Fly Tying 101: Tools to get you started

If you are just starting out and do not have any materials I would highly recommend running out and grabbing a fly tying kit. They are readily available in fly shops, online and in some stores such as Cabelas and LLBean. A fly tying kit  will give you the majority of the tools needed and a good variety of starting materials, plus most of them also include an instruction book and DVD with patterns full of step-by-step tutorials. At the end of this post I will include links to a few other kits; but keep in mind there are MANY out there, so choose the one thats right for you.

Tying Vise:

Your Vise One of the most important tools you will need, so try to find a sturdy one that will hold your hooks securely.

Depending on your vise there will be different ways in which you will close the jaws around the hook. Some of them are lever action (especially if you’re picking up a kit); and others such as the Regal Vise that I tie with are spring loaded.  Take a look at “Fly Tying 101: Securing the hook in your vise” for a step by step tutorial on how to work some of the vises.


After you’ve been tying for a while and say to yourself.. “Ive found my new obsession!” you may want to upgrade from your kit and pick up a set of good set of scissors.

Dr. slick make very nice set of sharp scissors; but keep in mind before you throw out those old ones that you will also want a pair of scissors that are not so nice. They will be used to cut materials that otherwise, would dull them. Example: Chenille, wire, metal tinsel ect.

You can always use the far back area of your good scissors (many have an indent that is good for that) But I tend to just use an old pair. If your old pair looks like the new ones and it’s hard to tell them apart I would recommend putting some marker or drop of color nail polish.

Whip finisher:

Ah yes.. the whip finisher. During more than one session Ive been told it Looks like something out of a medieval torture chamber, and that its completely aggravating to use.

Whip finisher
Whip finisher

Well.. I can assure you that once you get the hang of it, it actually becomes alot of fun when finishing your flies. Not to mention it will become an extension of your arm to the point that it will be automatic once you pick it up, youll be finishing flies in no time.

Hair Stacker:

The hair stacker will become an invaluable tool down the line, especially when tying flies such as the elk hair caddis.

Hair Stacker
Hair Stacker

Its used to level the tips of deer and elk hair before tying in.

Hackle Pliers:

Hackle pliers come in a few different sizes and types. Personally I prefer the one on the right, for me they have better control.

Hackle pliers are a must.
Hackle pliers are a must.

These will be used to grab your feather and wrap it around the hook, they are also useful when wrapping polish quills.


Bobbins are used to hold your thread. Keep in mind that different bobbins are sometimes used for different things.

Different bobbins
Different bobbins

On the left we see a standard bobbin, the middle is a Wasatch bobbin for silk, and on the right we see a Rite Bobbin. While the standard and Rite bobbin are both used for thread, I tend to use the Rite Bobbin for bigger thread such as a 3/0 or GSP  because taught pulling on the bobbin when spinning deer hair wont cause it to pop loose from the bobbin like it does in the standard. I always keep one bobbin loaded with lead/leadfree wire.

How to thread your bobbin

Dubbing Needle/Velcro:

These will come in handy when teasing out material or roughing up the dubbing on flies such as the hares ear or caddis jig.

Dubbing spinner:

These help you spin the thread when creating a dubbing loop.

Head Cement:

Some tyers use it, others dont. Its all personal preference.

Its used to finish the heads on flies or to be dabbed on a thread base on a hook to help materials from slipping when being tied in.


There are different types of wax.

Here on the left we see a standard tube of wax that youd find in a kit, in the middle is a homemade hard wax that I picked up from my friend Eunan at a show, and on the right we see the ever elusive Wonder Wax! Each can be used for dubbing but over time you will decide whats right for you. I prefer the middle hard wax for flies whos dubbing I dont want to get tacky.