How to Tie Fishing Flies

How to Tie Fishing Flies
Learning how to tie your own flies is one facet that the world of fly fishing presents to participants. Having the knowledge and ability to imitate the pattern or design of a particular insect in the form of an artificial fly is very rewarding. Not only does this ability provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, it's a demonstration of the ability to produce an attractor that is capable of catching fish.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Fly tying vise Hooks Bobbin and thread Yarn Feathers (or animal hairs) Scissors Half-hitch tool
  • Fly tying vise
  • Hooks
  • Bobbin and thread
  • Yarn
  • Feathers (or animal hairs)
  • Scissors
  • Half-hitch tool
Step 1
Determine the type of fly pattern you want to tie. Based on this decision, you'll need to assemble yarn, feathers (or animal hairs) and thread, which will be combined to form the body of the fly. These items are available online and at outdoor stores. Attach the tying vise to a work surface and set up lighting that will adequately illuminate the tying project.
Step 2
Place the hook in the jaws of the vise and tighten down. The hook should be situated in the vise so that the longest part or shank is on top, the curve of the hook is in the jaws, and the point is on the bottom. With the thread mounted in the bobbin, completely wrap the long portion of the hook, or shank, with one turn of thread. This is both a beginning point for building the fly as well as a test for proper vise height. Allow the bobbin to hang suspended from the hook. It should not touch the table surface and swing freely about 1 inch or so above the table. If not, adjust the vise height.
Step 3
With the initial layer of thread in place, you're ready to begin assembly of the fly. The body of many flies is made of yarn. Select an appropriate color of yard and hold it on top of the hook along the shank. Wrap the thread around the shank and yarn with widely spaced turns. Unlike the initial wrap of yarn, which should be closely done to avoid gaps, this wrapping is designed to hold the yard in place and allow the fibers of the yarn to extend away from the hook. Add other materials such as feathers and animal hairs to achieve the best imitation possible. There are many resources available with step-by-step material and tying instructions for specific insect patterns.
Step 4
When finished wrapping the components of the fly, finish the fly by tying a "head" near the eye of the hook. This is not so much a matter of imitating an insect head as managing the materials to keep them out of the way of the hook eye. A technique for this is to form a triangle with your thumb and first two fingers. Using a reverse motion, pull the materials back and away from the hook eye. This will allow you to tie off the fly with a head and keep the materials from restricting the hook eye.
Step 5
To finish the fly, use a half-hitch knot to tie off the thread near the head or eye. For this purpose, you can buy a half-hitch tool or use a pencil or knitting needle. The point is to provide a semi-sharp point around which the bobbin is used to form a half hitch. The tool then transfers the half hitch around the eye of the fly and it is pulled tight. Clip the thread near the knot and you're finished.

Tips & Warnings

Research is often a key to constructing a good fly. Once the insect to be imitated is determined, research the stages of the insect's life and decide what the pattern you'll be tying will look like. Spend time in selecting the appropriate materials to most closely match the insect.
Use care when working around the hook while mounted in the vise. Most hooks are sharply honed and will easily puncture the skin.

Article Written By Tara Dooley

Tara Dooley has written for various websites since 2008. She has worked as an accountant, after-school director and retail manager in various locations. Dooley holds a Bachelor of Science in business management and finance.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.