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Fly Tying Hacks - Pro Tips & Techniques to Improve Your Skills

Fly Tying Hacks - Pro Tips & Techniques to Improve Your Skills

As fly tiers, we all have our own tricks or nuances that make our lives easier when were at our tying desks. These can range from niche to everyday ideas that can help elevate our tying abilities, some we pick up along the way and many we learn from friends and professional craftsmen. For the following blog, we have teamed up with our superb Upavon Consultant Team to bring you hacks and tips from across the globe.

Garrick Eckard - UK

When designing my own patterns or developing variations of those I have seen, I always try to keep the following tips at the forefront of my mind.

Firstly, life. Undoubtedly, my primary focus. When I say life, I am referring to how to make the pattern life-like and realistic. Natural insects are not stiff or lifeless. Insects have legs, wings, gills and other anatomy that move. Flies don't have to be carbon copies of their living counterparts. Nonetheless, I think they should incorporate materials that aid this life-like movement. I focus on materials that represent the tails, legs and gills of nymphs. 

Secondly colour, pay attention to what you are replicating when it's on or in the water. Matching the hatch is essential for success. Especially when fish are focused on a specific food source. Matching your flies' size, shape and colour is essential for success. However, there is one key consideration when matching the hatch. Materials change colour when they are wet. When tying your flies, wet them in a glass of water to ensure the colours are correct before you go fishing. 

Thirdly, profile and proportions. Arguably, these are as important as matching the hatch. When matching the hatch, you must ensure that fly proportions match the real thing. For instance, legs, wings and bodies must be accurate in size and shape to the flies you are trying to represent. Too big or too small, and fish will refuse your offerings. The proportions of the fly will also affect its profile. For instance, when tying dry flies, ensure the fly looks right from below. Correct proportions will ensure the pattern has an accurate silhouette and will match the other flies drifting down the river. 

Colton Scott - USA

I love tying dry flies, especially Hoppers and Stoneflies. When tying these, I like to make natural feather tape wings. These are a great addition to dry flies and are a simple way to make more realistic patterns. All you need is clear tape and a feather of your choice. I prefer scotch clear packing tape. To make these yourself, please follow the steps below. 

1) Set your tape sticky side up  

2) Place your choice of feather on the tape

3) Place another piece of tape on top

4) Trim to size and tie!

5) The end result!

Dave Little - AUS

My first tip would be to learn how to do the simple things well. Simple things can include whip finishing, wrapping hackles, tying ribs, etc. Mastering the basic essential fly-tying skills will make your life a lot easier. Once you master the core fly-tying techniques, you can tie anything. There are lots of how-to videos available on YouTube that will help you master these. 

Further to my previous point, practice makes perfect. This applies to both techniques and flies. Never tie just one of any pattern, especially when you are learning something new. When I tie something new I like to tie at least half a dozen. This is a great way to master both the pattern and the techniques involved, but also you can see how you have developed from the first to the last fly.

Lastly, preparation is key. Most of us have busy lives, and time at the tying desk for some is a luxury. If you're sitting down for a session, prepare yourself and your materials. Ensure you have all of the materials and tools ready on your desk before you start. This will make your tying experience as efficient as possible whilst maximising your output. 

Tom Bird - UK

Anyone who fishes still waters and reservoirs will have either heard of or have a Diawl Bach in their box. It is a deadly pattern that works across the globe. When tying Diawl Bach's, I tie the beard hackle first over the eye. Then, when you get to the head at the end, you fold it back and tie it down. Doing this saves having to cut the beard hackle at the head, ensuring you keep the hook eye clear. Tying the beard in this way also gives a better profile. And depending on how many thread wraps you use, you can have the beard hackle flat and slim down towards the hook point. 

Lance Kittel - USA

I love tying with dubbing. It is such a versatile material and comes in so many different variations, both natural and synthetic, with a host of consistencies and properties. However, more often than not, to create natural profiles or bring dubbing to life you need to brush the fibres out. I do this using a homemade tool. I stick a Velcro pad on the back of a toothbrush head. It is a cheap and easy solution for untangling dubbing fibres and works well with all dubbing. The Velcro helps untangle the fibres, while the toothbrush bristles provide a fine comb. Both are readily available at most large stores. 

Mark Yodagawa - CAN

Tag ends and frayed thread are the bane of many fly tyers' lives. The short thread fibres that scissors cannot quite cut flush to the heads and the sparse frayed thread fibres that splay whilst you are tying can be resolved with one simple tool. A cautery. The controlled beam can burn the tag ends and frayed fibres to ensure the heads on your flies remain neat. The lighters are also an excellent tool for making mono eyes. Unlike the free flame of a conventional lighter, the controlled beam on the candle lighter allows you to accurately melt the eyes to the optimal size keeping the results consistent. 


Ben Worley - UK

Another great tip for those who tie with bead chain eyes is cutting them with nail clippers. I see so many fly tyers cutting the chain with their scissors, which inevitably blunts them. These are almost purpose built for the job, catching the cut eyes behind the blade stopping them shooting across the room! Even still, you can clip off any burs left over on the side of the eyes leaving a smooth finish. The beauty of using nail clippers is that they may light work of bead chain and everyone has a pair to hand so you don't need to go out and buy another tool! 

Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed this blog. If you did, please check out the other blogs on our website here Upavon Blogs and if you’re new to Upavon, please use discount code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first order.

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    Jeremy Bennett - May 6, 2024

    Good sound advice from all .

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