Fly tying information

fly tying

Dry Flys:

black gnat dry fly | blue dun dry fly | damsel dry fly | elk hair caddis dry fly | parachute dry fly | may fly dry fly | mosquito dry fly | royal coachman dry fly | tom thumb dry fly

Wet Flys:

52 buick wet fly | carey green wet fly | doc sprately wet fly | girdle bug wet fly | green skunk but wet fly | inch worm wet fly | kens dragon caddis wet fly | olindsay wet fly | pearl tied down minnow stealhead fly | shrimp wet fly | squamish poacher stealhead fly |

Happy fly tying and good luck trout fishing!

Fly tying is the process of producing an artificial fly to be used by anglers to catch fish via means of fly fishing. Probably the most concise description of fly tying is the one by Helen Shaw, a preeminent professional fly tier in Fly-Tying.

"Fly-tying is a simple process of binding various materials to a hook with thread.".[1]

Many fly-tyers consider fly tying an art, such as E. C. Gregg in introduction to How To Tie Flies.

"The object of this book will be throughout its entirety to teach in a practical manner the Art of Fly Tying in all its branches.”[2]

At the other end is the apparent view of A. K. Best, a well known professional fly tier and writer whose book, Production Fly Tying, suggests practical ways to streamline tying technique.[3] Best emphasizes that fly tying is also a science rooted in careful observation of fish and their prey, and then designing and tying artificial flies to replicate that prey to catch fish. One of the first and foremost of these efforts was by Preston Jennings, in his classic: A Book of Trout Flies.[4]

Fly tying requires some basic equipment, the appropriate materials for the fly pattern being tied and a fly pattern to follow or replicate. Fly tying equipment enables the fly tyer to efficiently and effectively assemble and secure the materials on the hook. Flying materials were originally limited to various furs, feathers, threads and hooks. Today there are literally dozens of different types of natural and synthetic materials used to tie flies.[5] Fly patterns represent the “recipe” required to create the fly. What hook size(s) types to use, what materials are to be used, what colors, in what sequence and by what methods are they assembled on the hook? These are the elements of fly patterns. Of patterns, there are thousands.

Hand-tied flies on the commercial market retail from less than a dollar to several dollars each. Fly tying is a challenging and rewarding hobby for some, a money-saving strategy for some fly fishermen, and a profitable commercial enterprise for the professional tyer. The professional, commercial fly tyer may produce upwards 3000 dozen flies annually, whereas the amateur fly tyer may tie only a few flies each season for personal use.[6]




Because the average fly is typically small, certain tools are needed for intricate work. According to Skip Morris, a veteran fly-tyer, there are several tools essential to the creation of fly. He lists essential tools as being: a vise to hold the hook of the fly to be tied, as well as bobbins, magnifying glass or hood, hackle pliers, hackle gauges, lights, hair stackers, and scissors. Other optional tools are pliers, toothpicks, bodkins, dubbing twisters, blenders, floss bobbins, whip finishers, wing burners, and bobbin threaders. For the novice fly-tyer concerned about the initial costs of equipment, although a vice is essential, many of the other tools can be replaced by a modicum of dexterity and common household items such as tweezers, nail scissors and a darning needle shoved into the cork from a bottle of wine. By using these tools tiers can create flies smaller than the size of an average human finger nail.


Fly tying materials can be almost anything. According to Morris, fly-tie material is basically anything that is placed on a fly, and there , flosses, tinsels, and a wide variety of synthetic


The hook determines the basic size and shape of each fly. Hooks come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, lengths, and weights, and the hook must be selected to complement the pattern being tied. Additionally, if the fly will be used in salt water, a corrosion-resistant material should be selected to prevent premature rust.

Fly Patterns

Since the first development of the fishing fly, many different patterns have been created. The Professional Fly Tying manual classifies flies into five main groups. Flies are usually classified as being wet, dry, streamer, or nymph. Although the classifications below denote the original intent of the designer of the fly (that it should float, sink or is intended to represent a particular food item)- in practice an angler may take a wet fly and fish it on the surface, or make a dry fly sink as needs demand. For an angler, rather than a fly tyer, a dry fly is one that is fished on the surface and a wet fly is one that is fished sub-surface - no matter what its designer intended. The main aim is to catch fish!

Dry Fly

A dry fly floats on the surface film of the water. They can imitate aquatic insects that have just emerged, insects that dapping on the surface of the water and depositing eggs, or those that have expired and fallen back into the water (spinners). Imitations of terrestrial insects that have accidentally fallen into the water are also tied as a dry fly.


A terrestrial is a dry or wet fly designed to imitate a terrestrial ground insect, including crickets, grasshoppers, ants, spiders, and beetles. Larger terrestrial creatures such as mice may also be tied as a terrestrial dry fly for use in bass fly fishing.

Wet Fly

A wet fly is a fly that is fished below the surface of the water. They are usually tied to imitate the adult or immature form of mobile aquatic insects. The wet fly category covers a vast array of sizes and patterns, from nymphs and streamers to crawfish, leeches, and freshwater shrimp.


The term Emerger refers to a wet fly that imitates the transitional form of an aquatic insect emerging from its nymphal cocoon into an adult, normally found anywhere from the river bottom to just below the surface. Emergers typically have small vertical wings, with a tail that trails down into the water.


The term nymph is a type of wet fly that imitates the immature form of an aquatic insect such as the mayfly, damselfly, and dragonfly. Nymphs comprise the major part of the diet of trout and salmon. Nymphs are normally fished subsurface, and are often employed to catch fish holding in deeper current. Nymphs can be weighted or unweighted, and with or without a beadhead of brass or tungsten. Un-weighted nymphs are employed in shallow water, while weighted or beadhead nymphs are used to reach the deeper reaches of a stream or river.

George Grant was an early pioneer of nymphs for trout. He began his innovative style of flytying in the early 1930s, and patented his unique method in 1939 (U.S. Patent No. 2,178.031). He was one of the first anglers to realize that large trout fed primarily beneath the surface on nymphs -- especially large stone flys -- and that one needed to imitate and learn to fish this insect-stage if one wanted to consistently catch large trout. In recognition for this work he received the Fly Fishing Federation’s coveted Buszek Awardin 1973.


A streamer is a type of wet fly that typically represents a bait fish or minnow. Though it can represent various creatures, streamers are usually constructed to represent minnows, sculpin, tadpoles, or other baitfish. Consequently, they tend to be fished in a more active fashion. Some are very beautiful, such as salmon or steelhead streamers. A certain percentage of artificial flies may never be fished, but are instead sought by collectors for their beauty and complexity.


There are many other types of fly that may be used, limited only by the imagination and skill of the individual fly-tyer. These include bass bugs, 'sliders', and 'poppers' - surface lures often made of cork, foam, or deer hair. They may be designed to imitate frogs, mice, or injured baitfish.

Other fly patterns are tied as wet flies in order to represent different subsurface aquatic creatures such as leeches, crawfish, freshwater shrimp, baby sunfish, or immature game fish such as trout or bass. Salt water patterns are often created to imitate a baitfish, sand flea, or other saltwater creature.

Common Patterns

There are many fly patterns in the world. A few of the more widely-recognized and common patterns are listed below:

Dry Fly

dry fly

Humpy, Royal Wulff, Adams, Hendrickson, Royal Coachman, Blue Dun, Light Cahill, Stimulator, Black Spinner, Trico and Red Tag


Klinkhammer, DHE, Shaving Brush, Cripple, Parachutte Adams


Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Montana Nymph, Flash Back Nymph, Diawl Bach (Little Devil)


March Brown, Muddler Minnow, Woolly Bugger, Woolly Worm, Invicta, Butcher, Mallard and Claret, Mrs Simpson


Matuka, Zonker, Lefty's Deceiver, Double Bunny, Clouser Deep Minnow


Gurgler (The Gurgler is a versatile surface fly for salt or fresh water, particularly striped bass), Crazy Charlie, Bass Bug, Merkin Crab, Deer Hair Mouse


Fly Tyer, a magazine dedicated to the art of tying flies.

See Also


  • Bates, Joseph D., Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. 1966
  • Grant, George F. (1972; 1981). Montana Trout Flies. ISBN 0250000016.
  • Morris, Skip.Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple. Portland, OR: Frank Amato Publications. 1992
  • Spittler, Marvin Peter, ed. Professional Fly Tying Manual. Waseca, Minn: Brown Publishing Company. 1941


  1. Shaw, Helen Fly-tying—Materials, Tools and Techniques, The Ronald Press Company, New York, page iii, 1963.
  2. Gregg, E. C., How To Tie Flies, A. S. Barnes and Company, New York, page vii, 1940.
  3. Best, A. K., Production Fly Tying, Pruett Publishing Company, Boulder, Colorado, Preface, 1989.
  4. Jennings, Preston J., A Book of Trout Flies, Crown Publishers, New York, Derrydale Press, Inc. 1935
  5. Wakeford, Jacqueline, Fly Tying Tools and Material, Lyons & Burford, Publishers, New York, Preface, 1992
  6. Best, A. K., Production Fly Tying, Pruett Publishing Company, Boulder, Colorado, Forward, 1989.

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