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What Is Your Fly Tying Story?

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#1 xvigauge


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Posted 23 April 2019 - 11:57 PM

Or, how did you get started and how long have you been tying flies? I am 68 and I started tying flies at 14. But, I haven't consistently been tying flies for 54 years. Other interests and duties have come along and fly tying has occasionally been put on the back burner; and sometimes for years at a time. Job, cars, music, dog training, raising kids, etc. has gotten in the way of fly tying through the years. But since I retired in 2011, I have been spending considerable time at the tying bench.


Somewhere back in the mid 1960's, someone gave me a cheap fly tying kit. It came with a few hooks, some feathers, some small pieces of fur, a spool of black thread, and a hideous looking vise that did not grip a hook very well. Anyway, I thought it was great. I wrote to a few fly tying materials companies that I found in the classifieds of Sports Afield, and obtained a couple of catalogs. Wow! I was amazed at all the stuff. I saved some of my birthday money, about $14, which was a lot for a kid back then, and bought a few things from Rangeley and from Hook and Hackle. Someone gave me an ancient hand made vice that looked horrible, but adequately held a hook.


Of course there was no such thing as YouTube, and I did not know anyone who tied flies, so I was pretty much on my own. I did have a couple of books on how to tie flies but these gave mostly fly recipes and had little instruction on technique. But, I continued to wrap and tie and snip, and I think I did come up with a few flies that could catch fish. I will never forget my excitement when a small rainbow sucked in one of generic mayflies from the surface of a small Michigan stream.


However, I do regret never having had a good instructor to show me techniques and methods. Even today, I still use some unorthodox methods, but they work for me and I catch trout on the flies I tie and I am happy with that.


#2 flytire


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 05:53 AM

i worked for martin marietta aerospace in colorado back in the 1980's.


the recreation department offered free fly tying lessons and i joined in. 


39 years later i'm still tying flies using the techniques i learned from those classes.

Fly tying - The art of attaching feathers, fur, wool, and silk to a tiny hook to create artificial lures that imitate insects, a skill easily mastered by anyone who can peel a grape blindfolded with a pair of tweezers and a butter knife while wearing oven mitts.

#3 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 06:08 AM

Me?  As usual I backed into fly tying... I'd joined a hot fishing club in 1976 (after a divorce...) that was very competitive, had world record holders (more than a few...) and had a fly division to compete in...  So, the first thing I did was build a fly rod - before I even knew how to use one....  No, it didn't work very well - but that's another story entirely... After I learned a bit more about fly fishing - and building fly rods I began to tie my own flies.  Even though Miami and the Keys were the center of saltwater flyfishing back then - there just wasn't much available in shops, so you were encouraged to get tying yourself.  Soon a few other anglers began to ask me to tie up a few for them and one thing lead to another as I began to accumulate a few materials.  Finally a shop asked me to tie up a small order.  The guy who ran Shorelines South in Fort Lauderdale was a very skilled angler himself, John Donnell... He'd later go on to become one of the best guides in the Keys (and if you ever watched the Walker Key Chronicles fishing show... he's the one they called "Dozer"....


I was a very poor commercial tyer at first - taking forever to tie up just a few dozen bugs.  My only excuse is that I was fishing two or three days a week back then (I was on a four day week at work, was single - you get the idea...).  I finally settled down and got serious about my tying - then things just got better and better.  I was soon tying for more than one shop (tying every evening and weekends) and began to teach the hobby to others - even organized night classes through my local junior college in the early eighties... 


I tied commercially for many years - but finally had to let it go about two or three years ago.  Along the way I took up guiding, full time, and it all just got to be too much...  I'm still tying to meet my guiding needs - and at times that's a lot of flies.... If I ever leave the water I'll probably retreat back to the tying bench, if I'm able.... and I still like to teach tying whenever I'm asked - if I have the time...

Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666

#4 redietz


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 07:38 AM

I started in 1964, when I was 12.  I'd broken right hand playing baseball and couldn't fish (I'd taken up fly fishing the year before) so my parents bought me a tying kit to keep me from moping around the house. I'm not sure how they expected me to tie with one hand in a cast, but somehow I did, learning from Helen Shaw's book that I had borrowed from the library. (I didn't use a bobbin holder for the 15 years or more, using a thumbtack in the side of my tying table  to keep tension on the thread, more or less as Shaw instructed.  I was tying flies for crappie, bluegills and pickerel at first, since there were no trout anyplace near me in South Jersey that a 12 year old could get to without a car.  I've been tying ever since, switching to mostly trout flies once I was able to drive.


#5 DFoster


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 07:50 AM

A kid in my first grade class brought a tying kit to a show and tell at school and I thought it was the coolest thing.  I grew up as a lure fisherman because I didn't know anyone who knew how to fly fish and youtube didn't exist. Still I never lost the fascination and I would always pay close attention on the rare occasion the Saturday morning fishing shows would do a segment on fly fishing or rarer still, tying.  Life got in the way and I went decades without fishing at all until 2009  while on a family vacation to Maine I got the bug again and decided to relive my youth.  I went all in both learning to fly fish and tie at the same time.  10 years later I'm having a ball!   

And you thought golf was frustrating-

#6 mikechell


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 07:55 AM

My first vise, from a kit I think my Mom bought, was like aluminum tweezers with a thumb screw in it to tighten down on the hook.

Held a hook a little better than sticking it in a piece of cork.  Taught me to use light pressure on the thread, since anything more would move the hook.  Also in that kit was a mimeographed pamphlet with some patterns and directions.  That was sometime in the 1970's, and I tied a few flies that I fished with.  But it didn't "teach" how to do poppers.  Dad always fished with Betts poppers, and so did I.


Sometime in the '80s, while in the Corps, I got the opportunity to buy a Supreme Vise.  Again, without proper instruction, I learned to tie a few flies that I fished with.  Did that, off and on, straight through until about 2000.  Then the fishing I Florida go to me and I had to tie up something that worked.  (No BPS or other fly shops that I knew of)


I've been tying, somewhat consistently since.  Still only tying what I fish with.  Just replaced the Supreme with a Griffin Odyssey Spider cam vase a few years ago.

Barbed hooks rule!
My definition of work: Doing something in which effort exceeds gain.
Ex-Marine ... quondam fidelis

#7 RickZieger


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 09:26 AM

Had a friend give me some stuff as he did not want to tie anymore.



#8 dadofmolly


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 10:16 AM

I started tying in the fifties around 11 or 12 yrs old, now 76 going on to 77 young.  Except for a short time during college and my first 2 yrs of working, I have been tying.  Like many have mentioned, I taught myself as there were no classes offered back then and very few places to buy materials (Herter's was my go to store).  Consequently a lot of my techniques are wrong but work for me, although I have been able to correct a few of the things I did poorly.  At one time back in the mid to late 60s I decided to tie every pattern I could find.  After tying so many useless flies, gave up that idea and started tying just for me and what I liked to fish with (which changes on a regular basis).  If I fished for anything besides trout I used casting or spinning gear and if I caught anything besides trout on a fly it was by accident.  Have only started looking into smallmouth, bluegill and crappie recently.

Sometimes I need expert advice which is why I talk to myself.

#9 DarrellP


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 10:16 AM

I started out as a gear and bait fisherman in the deep south.  My job moved me around.  A co-worker in Colorado showed me how to tie a Wooly Bugger and let me borrow his vice.  Got my own kit vice and had some fun.  Went to my first class, that just happened to be taught by Charlie Craven.  Good start.  Transferred to Oregon and got into Steelhead fly tying.  Somewhere along the way bought a Regal vise.  Took some classes from Mark Noble and Bob at the Greased Line Fly Shop in Vancouver.  Learned to clean up heads and had more fun.  Moved South and learned to tie salt water flies in a class at the Church Mouse in Fairhope, AL.  Back in the deep south (MS) tying Bream flies, bass flies and jigs.  I have sold a few over the years and given away a lot.  I have more feathers than I will ever use. I learned to stack and spin deer hair and love to tie wet flies and soft hackles.  What a great hobby!


Of course I also picked up rods and reels and lines for all of the above species, but that is another story.

"Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job." John Geirach

#10 planettrout


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 11:13 AM

I started tying flies in Feb. 1974. The guys that got me started were the two brothers that worked for their Dad at the Fishermen's Spot in Sherman Oaks, CA. These were the first books that got me going:






There have been periods that my tying has been more active than other times because that's how it is and other interests and responsibilities came into play. My focus has always been on tying patterns for Trout because I grew up fishing in the Eastern Sierra and have always targeted that species. Recently, I once again started tying Steelhead patterns, after moving up to Pullman, WA while my youngest daughter gets her degree in Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University. Unfortunately, Steelhead and Salmon stocks are crashing here in the PNW so immediate future efforts will once again be on Trout flies for Idaho and points East...




Daughter to Father, " How Many arms do you have. How many fly rods do you need?"


#11 yooperflyfisher


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 11:23 AM

I started tying 4 or so years ago my cousin had a fly tying kit and tied mostly rockworms and they actually worked i thought that was so cool.

I got a fly tying kit for christmas i watched the dvd and on it was how to tie a sawyer pheasant tail, so i thought that was how you tie all flies i ran through the copper wire in like a week.

My first streamers were basically fluff balls that would never acyually be able too catch a fish.

My uncle didnt know that i already had a fly tying kit and he thought i could use it more than he did which was true i ran through the materials about a year later.

I watched an in the riffle fly tying video on how to tie a wooly bugger and bought materials for it and since i knew how to tie pheasant tails i also bought materials for them too.

I sold quite a few of those flies earned back most of the money with plenty of flies for me too use too i caught my biggest trout to date on the woolly bugger and i still have plenty of those woolly buggers still in my fly box there all probably 3 years old and i still catch plenty fish on them ive been steadily collecting materials since and tying flies in the 100s every year i now tie most of flies in the winter too past time in the summer i dont many flies im mostly busy fishing i so many flies i could never use them all!!

#12 Charlie P. (NY)

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 11:46 AM

First I an recall was as a cub scout visiting a local conservation center (nature center at the time) that was at a state trout hatchery and watching a man tie flies.  I was fascinated.


At some point I ended up with a SSS Blue Stamp type fly rod.  Still have it - cheap split cane and the handle flips to either be a miserable fly rod or an even more miserable spinning rod.  Those rods invariably came with three flies: McGinty, yellow wooly worm, Royal Coachman - all wet flies.  And I added a good 'ol South Bend copy of a Pfluger reel.  I did catch some fish with that but eventually lost all the flies. 


Some years later at the 1973 Scout Jamboree in PA there was another demo (I suspect Ed Shenk but darned if I can confirm that) of fly tying.  After that I bought a stamped vise and "kit" that was decidedly geared towards dressing jigs with chenille and saddle hackles and started to tie flies . . . sort of.  I got good at leadwing coachmen once I started to purchase better materials.


From there a C.H. Thompson, then a Thompson Pro and continued library book borrows.  Been plugging away at it ever since.

   Not that Pearsall



#13 Philly


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 01:20 PM

I guess I've been tying about 25 or so years.   I had a glimpse of fly fishing back in the mid-70's when I was in college in NW Tennessee.   A friend showed up at a farm pond we were going to fish with a fly rod.  I out fished him that day with my Jitterbug.   Fast forward  to the early 1990's I had worked my way up to fishing ultralight spinning gear and it was getting boring.  I joined a local fly fishing club and took at least three beginner courses, I doubt I "passed" any of them.  The real impetus that got me into serious tying was when I joined the [email protected]  group in the mid-nineties.  Met a lot of members over the year including many excellent tyers.   Don't ever remember meeting Silver Creek, but learned a lot from his posts and, I'll call them "essays" on fly tying and fly fishing.   The watershed moment was when I signed up for the list's Y2K caddis swap.  I had to tie 100 flies for it.  I got very good at tying the CDC and Elk.  Can't remember what my first vise was.  A member of the local fly fishing club gave it to me.  In the late 90's I brought a Danvise, my first rotary vise.  I've been using it ever since.  Now I tie for the enjoyment and relaxation of it, I don't need more flies but I tie them anyway.   I even tie in public these days with my fly fishing clubs and try to pass on my limited knowledge and sometimes weird ideas of what a fly can be.

"All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

#14 onebadmofo


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 05:35 PM

 I started fly fishing in 1975, and started tying in 1989 after a few lessons from Ed Marsh on tying a Bunny Leech. Still tying and have tied alot of bench flies which some turn out to be duds and a few turn out to be fish killers. I wish Ed was still with us to see my old friend again.

#15 chugbug27


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Posted 24 April 2019 - 07:08 PM

I started tying flies in the mid-90's (my late 30's) within a year or so after starting to fly fish; I really took to fly fishing and for me the tying flowed from that. Before that, I had only ever fished bait on the ocean and in lakes. I bought my first tying book, vise, and materials from the same fly shop as PT, the Fishermen's Spot. I learned how to tie from the book, and tied some flies, and even caught trout on them, but I had a hard time making time even to fish, so I put the tying box away and went back to relying on fly shop flies. Then, after my career slowed way down, about three or four years ago I picked it back up right where I left it. Same book, same vise, same materials, same fly shop, same waters, all waiting for me, only now with more time, less stress, more fly fishing experience, YouTube, and this site, I found it much, much easier and more enjoyable to dig in to the tying.