Posts Tagged ‘Beginning Fly tying


Marjin Fratnik’s “F” Fly Revisited

I have highlighted Marjin Fratnik’s F fly series before. I think it is a perfect beginner’s fly pattern that has many variations in color, size and applications (caddis, mayfly, chironomid, stonefly). My only personal caveat is regarding cutting the ends of any feather. I would rather spend the time to stack/sort the feathers so they are uniform in length rather than trim them….just my personal choice. None the less, it is a simple tie and the CDC is magical. I am linking to the always helpful FlyForumUk for the step by step (SBS) visual tutorial on tying the F Fly.

Fratnik’s F Fly at The Essential Fly



Fly Tying’s Discerning Eye

The pleasure of fly tying obviously enhances our fishing experiences. A store bought fly, enticing a fish is fine. A fish taking your creation is the best. As you learn to tie you will follow the pictures in books, magazines, ezines, ebooks, or by looking at flies you have purchased, been given or studied in someone’s fly box or in a little cubicle in a fly shop. More detailed presentations of the fly’s recipe/pattern will provide steps on what to do with the materials. Video clips will show you. All this is the progression the sport has arrived at in the last few years.

Byron Haugh’s Caddis Wet Fly Pattern (photo Hans Weilenmann)

Eventually, as beginning fly tier, and going forward, you will be able to look at a fly and recognize a pattern’s materials, and as with the above fly (Byron’s Soft Hackle) recognize a pure fish catcher. Often, they are simple patterns to tie and simply perfect on the water. You will also, soon see the color variations or material substitution options for many patterns. The above pattern would easily lend itself to different abdomen/thorax colors while retaining the same partridge wing/peacock herl head. 

Speaking for myself, I periodically come across a tying technique and by looking at the fly, I cannot quite tell how they arrived at the look. Examples over the years that I have come across are the abdomen weaves, loop wings, split hackle stems wrapped for an abdomen (Breadcrust).

Truth be told, most of the complicated design techniques are not necessary to catch fish. They are there to expand your tying skills, or relieve your personal boredom with the same old ways. Innovation in synthetics add some zest to tying. Natural materials are often blended with synthetics. 

Where was I going with this? Oh! Keep it simple. Perfect the simple techniques for real. It will show if you don’t. Don’t speed off into more complicated patterns and techniques until you seriously perfect proportions and knowing why your are tying a particular pattern. What does it represent and how is it presented? Otherwise it is like students I have had. They didn’t fly fish. They tied because it was a craft endeavor, like quilting. 

But, if you want to thoroughly enjoy fly fishing, then take that Winter class for beginners or intermediates. If you have been tying, inventory those fly boxes. What do you need to re-stock?

As you commence your Winter tying, pay attention to the first few flies you turn out. Study the proportionment of the materials, the spacing, the durability of the fly. Make a target list on post it. Try not to wander off the list too far as you explore and experiment. Get back to those basic patterns that served you well this past year. Tie those first then experiment.


Fly Fishing: Hemostat Triple Twist~Grab Tag & Pull

h/t to John Newbury from FB re this knot tying technique: The Hemostat Knot.  This might be particularly helpful when the finger tips are frozen, or for general use.

For the beginning fly tier, you would be well served to practice your tying techniques while tying a limited scope of patterns. The temptation is to tie every pattern in that book and more that come to mind. Tie this and tie that. If you were limited to just tying as a past time with no opportunity to fish your creations, then tie hither and yon, but otherwise I would stay toward basic nymphs, dries, emergers, streamers and flymphs/wets (or, the basic patterns for the species you chase….it could be a variety of streamers only for a predatory species). This way there is a practical benefit to your targeted tying.

Flymphs: this style of ‘wet’ fly is worth a study on your part and worth a lot of tying. Selection of hackle and style of body are the two key considerations. Sparse patterns for almost dry fly presentations have/had their place. But, buggier dubbing and softer hackling offer a great deal of animation and life. A flymph can fish from the bottom up to the top with the correct presentations: Leisenring Lift.

A couple presentation considerations: study spey (two hander) casts and research their applicability to a single hander. Jean Paul from Roughfisher mentioned this the other day and it true. Line handling with bigger flies or more staged presentations can be easier by moving line, dumping it and then rolling it out into a zone. Research this. Also, for the stream fishing angler chasing primarily trout there is a tendency toward only using a floating line and rarely a sink tip. I use five lines for stillwater but severely limit myself on rivers when chasing trout. (I carry multiple spey line heads). But, a readers comment about using sinking lines and manipulating the fly up through pools and rapids reminded me of watching an old timer fish streamers with a clear, intermediate line to fish streamers on a river (something I would normally only use on a lake). 


Fly Fishing & Tying (Or, Is It Tying and Fishing?)

It is both. Depending upon your weather, seasonal closures/openings and freedom to fish. An example of late for me: I have recently spent more time researching patterns I had fleeting chances at last year and was not prepared with the right patterns and/or correct presentation (Yellow Sally Stonefly, Sculpin/Streamer Patterns).

You fish and see you need to figure out an insect for the next time (what was that large, yellow, fluttering fly popping out of mid-stream? (Mayfly, but it looked like a Stonefly?). Or, you are still cut off for the season (weather, closures, work, obligations). You plan for the time span you will have to fish and study the hatches you will experience on the bodies of river you will most likely visit (example: August-October for Crooked R., Deschutes R., Metolius R.,  McKenzie R., Tunkwa L., Leighton L.  etc.).

This is part of the ongoing fun of tying and fishing (or, fishing and tying).


Fly Tying Expo’s (Some Thoughts For the Beginner)

First and foremost, I appreciate every tying expo I have been to. I spent a few years driving my son, Tony, to them when he was the obligatory youth tier (albeit a darn good tier). So, I appreciate the mental~practical preparation involved.

As a beginning fly tier, I encourage you to attend these shows and most importantly do not be shy. I normally walk in and walk the circuit making a quick assessment of types of flies being tied. Now some would say not to eliminate any style of tie. Your choice. I look for the type of flies I will most often fish and want to learn more about. So, I look for trout flies and steelhead tube flies. You may look for bass flies and Atlantic Salmon artists, or Realistic Fly Designers (my designations).

As I said, do not be shy. You are there to learn. They are there to teach, clarify and inspire. If a chair is open sit down or get close. They aren’t selling anything so don’t walk on by. Take notes. Take their cards for later study or commercial contacts. If a tier is busy gabbing with friends or telling stories and not tying move on. Keep looking for the type of flies you are most interested in.

Ask ‘how to’ questions: ‘can you do that whip finisher move a bit slower?’ ‘what kind of feather is that?’ Some tiers are tying to knowledgeable tiers and may whiz by stages, so feel free to ask questions. It is a very open venue….or should be. The NW Fly Tying Expo in Albany, Oregon, I just went to, was a perfect match for most of my interests. Maybe a bass fly fisher would say different, I don’t know.

Another thing I noticed, and liked, the tiers run the gamut of human nature: the tiers were in various ways precise, scattered, anal, disorganized, gregarious, shy, gruff…the full range. They tied great flies and with all the varieties of styles, personalities and patterns. I think you will enjoy these shows and as I did take away tips and techniques I had forgotten or never seen before. Thanks to those that organize these shows and the tiers (and, vendors).

“You take 186 tyers, plus 160 volunteers,” Sherry Steele said. “And to have that many people step up to the plate, that’s really great. It’s huge.”    Statesman Journal


Fly Tying: Expectations & Realities for Beginners

Green Lake Bait (SwittersB)

I had the good fortune to teach beginning fly tying for a few years. Here are a few observations from teaching and from learning from others myself……

Patience and focusing on self: in a group setting, which is the usual setting for beginning classes, you will become aware of those that seem better than you and those that are struggling. You may be quietly intimidated by the superior ‘beginning’ tier and, perhaps, feel the class is too disorganized because the poor tier seems to be struggling without much help. Often that better ‘beginning’ tier has tied before and fallen away and is taking the class as a refresher. So, yes, they do have a better grasp of proportions, tool management and pace. Don’t pay attention to them unless it is to see how you might improve your moves. Better to watch the instructor and focus on you. Slow, steady and patient. As for the poor tier, don’t fret about them. The instructor may be able to help them (in a smaller class or after class) or maybe not. Not everyone will go on to tie flies. Concentrate on you.

Distractions: That slower tier may slow the pace of the class. This can happen because the instructor feels obligated to bring them up to speed. This slows the pace for the better tiers, but this can happen. Also, the ‘know it all…wants to share it all’ beginning tier knows just enough to be verbally confident. This too slows the pace as the instructor takes time to engage the questions with self evident answers. It is up to the instructor to maintain a comfortable pace that satisfies the better tier while not leaving the struggling tier far behind. Don’t let these distractions detract from your enjoyment.

“Hmmm..really?”: ‘He had you do what? I am surprised by that.” Those that have been taught fly tying may take exception to how or what you are being taught. Don’t let this distract you. ‘There’s more than one way to skin….” holds true in fly tying. Techniques have variations. Part of the fun of fly tying is there are variations, hence a gazillion ways to tie flies. Learn what your instructor has to offer. A beginning class is just that, the beginning. A step toward years of learning and exploration. Take in what others offer, but seldom settle for there is only one way to do most things in fly tying. Keep your mind open to change and improvements in technique.

Perfection v. Impressionistic: I won’t advocate here re one style over the other. If you wander through this site you will note I am everything but exact. Often sloppy and inconsistent. My patterns catch fish. That is my yard stick. But, there is a degree of detail that a tier should strive for, if not perfection. I strive for consistency, even if less than perfect. I liken it to this. You have been asked to donate a dozen flies in a box for a raffle. Strive for those dozen flies to be almost identical in appearance.

Simplicity & Organized: Tying, like any hobby with lots of components, tests your ability to organize your tying tools and materials. May I say this..DO IT!  Keep it simple. Tie basic patterns for awhile. Perfect techniques. Put away your materials after patterns are done and before you break out other materials for a different pattern. Remember, I warned you. Larger Ziplock freezer bags and clear, plastic bins with tight lids are helpful.

Where to tie? I have tied in garages, basements, on kitchen breadboards, dining room and kitchen tables, lap tables and TV trays. Be considerate of others if you don’t live alone. Keep it organized. Watch those hooks. If you drop one, actually find it before it ends up in someone’s foot. More than once, I have had an annoying itch in my sock and have come to find a hook embedded in my sock or skin. Tie in one place with the ability to roam. By that I mean, set up that nice tying station somewhere and then have the ability to throw together that road trip kit for camping/fishing trips. Keep a pleasant backdrop so your eyes don’t strain to focus and of course have an excellent light on the tying surface.

Ok, that is just a few things off the top of my head. Asides, as it were, of fly tying’s odds and ends. Enjoy, be patient with the learning process. And, of course, the sage advice that once the proper techniques are learned, practice makes perfect.


Fly Tying: Starting To Tie?

Fly tying is a seemingly complex pursuit, yet at the beginning I suggest you keep it as rock bottom simple as possible. I say this because, like many pursuits in life,  you most probably will dabble and drop.

Take a class. Most classes start in the early Fall. There are usually 3-5 classes for under 100.  This will often show you if you really have an interest to continue. If so, buy a reasonable starter kit for under 100. If classes are not available at a nearby fly shop or community college then take the time to watch the countless You Tube videos and read sites, like here and from my blog roll, and get a sense of the techniques that are typically employed. Books abound re fly tying, but start with basic how to books.

I hope you would not succumb to walking into a shop or sporting goods store (sorry shops) and laying out a cool 1000.+ for a trout fishing set up with out a clue whether you will continue. I know shops love the customer of means that walks in and doesn’t blink plopping down such money. But, for the beginning fly fisher and for the beginning fly tier…start slow, buy reasonably priced gear to start and upgrade later if the passion is there. If you are so well healed that you can afford top of the line, then have at it.

Next, know thy self. In your pursuits, do you accumulate lots of stuff (me)? Or, are you more self contained and organized (not me).  Plan for this. I have to strongly urge that you keep your fly tying (and fly fishing gear) organized. In the beginning it seems easy enough. But, diverse avenues of interest can spread you out before you know it…so, plan the organization of your materials and gear.

Lastly, plan a pleasant place to tie. I have tied on bread boards, kitchen counters, cold garages, damp basements, dining room and kitchen tables. Make it pleasant and have excellent lighting and a perfect back drop to avoid eye strain. Clean up after yourself after completing each pattern. Otherwise you will create that layered look of spey fly materials on top of stillwater patterns on top of ….'”now where did I put that dubbing?”  Tie the basic patterns and master the techniques while creating worthy, productive patterns. Enjoy!


Fly Tying: Doc Spratley (Stillwater to Steelhead Pattern)

Doc Spratley (Western-Fly)

When I took fly tying lessons (Doug Stewart, Stewart’s Custom Tackle) some 35 years or so ago, one of the patterns that Doug Stewart used was the Doc Spratley pattern. We tied it in black. You can see above, that the pattern (abdomen) can be tied in any number of colors. The tiers will categorize this pattern as an emerging caddis pattern. I think that would be a good concept, as well as a smallish bait fish pattern in the right colors or a steelhead pattern. This is a good quality pattern for beginning fly tying, but also, for catching fish. Oh, and for the sake of beginners, the other patterns Doug used to teach basic applications of materials to the hook were: Gray Hackle Peacock, Bivisible, Montana Stone. Oh, isn’t that a very nice picture? Very pleasing.

Doc Spratley @ Western-Fly

The Chronic Fly Fisher Doc Spratley


Fly Fishing Visitors to swittersb’s blog (please tell me where you’re from)

SwittersB~Christmas Is. 2007

SwittersB~Christmas Is. 2007


I recently tried installing a mapping tool on my side bar and found even a few hours input fascinating. However, the widget skewed my right side and had to remove the mapping device. So, if you come across this baited post, would you mind dropping a comment to me so I can see where my visitors come from and one thing you are most interested in and would like to see more of…??

Here is a small two hour window of visitor employing the mapping tool and their locations I noted and enjoyed receiving… I would appreciate any feedback.


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