Feathers are a critical component of most flies. The most commonly used feathers for fly tying are rooster hackle feathers. These long, narrow feathers come in many sizes and have fine fibers that imitate insect wings and tails. Other useful feathers include wood duck flanks, turkey and goose quills, and marabou feathers.
Dubbing is the material used to create the body of most flies. While some traditionalists opt to use the underfur from a rabbit or muskrat, many use synthetic or wool dubbing that comes in a variety of colors.
You can use deer and elk hair to tie popular patterns, like the Elk Hair Caddis fly. You can also use dyed muskrat and rabbit underfur in place of synthetic dubbing to create the body of most flies.
Most fly tiers use a nylon thread that has a light coating of wax to prevent it from slipping and sliding around on the hook. Thread comes in a wide array of colors; however, black, olive, brown, white and yellow are the most common.
A vise is a simple clamp that holds the hook while you tie the fly. Most have a screw or lever mechanism for opening and closing the vise jaws that you can adjust to accommodate different sized hooks.
A good pair of sharp scissors are critical for cutting fine feathers, fur and thread.
A bobbin allows you to maintain constant tension on the thread as you tie. Most have a small tube that the thread is run through and two arms that grip the spool of thread while still allowing it to turn.
Hackle pliers allow you to tightly grip small hackle feathers as you wrap them around the fly. These pliers open when you squeeze them and close when you release the pressure.
A bodkin is essentially a needle with a short handle that you can use to position strands of hair or feathers and apply lacquer to flies.
This tool allows you to tie the challenging whip-finish knot that secures the thread in place, once you complete the fly.