Essential Tools

by Jonathan

  • Vice – Today you can buy an adequate vice for as little as £20, but you can pay hundreds.  Buy the best you can afford.
  • Scissors – You will need a pair of fine pointed very sharp scissors. Embroidery scissors are good. A good pair should last you for years as long as you don’t go cutting wire with them.
  • Bobbin Holder – The early models had no ceramic inserts in the tube and eventually started fraying the threads. It is worth the extra cost to buy ceramic models.
  • Hackle Pliers – Basic models are not expensive and will do the job adequately. I still have my original one that my mentor made for me from thick wire, and it still works.
  • Dubbing Needle – I still use hat pins. They are handy for cleaning out varnish from the hook eye and applying varnish to the head of the finished fly. You can buy the proper tool cheaply.
  • Threader – An indispensable tool for feeding your thread onto the bobbin holder.
  • Whip Finish Tool – If you can use one of these then use it. If you cannot , tie off with the traditional double half hitch ( like me ).
  • Varnish – You only need clear to start with. Apply with dubbing needle. Very good advice is to remember to put the lid straight back on the bottle when finished.
  • Beeswax – Indispensable for dubbing.
  • Pliers – A pair of small fine nosed pliers for de-barbing hooks
  • Dubbing Brush – Used for raising dubbed hair. Make one easily yourself using an old lollipop stick and glueing velcro to both sides at one end.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Wayne Marx July 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Hi Dave,
Just found your site and I love it. I used to tie flies all the time and just gave up when i was about 19 but have recently found my passion again for fly fishing and fly tying. Looking forward to some more lessons.

DaveC July 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Hi Bill
Thanks for your comments all the way way from Tennessee. I know only too well how diificult it can be to pick up techniques from ‘ still illustrations’. You will find that once you have mastered the basics it is much easier to follow books. Just remember that nothing is laid down in tablets of stone. By experimenting not only will you find how to do things but how not to do them. Hasten slowly and enjoy the experience.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

DaveC July 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Hi Tom
Thanks for your e-mail. Here in the UK. we dont have the luxury of freshwater bass and pan fish so I am not familiar with tying flies to fish for them. My pattern book does have the odd dressing for bass flies and one of the easier patterns to tie is as follows( tied similar to Woolley Bugger,
Beginners lesson 12) Hook size long shank 4. Thread black. Tail black marabou. Body black wool. Palmered black cock hackle. Chain bead eyes optional. Can also be tied in white, brown, olive and red.
Hope this helps
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

DaveC July 10, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Hi Steve
You do seem to have no luck with the ceramics. I have had the same problem on occasion but when you do get a good one it is worth its weight in gold. I am still using some of the original bobbin holders from the 70s and they are still going strong. Later models purchased have had a limited life and I make no comment on where they were probably made. My Flytying den(The Bunker) is carpeted which probably helps.
Just relax and enjoy your fly tying.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

DaveC July 10, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Hi Eddie
Thanks for your comments. I hope the moths did not get at your flytying materials in the loft. The little sods get everywhere. Last year I had a lttle adventure into the loft to retrieve some heron quills that I had saved some years ago. Despite the efforts to make them moth proof all I had left were wing skeletons and stalks. Lesson 1 always put in plenty moth balls. Hope you get on OK. if you have any queries come back to me.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

Eddie Thomson July 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm

hi dave, can i start by saying what a fabulous resource for any fly tying beginner like myself as one of your admirers way north of the border. your well explained demonstrations of intricate fly tying make it a joy to watch and has inspired me to get my old flt tying kit out of the loft and give it a whirl.
keep up the good work dave.

Kindest regards, Eddie.

steve stern July 4, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Dave can I flag up a problem with bobbins with solid ceramic tubes as opposed to the ceramic lined/insert metal tubes. Because they are china when dropped, as inevitably they are, they dont like it! I now have a device for cutting thread lol. I wouldn’t buy another.

tom foster July 4, 2009 at 12:03 am

Hi Dave your lessons have inspired me to do fly tying and so far ive had very few problems. My only question is how to tie bass and panfish flys cause thats realy all i fish for.

thnx for your time

Tom foster

Bill P. July 3, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Hello Dave, Thank you for the lessons I have just finished the beginners and now am starting the intermediate. I am self taught , read alot of books&magizanes but it is great to have something to watch in motion . will keep on watching here in Waynesboro Tennessee U.S.A .,Thanks again Bill

DaveC June 29, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Hi Cal
Breaking thread. There are several possible reasons.
There are 2 common thicknesses of thread 6/0 and 8/0. The 6/0 is the heavier of the two and best to start with. Most common available is from Unithread in spools 100m. and 200m.I use mostly black and olive.
Another common cause of breakages is a worn bobbin holder, best to use a ceramic tip…….expensive but worth it in the long run. Adjust the tension to allow free movement of the thread. If you are in the UK Sparton threads are good.
I rarely dry fly fish but use Leeda fly spray flotant from time to time.
Hope this helps.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

Cal June 29, 2009 at 5:01 am

Thank you for the videos and lessons. You’ve inspired me to try my hand at it. One problem I’m having is that the thread keeps breaking when I wind it or tie it off. Bad thread, bad bobbin, or bad technique?

Also, what do you recommend to keep dry flies afloat?

DaveC June 19, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Hi Jandre
Thanks for your comments all the way from South Africa. It makes the effort of doing the lessons so worth while when they are appreciated.
Happy fishing
DaveC.and the Team

Jandre*** June 18, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Helo David im from South Africa and love your lesons thank you

DaveC June 13, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Hi Edwin
Thanks for your comment.
I always use beeswax when making a dubbed body. I usually give the tying thread a run through the wax before i start the fly. After tying in the wire rib I usually give the thread another run through the wax before spinning the fur to be dubbed . When spinning the fur on to the thread spin only in one direction, apply a little fur at a time. Once you are happy with the dubbed body wind on the wire or braid ribbing. In cold weather you may have to warm the wax in your hand.
Hope this helps
Happy Fishing
DaveC. and the Team

Edwin June 10, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Hello David,

Learned a lot from your lessons (loosing a fly just means I got an excuse to make another one).
I was wondering about the use of the beeswax.
Before using the dubbing I usually melt it a little and apply it to the wire. Then I use the dubbing. It works for me, but I was wondering if that is the right way to use it?


Andrew Schofield June 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Hi there,

Was wondering if you could please tie a bloody buchter if you would i’m 18 years old and love fly tying please help thanks

Best Regards


topflyman March 29, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Hi bradley
sorry I have not responded to your comment.
I have never had the inclination to tie flies for pike. On my club waters if I was seen thrashing the waters with one I would drummed out of the club, even though there are pike in the lakes. Sorry but I cannot justify the purchase of the necessary materials. If you subscribe t FlyFishing and Flytying magazine they regularly do features on pike flies.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

bradley February 9, 2009 at 10:28 pm

plese can u tie some pike flies as am inspired by catching pike on the fly

David Cammiss February 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Hi David
Thanks for your comments. We had discussed somehow integrating the lesson on tools, due to the number of comments,with one of the flies. It did not fit into the time frame.We have put together info on tools and hackles which we intend to enlarge on as time permits.
Hope you manage to get the flytying material you are after. If you have problems identifying any item come back to me.
Happy Fishing
DaveC.and the Team

David Singleton February 5, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Thought I’d make the first comment. Thanks Dave for setting out all the tools you need to start tying flies. Not sure whether you planned to do this anyway or if it was in response to my request in Beginners 1 for advice on what materials and tools you need to start. Either way it seems logical. I can’t believe you do all this just for the love of it. Anyway it is much appreciated, and when I get started I’m sure I’ll appreciate it even more. I’m in the middle of negotiations to buy a load of equipment and materials from someone selling on behalf of someone elses estate which is a bit sad (but the money will go to charity – which is good). Apparently the guy was a real fanatic. Seeing the equipment here made me realise what is missing from what is otherwise a wonderful buy. Thanks again.

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