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Fly Tying and Travel

November 19, 2012
Author: Will Rice

Q: How can you take your next destination fly fishing trip to the next level?

A: Learn to tie your own flies.

Tying flies is not necessarily easy – but it certainly isn’t rocket science. Like most things involved in fly fishing, you can make tying just about as simple or as complex as you want.  One way to really change your approach to a destination fly fishing trip – and perhaps increase the challenge and ultimately your level of satisfaction – is to tie your own fly patterns.


This pheasant tail nymph was tied at the last Trout's Introduction to Fly Tying Class here in the shop

If you have never tied your own flies before – and don’t worry you are not alone – it is fairly easy to learn the basics.  Here are a couple of different approaches to try.

First, if you are lucky enough to have a buddy who ties, try the barter system.

You: purchase a six pack of beer.

Your buddy: spends a couple of hours showing you how to tie a simple patterns like the Black Beauty, Pheasant Tail Nymph or Wooly Bugger.

If you don't have a fishing friend who ties, there are a couple of great books that cover the basics that we have in the shop:

1) Basic Fly Tying - Charlie Craven

2) Tying Flies Like a Pro - Marty Barholomew

3)  Essential Trout Flies - Dave Hughes

Another option is to check out the fly tying videos on the internet.  The quality can vary here so you should be wary of your sources.  Here is a very, very basic video that has been viewed over 300,000 times on youtube.  If you have never seen a fly tied, it is a good place to start.  If you are an avid fly tier, this video will probably bore you to tears. 

Once you have the basics down, now it is time to figure out what species you are going to predominately target.  Bonefish?  Permit?  Tarpon?  Mahi?  Roosters?  Don’t forget about other species that you will have shots at as well.  If you are going after bonefish, it probably makes sense to be ready to cast a popper at a barracuda if you cross paths.

Next up, start researching what natural food sources exist in your target destination.  Shrimp?  Crabs?  Baitfish? Sardines?  Squid?  Then, see if you can find some fly patterns that imitate these patterns have been working.  If you are working with an agent or directly with a lodge, they should be able to help you out immensely here.  If you are on the do-it-yourself program, try researching recent fishing reports on the internet or check in with your local shop - or a shop close to where you are going (if one exists).

Once you have figured out the species you’ll be targeting and the patterns that are working, here is what you’ll need:

1)   the fly recipe (materials, eyes, hooks, thread, adhesive, etc)

2)   fly tying vise

3)   bobbin

4)   sharp scissors

5)   six pack of cold ones

6)   ample patience

I always think it is helpful to see if you can get a commercially tied version of the fly you are trying to replicate.  It helps to be able to see, touch and feel the final product.  If you are into free-styling and experimenting, more power to you.  Believe it or not, making the jump from simple patterns like pheasant tails and other nymphs to more complex patterns like Crazy Charlies, Birthing Shrimps, and Clousers is not that difficult.  When I sit down at the vice, I usually like to tie at a minimum six identical patterns.  Most likely, you’ll notice that #5 or #6 looks quite a bit better than the first and second.

You’ll also notice that building a box for a trip that is two or three months away happens pretty quickly.  And don’t forget that those travel vices are called travel vices for a reason.  Bring your tying gear with you to your destination and make modifications to patterns and designs based on what is working and not working – real time.  There are not too many things as satisfying as tying a new pattern in a remote location in the evening based on that day’s experience and then catching fish on your new fly the next morning. 

Tying flies is a great way to help temper the anticipation of an upcoming trip – and potentially unlock a whole new dimension of your international travel. 

If you ever have questions about tying or are interested in getting started, don’t hesitate to stop by the shop or call.  Or, post your questions here and we'll answer them for you.  Trout’s Fly Fishing does have an Introduction to Fly Tying Class series each month that will greatly expedite your learning curve.  In our classes you will learn about the basic fly tying tools, materials and techniques necessary to get started.  You also will receive an Umpqua Deluxe Fly Tying Kit.  It is a great class that will be your first step toward becoming a proficient fly tier.  Trout’s Fly Fishing also has a wide variety of materials if you are already creating your own bugs and patterns. 

As always, we are here to help.

Travel vise: don't leave home without it!

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