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JDB 10-26-2004 08:55 AM

Fly-Tying Kits
I am getting ready to start tying flies and I am looking at various beginner kits, Orvis, Cabelas, and L.L. Bean. Can you please advise me which company has a good starter kit?

Dble Haul 10-26-2004 09:16 AM

I'll be honest with you. Fly tying kits usually aren't very good. They typically have sub par tools and materials, some of which you may rarely use.

I truly believe that if one is to start tying, they should get an affordable vise and a few basic but necessary tools. Then start acquiring materials for patterns that you intend to learn. Before long, you'll find some overlap and that some of your materials can be used for more than one pattern.

Any fly shop worth its salt should be able to help you with this. You've posted here in the trout forum, so I assume that you'll be starting with trout patterns. If you have any questions about specific patterns, don't hesitate to ask. There are plenty of knowledgeable people here who can help.

Don Johnson 10-26-2004 09:19 AM

One suggestion, if I may offer, would be to not overlook your local fly shop. Figure out which patterns you think you really want to start out tying and see if they will give you a discount on a "starter" package. This way you get the materials you know you will use and have taken steps to initiate relationship with a good resource for your future tying needs.

The one thing about kits, in my experience, is that you get stuff you'll never use and the vise and tools are sometimes of lesser quality than what I would consider adequate, although I know little of the kits you referred to in your post.

Good luck!
Don Johnson

MCorder 10-26-2004 11:39 AM

I agree with visiting your local shops. It's getting to be around Christmas time and many of them will start offering package deals put together in there shop. Just tell them what your interested in and interested in paying and they should be able to hook you up. Besides, they know what an addiction there starting you in and they'll more than make a profit off of ya. :hihi:
As for getting started with patters and techniques I'd recommend "The Fly Tiers Bench Side Reference", it's a little steep but you'll use it for the rest of your life. Mines raggy and full of post it note's but still is my goto source.
Tight Lines!!!!

JDB 10-26-2004 01:30 PM

Fly-Tying Kits
Thanks, all of you, for the very good advice. I will definitely visit my local shop.

flytyer 10-26-2004 03:50 PM

Don's advice is in my opinion the best way to go. This way you only buy materials that you will use and can spend more on a decent vise. Avoid the imported from Indian vises, they are poorly made, don't hold hooks well, and don't last very long. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a decent vise, Griffin has some very affordable, well-made vises for $50.00 or less and the venerable Thompson Model A, which has been around for over 100 years (it and the other Thompson vises have been recently put back into production by a new owner after a hiatus of about 8 months after the owner of Thompson Vise decided to retire and close the vise factory), which sells for around $50.00 too.

The two most important tools to buy are the vise and a quality pair of scissors. Therefore, avoid the cheapo scissors too because they are false economy. Instead get a quality pair, afterall, good scissors can be had for between $12.00 and $20.00 and they will last for years, the cheapos won't.

The only tools you need are a vise, scissors, bobbin (which holds your thread), and a bodkin. To this, you can add a whip finisher like the Materelli and your tool needs will be met for many years.

Moose 10-26-2004 04:44 PM

All good advice!
Another piece of advice is to get good bobbins with the ceramic inserts. Very frustrating when the cheapo metal ones cut your thread when a little tension is put to them. 15 bucks and well worth it.

I'd also advise you to have a clear idea of what flies you wish to tie so your local shop can set you up with what you need and avoid buying material you'll never use.

A good video is a valuable asset to the beginner. I like A.K. Best's videos.

One last thought, avoid the cheap hackle. There are 20 dollar capes out the that aren't worth a dime. If you know what flies you're going to tie you can buy small packs of hackle feathers from Hoffman /Whiting that will tie X # of flies. A good way to go if your just getting into it and can't justify several 60 dollar capes.

Don Johnson 10-26-2004 05:30 PM

The last piece is mostly true barring one exception. Keough Hackles offers "Tyers Grade" necks which retail for about 20 bucks and are an exceptional value. They have a lot of feathers in a decent range of useable sizes.

Aside from that, look into things such as Whiting saddle hackle that are graded for size (100's I think they are called) and Spencer's Hackles "Hackle Packs".

flytyer 10-27-2004 01:20 AM

Don is correct about the Keough "Tyer's Grade" necks, they are exceptional values, and the Whiting 100's and Spencer's "Hackle Packs" are also very good values. Also there really is no reason for a tyer to buy anything other than grade #3 genetic hackle necks (which is what most professional tyers use) unless he is going to tie a lot of small, hackled dry flies flies in the #18-#24 size range. Most folks get caught up in the "if it is grade #1, it has to be better" syndrome when all they need are necks for tying #12-#16 flies, and a grade #3 neck is flush with hackle in those sizes. Therefore, instead of spending $60.00 or more for a grade #1 neck or saddle, look into getting grade #3 necks that sell for about $30.00.

I also take exception to what was said about all-metal bobbins. My favorite bobbin(and the favorite of A.K. Best as well) is the S&M, which sells for about $7.00. I have one I bought back in the late 1960's that is still in use after having been used to tie tens of thousands of flies and I've never had problems with it cutting thread (just don't use it with kevlar or gel spun thread).

Moose 10-27-2004 08:01 AM

Those hackle packs are exactly what I was referring to. A great value, great hackle in small affordable packages. My reference to the cheap capes is aimed mostly at the crummy indian necks they sell at cabelas and in other catalogs, and is also what they often stick in those "everything in a box" kits. I've been buying Whiting for so long that I have a good stockpile and haven't purchased a cape in a couple of years. I have no firsthand experience with the good low cost capes you speak of, but I'll be looking for them!

I have a few S&M bobbins and my preference is totally with the Rite bobbin with the insert and adjutable tension. Better is better, period. I know this is all a matter of preference. I just think they're the most user friendly. :smokin:

Don Johnson 10-28-2004 09:35 AM

One more tidbit...
Other things, as were alluded to in a previous post, are resources in the form of videos, DVDs and books. I don't have too many DVDs or videos so I'll have to lean on others to offer up advice there. I am a book lover though and the Benchside Reference is a great resource. Also, Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple by Morris, Wet Flies by Hughes, Production Fly Tying by AK Best, the trilogy by Jack Dennis, Fly Tying Methods and Micropatterns by Darrell Martin and many others are out there and readily available. I don't want to get in trouble for supporting a non-sponsor, but a valuable resource I have found for locating old, out of print books is, FYI.

Anyway, most of the aformentioned adhere to the trout fly genre' of patterns, which I thought appropriate given the origin of the thread. With that said, why don't we chime in a make a list of what WE ALL feel to be a good resource library for the TROUT fly tyer.

(Russ, maybe you could start one of these on the salmon/steelhead pages?)

Here's some of mine:
Wet Flies: 400 Patterns by Ken Sawada
Wet Flies: Their Style and Dressing by Ken Sawada
Wet Flies by Dave Hughes
The soft hackle trilogy (the first 3 books) by Syl Nemes
The Art of Tying the Wet Fly by Leisenring
A Handbook of North Country Flies by Roger Fogg
The North Country: A Fly Fishing Tradition by Leslie Magee
North Country Flies by TE Pritt
Brook and River Trouting by Edmonds and Lee
Silk, Feather and Fur by Skues
A Way of the Trout with a Fly by Skues
The Benchside Reference
Fly Tying Methods by D. Martin
Micropatterns by D. Martin
Caddisflies by LaFontaine
Nymphs by Schweibert
Mayflies by Caucci and Nastasi
Aquatic Entomology (can't remember the author)
Production Fly Tying by AK Best
1000 Best Flies by Randy Stetzer
Tying the Dry Fly and Tying the Nymph (2 seperate books) by Randall Kaufmann
Western Fly Tying Manuals (3 of them) by Jack Dennis

There may be more at home that I am forgetting, but that's a start. I'll add more later if I find any at home that I feel are worthy of addition.

Looking forward to seeing everyone else's favorites.

Don Johnson

flytyer 10-28-2004 12:19 PM


Excellent idea! I'll get a library list of slamon/steelhead boods started on the salmon/steelhead flies pages. I'll leave the trout books alone, eventhough I have a lot of trout books, because there are plenty of trout tyers around.

Don Johnson 10-28-2004 01:43 PM

Hey Russ,
If you have some title to add, I'd say bring it on! The more, the merrier!

...and I look forward to the salmon/steelie list you compile.


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