Fly tying materials are a broad range of both natural and synthetic “ingredients” wrapped onto a hook to imitate insects, baitfish, or anything else a fish may eat. In the Encino age of fly tying, flies were tied for trout and consisted of silk thread and a game bird feather. The cornucopia of fly tying material available today is endless and can be overwhelming if you are just getting started or trying a new tying technique. Let’s break it down with a little help from your friends at Great Feathers.
The first thing you need is a hook. Hooks come in different shapes, sizes, strengths, and metals. Some people have a hook preference where they feel more confident in one manufacturer or style than another. The best way to find the right hook for the pattern you are tying is look for a specific hook recommended by the tier on your tying recipe. If there isn’t one listed, check out our handy hook chart located here: (insert hyperlink). We carry hooks that we all use, tie flies on, and feel confident in for different styles of flies and different fishing situations. Our favorites include Partridge, Mustad, Tiemco, Sprite, and Daiichi.
Material is cinched down or tied onto the hook chosen using tying thread. Tying thread comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. Size is important because a heavy thread on a small fly will create bulk, and using fine thread for big flies leads to breaking the thread while tying or creating incorrect proportions. A quick rule of thumb: Uni thread is sized 8/0, 6/0, and 3/0. Like hooks, the larger the number, the smaller the diameter of thread. Uni thread is a mix of material that is corded. 8/0 is good for small to medium flies or flies that call for a large quantity of materials. 6/0 is a good standard for average trout flies and streamers. 3/0 thread is appropriate for larger saltwater patterns and bass bugs. UTC is a nylon thread that is not corded therefore laying flat on the hook when tied and is great for flat and tapered bodies. This comes in 70 denier, 140 denier and 210 denier. Unlike Uni thread, the smaller the number the smaller the fly in most situations. 70 denier is good for your small to medium flies, 140 denier is good for average trout flies and streamers, and 210 denier is appropriate for saltwater and bass bugs. This is broad but a good starting point, and most thread selection choices can be determined based on this simple thread brief.
Now what you actually tie to the hook! Materials can be separated into two categories: natural and synthetic. Natural materials come from many types of birds and animals whether feathers, skins, or furs. Natural material can be used for tails, bodies, and wings on flies, depending on what you are tying. Some of the most common natural material used in fly tying includes, game bird skins like grouse, partridge, pheasant, peacock and chickens. Rabbit and deer are also both very common in many fly tying patterns.
Synthetic materials for fly tying are man-made, readily available, and extremely useful fly tying materials. A few examples are rubber legs for trout nymphs, streamers, and bass poppers. Flash is also used often in a lot of freshwater and saltwater applications. It catches a fish’s attention, adds an attracting property to otherwise all natural flies, and helps induce strikes. Stretchy material like Thin Skin helps make shellbacks on nymphs or make ribbed tapered bodies.
Both natural and synthetic materials come in a variety of colors and sizes for different fly tying situations. Dyed skins, wings, and hair help to properly imitate the color of the fish or bug you are trying to imitate as do different colored synthetics. A well stocked fly tier’s bench consists of a good mix of both natural and synthetic materials as well as a variety of different sizes and styles of hooks as well as many different thread types and colors. The staff here at Great Feathers takes pride in knowing we provide the largest variety of fly tying material on the east coast for any fly you can think of. We support the habits of classic Atlantic Salmon fly tiers, trout fly tiers, saltwater fly tiers, classic wet fly & spider tiers and stillwater fishers everywhere from Japan to Hawaii. We also love to help people with their tying queries and dilemmas and are always trying new tying techniques to broaden our repertoire to better ourselves as tiers and be more helpful for our customers. Give us a holler, we are happy to help!