With a few simple tools it is possible to tie a wide array of effective fly patterns. Whether you buy a kit or purchase tools individually, you should have the following: a vise, scissors, bobbin and bobbin threader, hackle pliers, a bodkin and a whip-finish tool.
A fly-tying vise is a simple clamp that holds the hook in place while you attach materials to it. Most have jaws that open and close with a screw or lever mechanism, and can be adjusted to accommodate hooks of varying sizes.
Fly-tying scissors have fine, sharp points capable of cutting soft hackle fibers and short feathers. Use conventional scissors for cutting materials like wire and tinsel, as these might dull the fine edges on fly-tying scissors.
The bobbin allows you to maintain steady tension on a spool of thread as you tie a fly. Most have a small tube that the thread is run through, and two spring-loaded arms that grip the spool.
A bobbin threader allows you to easily run thread through the bobbin tube. It consists of a fine wire, bent in half and attached to a short handle. To use it, slide the bend down through the bobbin tube, put the thread through the loop, and pull it back up through the tube.
Hackle pliers allow you to maintain a solid grip on small hackle feathers as you wind them around the hook. Unlike regular pliers, the jaws of this small tool open when you apply pressure and close when pressure is released.
A fine-tipped needle with a short handle, a bodkin is used for tasks like arranging feathers or strands of hair and applying lacquer to the head of a fly. You can make your own bodkin by inserting a 3½-inch needle into the end of a pencil eraser.
The whip-finish tool allows you, with a few quick turns, to tie the final knot that secures the thread in place once the fly has been completed.