Article by Steve Schweitzer
Discussion of Quality
First and foremost, youíll find a gamut of quality in fly tying tools and materials.
As with any sport or hobby, the range of quality is from “unacceptably poor” to
“over-priced for what you get”. With any luck, this discussion will lead you down
the straight and narrow. In no way, shape or form can this article begin to train you
on how to look for quality material, youíll just have to go to a store and learn by
looking. However, there are some good tips in the materials section to help you get
started in selecting quality material. Get the best you can afford.
Keep this in mind: Don’t let your equipment hinder your performance. A friend of
mine who is an avid bicyclist and racer lives by this motto. But it didn’t come without
the enduring training and quest for knowledge of his sport. The lesson to be learned
is in his years of experience with his equipment. It is his experience that formed his
life-long belief that inferior equipment leads to inferior results. How true, especially
in the micro-fine art of fly tying.
Quality of the Vise
Specifically, when it comes to vises, don’t skimpÖI saidÖDONíT SKIMP! Other
than possibly the quality of the hook, a vise is the critical tool which holds the
hook securely without marring the finish, allowing the fly tyer to maneuver around
the fly effortlessly. Invest in an above-average vise and the frustrations experienced
by a new fly tyer will be minimized. There have been many articles written about
vises and this expose’ isn’t intended to out-do or even duplicate them, it is meant to
merely co-emphasize the importance of purchasing a quality vise. Some
considerations when looking for a quality vise are:
- Will the finish of the vise resist rust, corrosion and the occasional fly tying
glue spots that otherwise could seize the working movements?
- Does the vise come with the option of either a weighted pedestal or C-clamp base?
- Does the vise have true 360ƒ rotation, meaning the hook shank stays in the center
of the rotating vise jaw and hook?
- Does the vise jaw accept a wide range of hooks sizes, say 1/0 to size 22?
- Does the construction of the vise jaw limit the tyer’s mobility around the hook?
- Can you get replacement parts?
- Is there at least a 1-year warranty?
- Can you attach accessories to the vise, such as a bobbin holder or a tyer’s waste trap?
The Basic & Required Tools
- hackle pliers
- hair stacker
Weíve already discussed some of the qualities to look for when selecting a vise and the
same apply when looking for tools.
Your tying bobbin should allow for tension adjustment. Some incorporate fancy torque
devices and others simply bend in and out of shape, allowing the tension on the spool of
thread to be adjusted. The tube on the bobbin is another critical area to consider. Some
lesser quality bobbins have metal tubes with sharp openings which tend to sever the thread
more easily. Others have ceramic, Teflon, plastic or ruby inserts to prevent from shearing
the thread at the tubesí tip. These are the ones to seek. Additionally, consider the length
and thickness of the tube. If you will mostly be tying saltwater flies, a larger and longer
tube will accommodate the larger thread sizes you will tie with. On the other hand, a small
thin tube is great for tying midges and small size 22 flies.
A quality bodkin will have a sturdy needle firmly attached into the handle and the handle
should not be cylindrical in shape. That would allow the tool to roll right off your tying
table. Get tools where the handles are notched or octagonal in shape, preventing them
from rolling away.
Scissors will most likely be your second largest investment. Dull scissors make for
dull flies. Look for these qualities:
- Micro-serrated blades are nice, but not necessary. It sure helps to have those little
micro-serrated edges grasp the materials as one cuts, however.
- The finger loops should be large enough to accommodate your thumb and finger.
- The points should be sharp and not rounded. The sharp points allow you to get
into tight places to cut away excess material.
Hackle pliers come in many shapes, many innovative designs and many sizes. But over
the years Iíve stuck with the tried and true $3 kind. I look for a large loop to allow
rotating the pliers around the vise on a finger and strong, sturdy jaws that will clamp
the material without breaking it. Some plierís tips are rubber coated to assist in
grasping the materials.
A hair stacker comes in handy to align ends of deer hair and other long hair fibers like
moose, elk, bucktail, etc. The stacker should have an opening to accommodate a pencil-
thick stack of hair and the inner tube should move freely inside the outer tube. Some
stackers are a work of art in themselves and are prettier to look at than to use. Stackers
come in a wide variety of sizes, some big enough to hold all your tools! A $5-$10
stacker generally does the trick.