Fly Tying Tools: Essential Equipment and Techniques

Fly fishing is not just a sport; it’s an art form that requires precision, attention to detail, and a deep connection to the natural world.

 Creating the perfect fly is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing, a delicate imitation that attracts trout. 

To achieve this level of craftsmanship, you need a comprehensive understanding of the fly-tying process and the essential tools. 

This article will explore these fly fishing tying tools and how to use them in crafting the perfect fly.

Best fly tying tools

1. Vise:


A fly tying vise is a fundamental tool for fly anglers and fly tiers. It holds the hook securely, allowing you to tie various materials onto the hook to create a fly that imitates insects or other aquatic creatures, ultimately attracting fish.

Here’s how to use a fly-tying vise effectively:

Setting up the Vise: Start by attaching your fly tying vise to your fly-tying desk or workspace. 

Most vises come with a clamp that can be secured to the edge of a table or bench. Make sure it’s firmly attached and stable.

Inserting the Hook: To insert a hook into the vise, open the vise jaws by turning the screw handle or lever, depending on your vise type. This will create enough space to insert the hook.

Secure the Hook: Place the hook’s shank into the vise’s jaws. The shank is the long, straight part of the hook.

Position the hook so that the point (the sharp end) extends just beyond the jaws of the vise. 

This will allow you to work on the entire length of the hook.

Tighten the Vise: Close the vise jaws by turning the screw handle or pressing down on the lever. 

Apply enough pressure to hold the hook securely in place without damaging it. The hook should be held firmly so it doesn’t wobble or move while you’re tying.

Adjusting the Angle: Depending on the type of vise you have, you can adjust the angle at which the hook is held. 

Rotating vises allow you to turn the hook to access different sides, making it easier to tie materials at various angles.

Begin Tying: Once the hook is securely held in the vise, you can start the 

fly tying process. Use fly tying tools like scissors, bobbin, whip finisher, and hackle pliers to add materials, secure them with thread, and finish your fly pattern.

Rotary Function (if available): If your vise has a rotary function, you can spin the hook slowly and consistently, making wrapping materials and thread around the hook easier. 

This is especially helpful for achieving uniform and neat fly patterns.

Finishing the Fly: After you’ve completed your fly pattern, use a whip finisher tool or other knot-tying tool techniques to secure the thread and finish the head of the fly.

Removing the Hook: To remove the hook from the vise, reverse the process by loosening the vise jaws. 

Carefully slide the hook out of the vise, not damaging the fly you’ve just tied.

By using your fly-tying vise effectively, you can create beautifully crafted flies that are visually appealing and effective in enticing fish. 

Remember to practice and experiment with different patterns and techniques to develop your skills and create a wide range of flies for various fishing situations.

2. Scissors:


Scissors are essential tools in fly tying, as they trim various materials, including threads, feathers, fur, and synthetic fibers. 

Using scissors effectively in fly tying is crucial to achieving neat and precise fly patterns. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use fly tying scissors:

Select the Right Scissors: Choose a pair of high-quality fly-tying scissors designed for the task. Fly-tying scissors are sharp and fine-tipped, allowing for precise cuts.

Hold the Scissors Properly: Hold the scissors in your dominant hand and the material trimmed in your non-dominant hand.

Ensure your fingers are positioned away from the cutting area to avoid accidental cuts.

Identify the Cutting Point: Determine where you want to trim the material. This will depend on the specific pattern you are tying.

Cutting Thread: When cutting thread, ensure it’s taut and straight.

Position the scissors close to the hook shank and make a straight cut. Avoid leaving frayed ends of the thread.

Trimming Feathers and Materials: For feathers, hackles, or other materials, gently hold the material between your fingers to control its position.

Carefully trim the material to the desired length, maintaining even tips for a polished appearance.

Precision Cuts: When making precision cuts, it’s essential to use the tip of the scissors.

 This will allow you to make small, accurate trims without removing excess material.

Cutting Hair and Fur: For hair and fur, use the scissors to shape and trim the material to the desired length and shape.

Consider the effect of the hair or fur on the overall appearance and function of the fly.

Using scissors effectively in fly tying, you can create precise and attractive fly patterns that closely mimic the natural insects and other aquatic creatures that fish prey on. 

Neat and well-trimmed materials enhance your flies’ overall appearance and effectiveness, increasing your chances of a successful day of fly fishing.

3. Bobbin:


A bobbin is a vital tool in fly tying that holds and dispenses thread, allowing you to wrap materials securely around the hook when creating fly patterns.

 Proper bobbin use ensures that your thread remains consistent and controlled during tying. Here’s how to use a bobbin effectively in fly tying:

Thread Selection: Start by selecting the appropriate thread for your fly pattern. The type of thread you use will depend on the size and strength required for your specific pattern.

Thread Loading: To load the bobbin with thread, find the small tube at the front of the bobbin.

Insert one thread end into this tube, ensuring it goes through smoothly.

Thread Tension: Adjust the tension on your bobbin if your bobbin has this feature. The bobbin’s tension controls the amount of thread that unwinds as you tie. 

Experiment to find the right tension for your pattern and preferences.

Thread Control: Hold the loaded bobbin with your dominant hand (the one you are most comfortable with).

Grasp the free end of the thread with your non-dominant hand.

Tying Process: Place the loaded bobbin’s thread over the hook shank and hold it with your non-dominant hand.

Use your dominant hand to control the bobbin and let out the thread slowly and consistently. This allows you to wrap the thread neatly around the hook.

Maintaining Tension: Keep a slight tension when wrapping the thread around the hook. 

This tension is essential for securing materials and maintaining the integrity of the fly pattern.

Wrapping the Thread: To create the body of your fly, wrap the thread smoothly and evenly around the hook shank, working from the rear to the front.

You can create different body shapes and textures by adjusting the number of thread wraps and the spacing between them.

Trimming the Thread: Once you’ve completed your desired number of thread wraps, use scissors to trim the thread close to the hook shank.

Be sure to make a clean cut to avoid leaving any stray thread ends.

Managing Thread Slack: If you have excess thread hanging from the bobbin, use your non-dominant hand to gently pull it back into the bobbin tube to prevent tangling and waste.

Advanced Techniques: For more complex patterns, you may need to use the bobbin to apply thread in specific patterns, such as creating segmented bodies or building up the head of the fly.

Properly using a bobbin in fly tying will help you maintain control over the thread, which is critical for creating neat and secure fly patterns. 

With practice, you’ll become more adept at controlling tension, thread placement, and thread density to craft lifelike and effective flies for your fly-fishing adventures.

4. Whip Finisher:

Whip Finisher

A whip finisher is a tool used in fly tying to create a secure knot that finishes off the fly by binding the thread neatly and preventing it from unravelling. Here’s how to use a whip finisher effectively in fly tying:

Prepare the Fly for Finishing: Ensure your fly is almost complete before using the whip finisher. 

Ensure that all materials are in place and that you’ve completed the necessary wraps of thread to secure those materials to the hook.

Hold the Bobbin: Hold the bobbin containing the tying thread with your non-dominant hand. This hand will be responsible for controlling the thread.

Position the Whip Finisher: With your dominant hand, take the whip finisher tool and position it in front of the hook eye, with the legs of the tool extending beyond the hook.

Thread Control: As you start using the whip finisher, maintain control of the thread tension with the bobbin hand. Keep a slight tension on the thread so it doesn’t loosen during finishing.

Make the Wraps

  • Start by rotating the whip finisher around the hook shank, which will cause the legs of the tool to cross over each other.
  • Gently push the crossed legs of the whip finisher behind the thread and around the hook shank.
  • Continue to make additional wraps (usually 3-5) by turning the whip finisher around the hook while ensuring that the legs of the tool remain behind the thread wraps.

Locking the Knot: Carefully slide the whip finisher off the hook and away from the thread wraps, maintaining thread tension.

This action will create a series of knots that securely lock the thread wraps in place.

Trim Excess Thread: After completing the whip finish, use scissors to cut the tying thread, leaving a short tag end.

Be sure to trim the tag end close to the wraps, but avoid cutting the wraps or materials.

Inspect and Adjust: Examine the whip finish to ensure it’s secure and neat.

Make any final adjustments by gently tugging the tag end or the wraps to ensure everything is snug and in place.

Head Cement (Optional): After whip finishing, some fly tiers apply a small drop of head cement or UV resin to the thread wraps to provide extra security and durability. 

The fly’s integrity can be maintained over time by performing this step.

The whip finisher is an essential tool for securely finishing your fly patterns.

 With practice, you’ll become more proficient at using it to create tidy knots that ensure your flies are durable and ready for action on the water.

5. Hackle Pliers:

Hackle Pliers

Hackle pliers are valuable tools in fly tying that help you work with delicate materials like feathers, hackle, and other fibers.

 They provide a firm grip on these materials, making wrapping them around the hook easier. Here’s how to use hackle pliers effectively in fly tying:

Gather Your Materials: Before using hackle pliers, ensure your fly is at the stage where you must add hackle or similar materials. 

The materials should be prepared and ready for attachment.

Open the Hackle Pliers: Most hackle pliers consist of a metal clamp with small jaws that can be opened and closed. 

Begin by gently opening the hackle pliers to create enough space to insert the material.

Insert the Material: Take the prepared feather or hackle and insert the material’s tip or base into the hackle pliers’ jaws. 

Ensure that the jaws securely hold the material.

Close the Hackle Pliers: The material should be held securely, but you should be able to adjust the tension as needed during the wrapping process.

Position the Material: With the hackle pliers holding the material, place it at the point on the hook shank where you want to start wrapping. 

Depending on your fly pattern, this can be at the front, middle, or rear of the hook.

Begin Wrapping: Use your free hand to wrap the feather or hackle around the hook shank while maintaining control of the hackle pliers. 

The pliers will keep the material in place, preventing it from slipping or twisting during wrapping.

Continue Wrapping: Continue wrapping the feather or hackle around the hook, moving toward the hook eye—space the wraps evenly and according to your desired pattern and fly design. 

The hackle pliers will help you maintain tension on the material, resulting in neat, evenly-spaced wraps.

Secure and Trim: Once you’ve made the desired number of wraps, secure the feather or hackle in place with a few wraps of your tying thread. Use scissors to trim any excess material, ensuring a clean finish.

6. Bodkin:


A bodkin is a versatile tool in fly tying, often resembling a small, needle-like instrument with a sharp, pointed end.

 It serves various purposes in the fly-tying process, including applying head cement, picking out materials, creating small holes in foam or other materials, and more. Here’s how to use a bodkin effectively in fly tying:

Identify the Purpose: Before using a bodkin, determine its specific purpose for your current fly tying task.

 For example, you may use it to apply cement, clean up excess glue, or adjust materials on your fly pattern.

Safety Precautions: A bodkin is a sharp tool, so use it cautiously to avoid accidental injuries. 

Keep your fingers away from the sharp end, and always be mindful of where the tool’s point is located while working.

Applying Head Cement: If you’re using the bodkin to apply head cement or glue to secure the head of your fly, follow these steps:

  • Dip the pointed end of the bodkin into the head cement to pick up a small amount.
  • Carefully apply the cement to the desired area on your fly. Be precise and use a light touch to avoid applying too much.

Cleaning Up Excess Glue: If you’ve accidentally applied too much glue or cement to your fly, use the bodkin to clean it up:

  • Gently touch the tip of the bodkin to the excess glue, absorbing some of it onto the bodkin’s point.
  • Wipe the bodkin with the excess glue on a piece of scrap material or tissue paper.

Picking Out Materials: If you need to pick out or adjust materials on your fly pattern, such as separating fibers or repositioning feathers, use the bodkin:

  • Carefully insert the pointed end of the bodkin between the fibers or materials you want to adjust.
  • Gently lift or separate the materials to achieve the desired positioning or spacing.

Creating Small Holes: Bodkins are also useful for creating small holes in materials like foam or plastic when you want to insert legs, eyes, or other components:

  • Position the bodkin where you want to create the hole and apply slight pressure while twisting or pushing it through the material.
  • Create a hole large enough to accommodate the component you want to insert.

Bodkins are versatile tools invaluable in fine-tuning and perfecting your fly patterns.

7. Dubbing Twister:

Dubbing Twister

A dubbing twister is a tool used in fly tying to create a rope of dubbing material, which is then wrapped around the hook shank to form the body of a fly. 

Here’s how to use a dubbing twister effectively in fly tying:

Gather Your Materials: Prepare all your materials before using a dubbing twister. This includes the dubbing material you want, the hook, and any other materials for your fly pattern.

Prepare the Thread: Thread the hook with your chosen thread. The thread will serve as the base for the dubbing material to adhere to and form the fly’s body.

Load the Dubbing Twister: Open the twister and insert the thread into the designated slot or holder. 

The thread should be secured in the dubbing twister, leaving a short tag end extending from the tool.

Apply the Dubbing Material: Take a small amount of dubbing material in the color and texture you desire for your fly pattern. 

Dubbing material is usually a blend of natural or synthetic fibers. Ensure that the dubbing is evenly distributed and not clumped together.

Attach the Dubbing Material: Hold the thread and dubbing material together, and place them in the slot or holder of the dubbing twister just above the slot where you loaded the thread.

Twist the Dubbing Twister: Start twisting the dubbing twister, which will spin the thread and dubbing material together into a rope.

 Continue twisting until the dubbing material is securely wrapped around the thread.

Create the Body: Position the twisted thread and dubbing material combination at the desired point on the hook shank where you want to create the fly’s body.

Depending on your pattern, You can start near the rear, middle, or front of the hook.

Wrap the Dubbing Material: Use the twisted thread and dubbing material to wrap the fly’s body. 

Ensure the wraps are even, creating your fly’s desired shape and texture.

With practice, you’ll become more proficient at using it to shape and texture the bodies of your flies, making them more attractive to fish.

8. Hair Stacker:

Hair Stacker

A hair stacker is a fly tying tool used to align and even out the tips of hair or other materials, ensuring a neat and uniform appearance for a fly’s wings, tails, or other parts. Here’s how to use a hair stacker effectively in fly tying:

Gather Your Materials: Before using a hair stacker, ensure you have the materials you want to stack, such as hair or feathers, prepared and ready for use. The tips of these materials should be trimmed and even.

Select the Appropriate Tube: A hair stacker typically consists of a hollow tube and a cap with a small hole at the bottom. 

Choose the appropriate size of the stacker based on the length and thickness of the materials you’re working with.

Insert the Material: Insert the prepared hair or other materials into the hollow tube of the stacker, with the tips facing down and the butt ends up.

Tap the Stack: Hold the hair stacker with the open end down and gently tap it on a solid surface, such as your tying desk or table. 

The tapping action will cause the hair tips or materials to align and even out.

Remove the Cap: This will expose the evened-out tips of the materials, which are now ready for use in your fly pattern.

Grasp the Material Bundle: With the evened-out tips now exposed, you can grasp the materials together as a bundle, making it easier to tie them to the hook shank.

Tie the material to the Hook: Place the bundle of materials at the appropriate location on the hook shank and secure them with a few wraps of your tying thread.

 Depending on your pattern, you can use this stacked material for wings, tails, or other components of your fly.

Trim Excess Material: Trim any excess material that extends beyond the desired length or shape after securing the stacked material in place.

Inspect and Adjust: Examine your fly pattern to ensure the stacked material is even and properly positioned. 

Make any necessary adjustments to achieve the desired appearance for your fly.

9. Bobbin Threader:

A bobbin threader is a handy tool in fly tying that assists in threading your bobbin with fly tying thread, making changing or loading thread easier and more efficient.

Here’s how to use a bobbin threader effectively in fly tying:

Gather Your Materials: Before using a bobbin threader, ensure your fly tying bobbin and the thread you want to use ready.

Prepare the Bobbin Threader: A typical bobbin threader consists of a thin wire or metal shaft with a loop at one end. Make sure the loop is open and ready for threading.

Insert the Bobbin Threader: Hold the bobbin threader in your dominant hand and carefully insert the looped end through the small tube of your fly tying bobbin. 

Thread the Threader: Insert the tip of the fly tying thread you want to use into the open loop at the end of the bobbin threader. Ensure that the thread is secure within the loop.

You may need a slight twisting motion to guide it through smoothly.

Pull the thread Through: Pull the bobbin threader back out of the bobbin tube, drawing the fly tying thread. 

As you do this, the thread should follow the path created by the bobbin threader and thread itself through the bobbin tube.

Load the Bobbin: Once you have successfully threaded the bobbin, pull the fly-tying thread through the bobbin tube until you have the desired length of thread hanging from the bobbin.

Secure the Thread: If you’re replacing the thread on your bobbin, tie a knot to secure the new thread to the existing thread (if any). 

If you’re loading a bobbin that has been emptied, tie a knot to create a starting point for your thread.

It streamlines the process of changing and loading thread, making it more efficient and allowing you to focus on the creative aspects of fly tying.

10. UV Resin and Light:

UV resin and UV light are essential tools in fly tying that enable you to create durable, translucent coatings on your flies, securing materials in place and enhancing their appearance. Here’s how to use UV resin and a UV light effectively in fly tying:

Gather Your Materials: Before using UV resin and a UV light, make sure you have your fly pattern ready and all other materials in place, such as the thread, materials, and the hook.

Applying the UV Resin:

  • Decide where you want to apply the UV resin. This could secure materials, create a glossy head, or add a coating for durability.
  • Hold the fly securely with your non-dominant hand.
  • With your dominant hand, carefully dispense a small amount of UV resin onto the specific area of the fly that needs coating.

Spreading and Shaping the Resin: Use a bodkin, a dubbing needle, or another fine tool to spread the UV resin evenly over the target area.

Shape the resin as needed to achieve the desired effect. 

For example, you might create a smooth head on a dry fly or build up a segmented body on a nymph pattern.

Ensuring the Desired Shape: Before curing the resin, ensure it’s shaped and positioned exactly as you want.

 The resin will harden under UV light, so getting it right beforehand is essential.

Curing with the UV Light: After shaping the resin, use a UV light to cure and harden it. Most UV lights have a button that you can press to activate the light.

Hold the UV light close to the resin-coated area (usually within an inch or so) and expose the resin to the UV light for several seconds. 

The exact time depends on the brand and type of UV resin you’re using, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing times.

Inspect the Resin: After curing, inspect the resin to ensure it’s completely hardened and looks as desired.

Trim and Finish: Once the resin is hardened and your fly is complete, use scissors or other cutting tools to trim any excess thread or materials.

Final Inspection: Examine the fly to ensure that the UV resin is evenly applied and that the materials are securely fastened. Make any final adjustments if necessary.

UV resin and light are especially beneficial for creating strong, durable, attractive fly patterns. 

They provide a clear, glossy finish that adds a layer of protection to your flies while enhancing their visual appeal. With practice, you’ll become proficient in using these tools to create effective and long-lasting flies for your fly fishing adventures.

Fly Tying Tools


The art of fly tying requires precision and patience, and having the right tools is essential for success. Whether you’re a seasoned fly tier or just starting, investing in quality fly tying tools for beginners will make your journey more enjoyable and productive.

 With the right equipment, you can craft exquisite flies that deceive fish and reflect the true essence of this remarkable sport. 

So, gear up with the essential fly tying tools, and dive into the world of fly tying for an unforgettable angling experience.

Check out the How to Cast a Fly Rod available on our website.

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