As we prepare for spring fly fishing season we turn to Ben Smith of Arizona Wanderings for the expert tips on tying flies. We’re ready to get out on the river. Anybody else?
There is no substitute for standing in the middle of the creek, watching a bushy dry fly float through the current, but tying flies comes pretty close. The next best thing to actually getting to fish is spending time at the vice preparing and thinking about all those fish that are going to be fooled by a hand tied fly.
I bought my vice after about 6 months of fly fishing, and I tied some of the ugliest flies imaginable. My first wooly bugger had more in common with a hairball found under the couch then the fly pattern in the book. But perseverance paid off and after filling an old butter container with mangled hooks, my flies started to look like actual bugs.
I still remember the first fish that I caught on one of my own hand tied hoppers, and the picture and the fly are framed over my desk to mark the occasion. From that day forward, any waking second to the world of feather, fur, foam, and thread and I practiced until I could not see straight.
Today as life becomes busier, trips to the streams and rivers are fewer and farther between and therefore my times at the vice give me my fly fishing fix and hold me over till the next time I can rig up my fly rod and tempt some trout.
Here are a few thoughts if you ever had in hankering to tie a few flies.
Buy the nicest vice you can afford. – As everything in life, you get what you pay for. There are quite a few affordable starter kits on the market, but often the vices that come with these kits can be pretty cheap and frustrating to learn to tie on. If you think or know that fly tying is something you could become obsessed with, buy a nice vice that will last a lifetime.
One fly at a time – An old timer gave me some sage advice when he told me to learn one pattern at a time. Start with the time-tested patterns and become proficient at the basic skills of fly tying.
Practice makes perfect – There is no substitute for tying dozens of the same pattern. Just like shooting baskets or going to the golf range, muscle memory is key.
Have fun – Tying flies is supposed to be enjoyable. Researching rivers and fly patterns for an upcoming fishing trip is exciting. There’s nothing more satisfying than filling a box full of flies and thinking about all the fish that your creations are going to catch.