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Tips for Tying Better Flies

Tips on tying better flies.

Photo By: Sam Walker

     Before you get excited that I’m giving you an excuse to buy new tying gear, let me just say these tiny nuggets of tying knowledge will cost nothing. There are no secrets to tying great bugs, but there are some universal truths that when applied yield better flies. From beginner to expert we all need to be reminded now and then that with fly tying and fishing it’s often the simplest details that improve the outcome.

     First and foremost we all need to slow down. Unless you’re a commercial tyer or guide there aren’t many situations which call for fast tying techniques. When you slow down you begin to see where the thread is actually going. You won’t have nearly as many catastrophes if you slow down a beat or two. The tendency is to be more deliberate at a slower pace which happens to be exactly what we need for good flies.

     Back to seeing where the thread is actually going. You must watch where your thread is landing with each wrap. That may sound tedious, but with time it will become easier, but only if you consciously try to watch every single wrap. If you can see your thread wraps you will have better underbody tapers, cleaner tie in/off spots and gain a much better sense of feel in your tying hand. Each material you wrap will be done with slightly more care and precision because of the habit you create with better thread observation.

     Now that we are really watching our thread wraps the next step is to give each one a purpose. This is just as important with size 22 chironomids as it is with an 12/0 shark fly. Small bugs rely upon precise thread wraps that betray even the slightest bumps in an underbody. When tying feathered streamers,  an errant, excess wrap can twist an entire section enough to not swim properly. For whatever reason, winding thread on a hook can be as mesmerizing and entertaining as popping bubble packing. What we need is for each thread wrap to mean something. It can be building a taper, securing in a material, tying off materials or to form a head. Outside of that we should have as few non essential wraps as possible. You’ll be amazed how much extra space you can find by reducing thread waste.

     The next thing we can use to improve our tying skill set can also be the most fun. OBSERVE! Find pictures of the real prey you’re emulating and notice the proportions and colorations. When you have the chance observe the real deal in person. What you can not get from seeing other people’s flies is the true sense of shape, segmentation or any myriad of other idiosyncrasies that can all be their own “Ah-ha!” moment in your tying. But also use your improved Thread Wrap Vision to notice the things you can exclude from your flies. This translates to better prey observance on your local waters. Better flies beget better fishing.

     Last in my rant of frugal methods to finer angling would have to deal with the strength and cleanliness of your flies. This is actually a matter of honesty between the tyer and the fly. After you’ve tied more than five or six flies you begin to gain a sense of when an ingredient has been properly added to a hook and conversely if it has slipped a tiny bit to the left or could have been slightly longer. These and 50 other decisions will be made before you add cement to your whip finishes. Use each one of those decisive moments to remind yourself to slow down just a touch and really see where you’re wrapping that material or how many fibers really DO get trapped. In the end you’ll tie better flies and learn to improve how you see. Not bad for doing what you already do just a little better. See you on the water.

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