Ken Morrish, a friend and one of our favorite fly tyers, once said that “tying flies is a great way to round out the sport”. We couldn’t agree more. Of course, to the beginning tyer, there may be better spatial metaphors than “rounding out”… perhaps “bottomless” would be fitting to the tyer who is just coming to terms with the lengthy list of tools and materials and terminology and techniques required. Or perhaps “plateau” would be most accurate for the tyer who seems to be unable to take it to the next level. Regardless of where you are in your tying journey, take heart. This list is for you!
Spoiler alert: despite your best efforts “perfection” might be a distant point on the horizon. Sometimes, however, fish care far less than tyers do about how well a pattern is tied. Don’t be afraid to fish flies that don’t look like they didn’t come out of the bin at your local shop. You’ll learn a ton about what fish do and don’t seem to care about, and this will make you a better (and more relaxed) tyer.
If you ever go to a fly tying expo or a demonstration at a local shop you’ll notice that most of those in attendance are seasoned tyers. You know why? Because a) they love the craft and b) they have found that there is always something new they can learn by watching other tyers. The best tyers we know are always tuning in to watch each other and learn (granted, heckling may be more of the driving force than education….). Fly tying tutorials are all over YouTube and can be a quick an easy way to learn a new trick. Watch and subscribe to these popular channels.
It is worthwhile to tie a fly just like _____ (insert your most admired tyer here), or buy a few bugs from the shop and try to replicate them perfectly. But there is always room to tinker with a pattern. Even the most hallowed patterns should be viewed as a guideline or a starting point. From there, add a soft hackle collar, a hot spot, different colors of legs, a different shape of hook, more weight, less weight, a bead head, a longer wing, a shorter wing….
Every tyer has strengths and weaknesses. Put together a group of friends or join a tying club through your local shop. You will learn a ton from watching someone else and mimicking what they are doing. You will also be able to show off your strengths and teach others. Worst case scenario, you get to hang out with some friends, have a beer and tell fishing stories.
Runners will tell you that signing up for a race is essential to committing to the training for your first race. Anything you can do to commit yourself to tying will help. Commit to tying a fly a day for a year or decide to only fish flies that you’ve tied. Anything that you can do to spend more time at the bench will ultimately pay off.