubbing colors in reasonable portions, some matching thread, and sell it for $150-$200.

Or, one of these authors of beginning flying tying books should get together with some of the merchants and put together a package so that a beginner can buy it and have the exact materials necessary to tie all the flies in the book.

My first fly looks like it is going to cost $500. Help!!

John Desjardins
05-15-2002, 11:24 PM
Newbie, Heres some options.

Some brands of hackle sell small packages of feathers already sized for dry flies. Hoffman may be the brand. I agree that a # 1 neck is expensive, its why I normally buy #2 or #3.

Since your talking about size 18-22 flies an alternative might be to tie with CDC if your fishing flat water. A package of CDC feathers is ~$3.

I've also seen some kits that contain all you need for say ten of a patttern with instructions on how to tie it.

IMHO get the materials for tying a few simple flies that get a lot of use and practice on them until you are confident. Hold off on the dry flies for a while. I'd get a hooks thread, natural & dark olive or black Pheasant tails, a package of strung peacock hurl & ribbing, then tie PT nymphs. Other flies I'd tie are the wooly bugger(saddle hackle, maribou & chennille), soft hackle wets (dubbing or peacock hurl & hen or partridge hackle), and RS2's (I have to check the recipe). I know that Brad had a real simple RS2 to tie in the trout fly swap this spring. The materials for any of the flies above should be less than $25.

05-16-2002, 12:21 AM
Hold off on the dry flies for a while.
Unfortunately, that's the only type of fly fishing I'm interested in at this point.
I agree that a # 1 neck is expensive, its why I normally buy #2 or #3.
I would love to do that, but according to the Whiting description the small hackle feathers are only present on the #1 grade. Have you actually bought more than one hackle in the same color? I would think it would last a lifetime.
IMHO get the materials for tying a few simple flies that get a lot of use and practice on them until you are confident.
I'm pretty much interested in most of the patterns in "Tying Dry Flies" by Kaufman including the Adams, Blue Wing Olive, Sparkle Dun, and Quill Wing--No Hackle. It's a really good book--I've read through major parts of it--but I was shocked to see the price of $32.95 on the back.

05-16-2002, 01:12 AM
Flytying is way more exspensive than flyfishing. Just get used to it. You will spend way much more money getting geared for it and accumulating materials . It is a never ending process. Do not let anyone fool you into thinking it is cheaper to tie your own.

#2 necks will have all the sizes you need to start. Of course whiting says you cannot get small sizes in anything except platinum cause that is what they want you to buy. Make sure to take the neck out of the bag and inspect the feathers before you buy just to be sure. However I would stick with the 100 dry fly packs of hackle to start cause you cannot be sure you will even like to tie. If you get into it buy some necks. It will last a long time.Grizzly, brown, and a dun should cover 90% of your needs.

John's advice about starting tying simpler nymphs is good even if you do not fish them(you should though at least in some cases). These simple patterns like a pheasant tail nymph or gold ribbed hairs ear will teach you about thread control and putting a fly together. I tried to start with dries and got really frustrated with my flies until I started tying nymphs. They gave me the basis you need to tie any pattern out there. You do not figure out calculus without taking some algebra classes first (although I find tying way easier that calculus).

Also maybe get a mentor or take a class. My tying improved very fast after I started tying with my friend who has been at it for 20 years.


05-16-2002, 04:35 AM
sean and John,

Thanks for the great tips once again. I'll see if I can find some Whiting #2 hackles with small enough feathers and try to buy half portions, or I'll just buy a 100 fly portion and only tie one size to start. If I have too much trouble with the drys, I'll practice developing skills on some nymphs.

I was reading about how much the feathers improve from year to year and was wondering if there's a way to tell what year the feathers came from?

05-16-2002, 07:53 AM
You might want to look at cabelas they have little metz hackle packs with 3 colors of hackle in each for about 25 bucks I think.
They are available in three sizes. Probably enough to get you started up.


Dble Haul
05-16-2002, 09:36 AM
Newbiefish, you may have experienced some sticker shock when you looked at the back of Kaufman's book, but in my opinion it's worth at least twice as much as that price. Along with his nymph tying book, you should be able to get rather comfortable tying in a reasonable amount of time.

One note: if you decide to follow these books, learn the patterns in the order that they appear in the pages. Each successive pattern builds upon and utitlizes skills honed in the previous patterns. And don't take those simple thread and bare hook excercises for granted........they're there for a reason. :)

As for kits, be careful what you buy. There are some fly tying kits out there that are full of tying materials that you may never really have any practical use for, so be selective. And I agree with John and Sean, tying your own is NOT cheaper than buying. But it's a great extension of an already great hobby.

Good luck.

old man
05-16-2002, 11:33 AM
I think that tying dry flies are easier than tying nymphs. I can tie a few Elk hair caddis flies with just a few feathers. By the way that is about the only dry that I use. It seems to work for me the best. I don't like to tie nymphs as I find them to hard to tie. too many different types of feathers to use.

I've only been at this fly tying a few years but I like to do it. I just wish that I was better at it. My problem is that I have the shakes ,and after I tie a few I get to shaky and have to quit. After that I just seem to lose interest in tying.

Just an old man complaining. Jim S.

05-16-2002, 12:09 PM
Instead of buying a kit that will have 2nd and 3rd grade materials, buy only what you need for a specific pattern that you will use. Same for tools. Then you can focus on getting the best quality. Open the bags. Look at the materials. They are not all the same. On a "bronze" neck, there might be plenty of small feathers. This is why it is tough to buy over the phone. Find the guy at the local shop that ties flys and ask him for help. He knows where you fish and what you should tie. If you have a lot of questions, try to pick a time when the shop isn't full. That way he can take his time.
I like the Kaughman books and I think that they are worth every penny. Many of my friends learned to tie from those books and I can't think of better. They have a very good skill progression. The Skip Morris books are good too. Kaughmans sells kits with all of the materials to tie the patterns in his books. The Skip Morris book also has a corresponding kit. As with all things, you get what you pay for.
I'd start with nymphs. There is a reason that they teach addition befor algebra.

05-17-2002, 12:31 AM
Just for the record, I saw some Whiting capes that are half grizzly and half medium blue dun or brown for $54 in grade silver. That seems like a cost effective way to go.

I want to work my way through a book and tie all the patterns, so the patterns I'll be using are sort of irrelevant.

05-17-2002, 09:21 AM
I found a way to make it so...

Whenever a birthday/fathersday or some other gift giving event happens, I ask for Gift Certificates at my local fly shop. Go down and get $50-$150 worth of material at a whack and doesn't cost me a dime!

05-17-2002, 10:59 AM
Bdays only come once a year. I unfortunately spent at least a hundred bucks a month on materials. Of course I do tie for saltwater,trout, and steelhead so I need more stuff than most.


05-17-2002, 12:27 PM

Thanks for the Cabelas/Metz tip. Any beginners who want to get some smaller portions of hackles should check out the Metz variety packs. They have three different colors of hackle per package in many different color combinations with sections of the cape that cover only the hook sizes you are interested in. You pick out the color combinations you want and the hook size range you want to tie, and select the appropriate package for only $25.

Nooksack Mac
05-17-2002, 02:29 PM
It offends my sense of thrift that 90% of some material that I bought for fly-tying is going to go forever unused. You can resign yourself to it; or you can do this: Every year or two, arrange a swap meet with other local tiers. As the Moderator, you provide the supply of zip-lock plastic bags. Everybody there can swap, half a strand of this for a handful of that for a dozen of those. Everyone will be happier, except the local fly shop.:mad:

05-26-2002, 07:59 AM
I think that whether or not you save money depends on what you're tying, how much material is used/wasted on each fly, and what that particular fly would cost you at the store. I tie primarily saltwater flies and can honestly say that no matter how much money I've spent on materials, I've saved money on flies. Consider that the average deceiver, clouser, or bonefish fly costs around $2.50, the average tarpon fly around $4, and the average popper nearly $5 (which works out to $100 for 20; I can tie 20 poppers for about $0.75 each, or $15 total). In all cases I can tie those flies with premium material and hooks and still average them out (by figuring out the number of flies that a given package of material or hooks will tie) to be much less than I would pay at the local fly shop, or even online for that matter. I order nearly all of my materials at Cabela's, but get some hard to find items at a local shop here in Atlanta. Now, that doesn't mean that I spend $50+ on saddles; I have found some terrific quality saddles for less than $15 that seem to work just as well for what's important: fishing. I don't think that the fish really care if the feathers on a fly came from a super-expensive saddle or a relatively inexpensive one, so long as the fly looks like something edible and they're in the mood, you're going to get that strike. This applies to all fish and flies, in my experience.
Freshwater flies are usually less expensive than SW flies, so the amount of money you save is likely to be less per fly, but hang in there. While the initial cost of fly tying material may upset you, think about the approximate number of flies you will tie with it, work out the math, then compare the average cost per fly to the store-bought type. You will find that your flies are cheaper. In the absence of an experienced fly tier friend to advise you about materials to purchase for the flies you intend to tie, many local fly shops employ people that have tied their own for years; ask them for some help, and they will point you to the right materials. The problem more often than not is that for the variety of patterns that you want to tie, numerous materials are required. If you just needed to tie one pattern, it wouldn't be as bad. Just my two cents... or two dollars, so it seems at this point.