Some call it functional, some call it art. Whatever you call it, fly tying is a fun habit and a wonderful hobby. To build your own fly is a time honored tradition where you attach natural and synthetic material to a hook using thread to create an imitation of a natural insect, or make something that will draw an instinctual strike.
People have been creating flies for hundreds of years. Originally, people made flies to imitate emerging insects on English and Scottish rivers. Flies were made of silk thread, chosen to imitate the color of the insect’s body; and a feather from whatever birds were available to shoot. Different birds have different colors and the feathers chosen were done so to reflect the color of the insect’s wings they were trying to imitate. These timeless flies still catch fish to this day.
Fly tying has changed over the years to incorporate saltwater species, salmon, steelhead, even bass and perch. With the change in time came change in material and now many synthetic materials are being incorporated in flies like foam, doll eyes, metal beads, and “flash” material.
So why tie flies? Why not, is a better question. First off fly tying is fun! It’s great to be able to find materials, put them together on a hook and fish it confidently. You can design your own patterns, follow step-by-step guides on making proven patterns, and create variations of patterns to suit your local body of water.
Fly tying is also a rewarding challenge. Tying classic salmon patterns incorporate rare, hard to find material, close attention to detail and very intricate tying techniques. To imitate a midge on a hook smaller than a deer tick can be very cumbersome and can take a few attempts also. There are also many techniques to make bodies, wings, and tails on flies that need practice and multiple attempts to become close to mastering.
Most importantly, fly tying is very rewarding. When you follow those hard steps, create a fishable fly, and get a fish to take your own creation, the feeling is overwhelming. It can only be described as a mix of pride, happiness, and surprise. To devote hours at the tying vise and see your work pay off is a great feeling and very addicting.
The best way to get started or work on techniques is to take a class, or talk with a knowledgeable fly tier. We at Great Feathers offer a variety of classes and seminars to help you get started or to work on specific techniques. Our staff has over 50 years of experience in fly tying and we are only a phone call or a trip to the shop away from helping you with your fly tying woes. So come in on and let us help you on your way to becoming an experienced tier.