should really pack
The basic tying tools: rotating hackle pliers,
tear-drop hackle pliers, serrated scissors, thread bobbin and a dubbing needle.
In the most simplistic terms, a flytying kit must only have the tools
and materials necessary to tie the flies you may use on a single trip or a single river.
However, like most of us, a travelling flytying kit consumes more space than 26
high-schoolers crammed in a Volkswagen Beetle.
Of Dresses And
Before I begin, let me divest some prerequisites. This
article isnt for those who have the inane desire to hold a size 18 hook in hand and
fasten hairs and feathers with thread the diameter of human hair. If you are such a
person, a flytying kit probably isnt of much interest to you. This article is for
those of us who "accessorize", "coordinate", and
"collect"...for those like me who want to make sure all materials are appealing
in color and consistent in property. Essentially, flytying is like indulging in
womens fashions; therefore, dont ever scorn your wife for wanting to color
coordinate and accessorize. She just wants to "Match the Patch" and look her
best. Kinda like you do with bugs.
First of, you will need something to stuff and carry
all of the paraphernalia I am about to mention. You dont have to be elaborate. How
about a paper grocery bag? Dont laugh. I used one for over a year, until I began to
loose spools of thread and tying tools through the worn paper. My brother, an aggressive
business person and aspiring executive, carried his workpapers and MBA studies in a paper
bag for years until he broke down and purchased a real briefcase. It must run in the
family as now his little nephew, all of three years of age, cant leave the house
without his paper bag with all his "stuff" in it. Seriously though, I
wouldnt recommend a paper grocery bag, but something just as simplistic could
suffice. An old cloth book bag, an old briefcase, how about a shoebox, or a cigar box. The
size of your kit case is just plainly decided upon how much stuff you want to carry.
Lets look further.
You need tools to make your flies, unless of course,
you tie with out a vise or bobbin. Basic tools need not take up much room, and
shouldnt for that matter. Leave room in your kit for the most important stuff, hooks
and materials. All of the tools listed below fit into a legal letter-sized zippered cloth
pouch I have. Tools dont take up much room. The basic tools you might want to
Vise. I pack the
same one I use at home, a Renzetti Traveler. Look for something that can break down into a
few pieces or is small enough from the git-go. A C-clamp model is preferred versus a model
with a heavy base. Avoid adding too much weight to your kit, you just may want to pack it
in your vest (or a portion there-of) for a day-long pack into Gods Country.
Thread Bobbin. Just
one small one will do, nothing fancy.
Again, a needle is a needle, nothing fancy. Tyers Hint: Slip a small piece of cork on the
end to prevent the needle form sticking through your kit, and, as you are reaching in for
something, to prevent a nasty little surprise.
Hackle Pliers. I
have some with rubber tips to grasp the material better, but they are bulky-big on the
tips. I have some that could pick a single fiber from a strand of peacock plume, but they
tend to sear or break materials. Your choice, there are lots of styles on the market. It
doesnt hurt to carry more than one. Take two, theyre small.
Generally, I suggest affording the best pair one could muster up the coinage for, but some
time ago, I fell into the disposition that one should only pack what one is willing to
lose. Then, I had a change of heart. Why should I construct my tying kit of inferior
tools, why should I not be able to tie with the same quality gadgets as what I have at
home? So now I pack quality scissors. I do suggest one tidbit, however. Pack the ones with
micro-serrated edges. You will tie in the most awkward of spots at times, and having a
pair of blades that will assist you in grasping the materials as it cuts could be a
blessing. Remember, you will not be at your tying bench where you have the comfort of
performing precise "fly-surgery"...with no wind.
Head Cement. I have
found that "Daves Fleximent" is about my all around favorite. I have
thinned it out somewhat so that it can be applied in micro-amounts. Another suggestion may
be to carry clear-coat fingernail polish. It makes great shiny finishes on fly-heads and
is a quality fixient for applying to turkey feather shell backs such as on the hares
ear nymph. Mark Kettlesen, one of the finest salmon fly tyers I have seen, buys two
bottles of Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails. He emptys half of one and fills the bottle with
mineral spirits, leaving the other bottle at full strength. It thins the fixient and makes
for a fine pre-coat to the full-strength variety. It also soaks into the thread wraps
The rest of the gadgets
mentioned are only extra goodies you may want to consider packing. They sure as heck make
tying easier, but arent always used for every situation.
Velcro Dubbing Teaser
A Pair of Needle-Nosed
Pliers to De-barb Hooks
A Razorblade. Used to trim
spun deer hair or other material where a precise cut is required. Refer to my suggestion
on how to travel with razor blades in your tying kit, later in this this article.
A Hair stacker. This tool
isnt used too frequently for the flies you would tie from a portable tying kit,
however, if you own a small one, you may want to pack it along. It could come in handy if
you need to stack hair for a Elk Hair Caddis or the like. I will always pack a small brass
one given to me by Mr. George Cik. Its a beautiful little thing, made with precise
care and works like a charm.
In case you dont know,
George is an extremely inventive & creative tyer. His tools match his craftiness at
the tying table. One of his more well known tool creations is used by most all deer-hair
tyers, "The Brassie". Its a tool I use every time when I sit to tie a few
packed deer-hair patterns.
A Section of Hares
White Calf Tail
Zonker Strips (center cut
rabbit strips: black, brown, natural, olive, rust)
Natural Deer Hair - Long for
spinning and short for hairwings like a caddis or compara-dun.
Natural and Bleached Elk
Fine Quality Necks, or a
selection of different sized feathers plucked & matched according to size (grizzly,
furnace, black, white, dun)
Pheasant Tail Feathers
Partridge or Quail back
Marabou (black, brown,
Turkey Tail Feathers
Goose Biots (black, brown,
Gold Tinsel (oval, flat,
Brass & Copper
Beadheads, & lead dumb-bell eyes, varied sizes
Krystal Flash (pearlesent)
Brass & Copper Wire, a
few different sizes
Scud Back, or any substitute
flexible rubber-plastic material (olive, brown, clear)
Antron yarn (cream, brown,
tan, rust, olive)
"NICE-E-TIES", BUT NOT "NECESSITIES"
Larvae Lace (black, brown,
Rainys Float foam or
the craft foam mention above
Wood Duck or substitute
I could create a spin-off
article solely devoted to dubbing and blends (& probably will someday) but I will keep
to the basics for purposes of this essay. One can carry many dubbing blends, varieties,
colors, and the like, however, there are a few mixtures that are well worth the space in
your kit. If you can only carry one container, consider SLF. SLF comes in a rainbow of
endless colors and a myriad of consistencies. From heavier fibers for large bodied salmon
flies to micro-thin fibers that dub onto a size 22 hook with ease, SLF could easily be a
tiers only choice for dubbing. If you wish to carry other dubbings, consider colored
mixtures including rabbit fur dubbing & squirrel fur dubbing. Rabbit and squirrel are
too hard to beat when it comes to natural fur dubbings.
Caddis Larvae Green
With the above colors of
dubbing, you can custom blend almost any shade or variant needed on the stream or while
traveling. It really isnt necessary to travel with your whole dubbing collection
when just a few basic shades are required. Even the above list may be over-doing it
TYING THREAD COLORS
Generally, spools of size 6
& 8 will do the trick. Phil Strobel suggests picking your favorite 2 colors and
consider the rest extras, packing them only if you have room.
Common Tying Thread
Colors To Pack
This is another area where I
could follow a tangent to never-never-land. Suffice it to say that an assortment of dry
fly, wet fly, scud, and streamer hooks to suite your pattern choices should be packed. I
use a Tiemco Hook Organizer to store and index all my hooks. All I have to do is pick it
up from my tying bench and put it in my tying kit. I have seen others use small stackable
containers or old film canisters.
I have collected a couple
ideas and have adapted them to my tying habits.
A combo- material
brush/dubbing teaser/hook sharpener/bodkin. Sharpener: Glue emory paper on the flat handle
of a toothbrush. Dubbing Teaser: Glue the hook-side of velcro to the backside of the
toothbrush head. Bodkin: Drill a hole in the end of the handle, insert a sturdy darning
needle. Epoxy in place.
A Safe Razorblade Caddy.
Take one of those flat, flexible pizza-shop magnets from your refrigerator and cut it in
half. Place your razorblades between the two magnet halves. The magnetic surfaces keep
those pesky razorblades from disappearing in your tying kit and causing havoc with your
White Foam Surface. I
recently have stumbled across the sheet craft foam used in hopper and ant patterns as
being a great surface for the traveling tying kit. I have cut a white, 11 x 17 inch sheet
in half and now use it for a matte under my tying vise. Being white, it provides a perfect
non-glare bright, backdrop to tie against and once you have finished your fly, you can
stick it in the foam surface so the wind doesnt blow it away or you dont brush
it off onto the ground, making it hard to locate. Its also very flexible, so you can
fold it up and pack it away in your kit without taking up too much space.
By the way, the white craft
foam can be had for a mere $0.79 cents per sheet at any local craft store and comes in
many bright and earth-tone colors. It also makes an adequate flybox foam replacement when
youre in a pinch. There could be considered a downside to the white tying foam, it
packs alot of static. I personally don't mindstatic, as it aids in holding materials in
front of me as I tie, (especially outdoors), however, when it comes time to clean-up, one
may not appeal to the "sticky" nature of the static. Its your call.
Invest In Baggies
This how-to article would not
be complete without discussing the packaging, storing and quantities of the materials you
choose to pack with you. Without a doubt, zip-lok(r) baggies are the most useful,
convenient, and inexpensive of storage devices. Be sure to buy the ones that have the
little white patch of white so that you can write on the baggy, indicating the contents
inside. I know, some of you are thinking, "the baggy is see-thru, why would you want
to write the contents on the outside?" If youre extra-finnicky, you will
probably have your feathers separated and sorted by size ahead of time, so by writing the
sizes of hackle feathers on the outside of the baggy takes the guesswork out later.
Finally, you dont need
to pack a heck of alot of each material. Think of it this way: an average tyer can kick
out 6-8 flies per hour. If you tie for one hour on stream and one hour in the hotel room
each day you are on a trip, the equates to only 12-16 flies per day. On a five day trip,
that equals 60-80 flies for the whole trip. Figure how much material you would need for 12
flies per day. It isnt much, so dont get greedy on your material quantities.
Generally, cutting your fur
patches in half, leaving one at home and one in your tying kit works well. Plus,
youll always have some of your material at your tying bench without robbing your
tying kit. Same goes for feathers and craft material. Take just a small portion of each
material for your kit. Generally, most materials can be easily portioned off without
damaging the quality of the originally material. Below are some simple rules to follow
when completing your tying kit:
Store hooks in a small,
hard-plastic, compartmentalized and secure container, like a midge fly-box. Label the
outside of the box indicating the hook size and style. The last thing you want are hooks
escaping in the innards of your kit.
Select prime feathers from
your necks in sizes 10-18. Store them in baggies. Whole necks take up too much room in a
What you put in your kit,
leave in your kit. When it comes time to quickly pack for a trip, you wont need to
scurry around looking for materials.
Replenish the materials once
you use them.
Dont take from your
tying kit to supply your tying bench. Always treat your bench as the supply depot.
Pack material to tie no more
than two-dozen flies per day.
When wondering whether or
not you have all the material you need, think of your favorite 12 patterns or so, then be
sure pack those materials. Add in extra materials for those flies if you plan to fish them