Suggested Fly Tying Materials for Beginners (& Where to Buy Them!)
You don't need a lot of materials to get started with fly tying. Basically, you need 3 things: hooks, thread, and feathers. With just those 3 materials, you can tie flies that will catch you lots of fish for the rest of your life. This being FlyTyingYarn.com, we'll also toss in a recommendation for adding a 4th material to that lineup: yarn.
There are many different sizes, shapes, and weights of hooks. I would say that size is the factor that you need to worry about the most. I most often use size 12 hooks. The higher the number of the size (14, 16, 18, 20, etc.), the smaller the hook. (Except for when you're looking at bigger hooks for bass and saltwater fish. Those are on a slightly different scale, like 2/0, 6/0, 8/0, etc., and the bigger that first number, the bigger the hook. But all trout fishing is done on hooks that are sized according to that first scale.) I find size 12 to be a good all-around trout fly, especially for the tenkara-style flies I tie and fish with.
Hooks have various shapes to them. There are hooks shapes that are optimized for the different categories of flies: dries, wets, nymphs, streamers, etc. Some shapes have longer straight sections, while others are all curves. Some shapes are optimized for use with a bead. I'm sure some hook shapes are better optimized to hold fish than others, but they all seem to work just fine for me.
Hooks come both barbed and barbless. 100% of my personal fishing is catch and release, so I fish only barbless hooks. If you are fishing to keep (eat) the fish you catch, go ahead and fish with a barbed hook if you want to. Barbed hooks can be de-barbed by crushing the barb in fishing pliers/hemostats or in the jaws of your tying vise.
Hooks also come in various weights of wire. A hook made from heavier wire (e.g., a heavy nymph hook) will sink faster than a hook made from lighter wire (e.g., a dry fly hook). In the small (and I do mean SMALL), pocket water mountain streams I like to fish, I don't notice much of a difference.
Hooks I Use
All of my hooks are barbless, and just about all of them are made by either Firehole Outdoors or Moonlit Fly Fishing. Both of these companies make a variety of barbless hooks, and both also happen to be located within a few hours of me, which I like. Here are some of the Firehole hooks I like:
And here are some of the Moonlit hooks I like:
But I've used about half a dozen different hooks from each company, and I've caught fish on all of them.
I've used UNI, UTC, and Semperfli threads for fly tying. They all work well, and which one you decide to go with is largely a matter of personal preference. Thread thickness is also, to a degree, personal preference. I've found 70 denier (or 8/0) and 140 denier (or 6/0) to be sizes that work well for me for the kinds of flies I tie (size 12 tenkara/wet flies).
My personal thread preference is UTC Ultra Thread in the 70 denier thickness. I like how the Ultra Thread lays flat on the hook. I found that when I was using a cheap bobbin (the thing that holds spools of thread), I'd occasionally break the 70 denier thread. Once I upgraded to a good bobbin (Rite Ceramic Bobbin), I never broke any.
- UTC Ultra Thread 70 Denier
- UTC Ultra Thread 140 Denier
I go through phases where I favor one kind of hackle or one specific kind of feather more than another, but there are a handful that I regularly rotate through.
I use Whiting feathers for nearly all of my stiff hackle flies. The Whiting 100 Packs are what I get. Here they are for sale at a few different online retailers:
- J. Stockard Fly Fishing
- Feather-Craft Fly Fishing
- Feather Emporium – The interesting thing about this site is that they let you choose any 3 colors to include in their 100 Packs.
- Bob Marriott's Fly Fishing Store
I use the ginger, black, and grizzly colors a lot.
I'll also occasionally get other stiff hackle feathers in small quantities off of eBay.
And here are some materials I use for my soft hackle flies, along with where you can buy them:
- Wapsi Hen Saddle Patches (I like black and speckled brown colors.)
- Nature's Spirit Premium Partridge (I use the natural color.)
- Hareline Ringneck Pheasant Skin
Take your pick! We've got a lot to go around.