Fly Tying Materials

When it comes to the right fly tying materials for the right fly fishing experience, sometimes you've just got to listen to the experts.

Luckily you don't have to surf the internet spending hours on researching for fly tying materials. This article covers all the angling angles you'll need to know for fly tying. A huge variety of fly tying materials exist from feathers & hackle to synthetics to dubbing and everything in between.

Again, your choice of fly tying materials depends on which fly you’re tying. It may be helpful to look up ingredients used to tie the desired fly until you're familiar with all these materials and how they act both in fly tying and in the water.

Tutorial videos on YouTube where tyers list the fly tying materials they use are helpful for your fly tying.
Threads: with hundreds of colors and a bunch of sizes. Selecting thread for fly tying can be daunting. To help narrow down the selection of tying materials get Black, Brown and a Light Tan. Size 6/0 is the workhorse size used in fly tying on everything from nymphs streamers and bulky dry flies. You can get 8/0 (thinner) for smaller dry flies and 3/0 (thicker and stronger) for spinning and stacking deer hair.
Flosses: usually made from silk with the most common color being red. Floss provides a shiny smooth body on a fly. It doesn’t help float a fly, so most of the time floss is used on nymphs and streamers when fly tying. Have you ever seen the red band just behind the hook eye? That’s floss.
Head Cement: just like the name implies this “cements” the thread down to the head of the fly. Typically, a fly is tied so that the head is the last spot to wrap thread, usually a tapered head is formed with the thread which is glued with head cement to make it more durable. A must have in your fly tying materials kit.

There are three common types of head cement used for fly tying.

  1. Solvent: almost identical to finger nail polish. Actually, lots of tiers use Sally Hansen ™ nail polish if a special head color is desired when fly tying.
  2. UV Cure: this fly tying cement is great for building up a shiny head or instantly gluing down thread. To use, apply the glue then shine a “UV Torch” on the glue and it another great fly tying materials for your fly tying kit.
  3. instantly cures on all fly tying materials.
  4. 2-Part Epoxy: similar to UV Cure but epoxy can be built up when fly tying. Epoxy is also very durable. The only downside is once you mix up a batch it needs to be used in 5 to 15 minutes. Not as popular fly tying cement since the UV epoxy hit the market. anothe good adition to your fly tying kit.
  5. Lead Wire: an important addition to your fly tying materials it is tied to the hook shank to help sink the fly. You can use lead for fly tying in a variety of sizes. I started out buy really fine lead wire.. This was a bad idea because the wire broke easily and was difficult to use. Get the .020 size wire, it is fine enough to use on smaller flies but still strong enough to handle without breaking. An important addition when selecting tying materials.
  6. Fine Wire: is a fly tying material usually used to add accent color and a little bit of weight to a nymph or streamer. Fine wire can also be wrapped to show the segmentation on a fly thorax when fly tying. The most common colors for fly tying are copper and gold. A quick fly to tie is called a “Copper John”. It is fast to tie and is really effective. A good selection of fine wire is a great addition to your tying materials.
  7. Feathers: For the beginning fly tier, you should probably know about the 6 different types of bird feathers used in fly tying. Don’t be fooled by my simple explanations below. The selection of colors, types of birds and different applications can seem overwhelming, don’t let it be though. Towards the end of this article I’ll provide a strategy for getting started in fly tying.

    • Hackle is a tying material typically used to wrap around the hook or a post created on the hook. When wound around the hook, the fine feather fibers create a collar that simulates the wings and legs of a fly. The best hackles come from genetically modified chickens and are divided into two types for fly tying.
    • Saddle Hackle is a section of the chickens hide that comes from the rump of the chicken. Saddle these fly tying feathers are used on dry, nymphs and streamer flies. Saddles are a good “general purpose” material for fly tying. The saddle hackles will usually have a variety of different size feathers as compared to neck hackles.
    • Neck Hackle as you might guess, comes from the neck of the chicken and are important  feather in fly tying . The finest neck hackles will have long feathers with barbs of a consistent length. Often you can purchase necks in 100 packs. A 100 pack would provide enough material to tie 100 flies.
    • Marabou is that puffy fluffy stuff. The best way to describe marabou is those colorful flowing feathers seen on decorations and hats. These feathers can be used for wings and tails when fly tying. These feathers are great fly tying materials.
    • Tails (Pheasant tail is one of the most common)fly tying materals. The long tail feathers that “fan-out” are what’s used in fly tying. The unique quality of the pheasant tail is that the feather barbs have tiny branches coming off of them. Used for fly tails, bodies and wing cases. One of the most used fly tying materials. Get some pheasant tail because it’s tough to tie nymphs without it.
    • Primaries- These are the large wing feathers usually coming from ducks. They are used in fly tying to tie wings on flies. Another common name for a primary is “quill”.
    • Herls are long feathers that branch off the main stem of the feather. Peacock is the most popular fly tying herl and is used on the body of dry flies or nymphs when fly tying. The herl adds an iridescent shine to a fly making it very “fishy” to look at. Herls are not very durable so usually a reinforcing material is wrapped with the feather, or over the feather. Peacock herl is used to tie the popular Griffith’s Gnat.

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