Almost every fly fisher, doing this sport for a while, eventually starts tying his own flies. There are many reasons to do so and it is easy to get started. All those fly tying tools might seem confusing at first and without any help, it can be hard to find the right equipment. You might look for the best fly tying kit as a whole package, or consider buying everything separately, to comply your own fly tying starter kit. Whatever you go for, this buyers guide got you covered with short reviews and recommendations.
Why You Should Start Fly Tying
While beginners in this sport probably always start with flies out of the store, there are many reasons why a lot of fly fisherman start to tie their own flies eventually. The most convincing one could be, that tying yourself can save you quite a lot of money. When you start this sport, the $3 per fly might not seem a lot to you, but over the time you surely realized, how quickly flies get eaten by bushes and trees, with no chance of getting them back. After a while, those $3 you spend surely add up and you might start thinking why you pay $3 for something that only contains a hook surrounded by other cheap materials. If you add up the material costs of a basic fly, you probably end up asking yourself:
What do you pay the other $2.80 for?
And that is a good question! The answer is, besides marketing, packaging and other stuff you do not really need, you pay someone a big amount of money for tying those flys! Well, if he does a good job and has mastered this profession, by all means, that is justified, but spending that much money on Walmart flies is not.
And now let me tell you something even better: Fly tying is fun! There are actually people out there, enjoying tying more than fishing! Next to easily copy classics, like wooly buggers, you can start to create your own designs, test and improve them. There is nothing comparable to catching your first fish on a self-tied fly, or discover a new pattern that works better than everything you bought before.
So why not start a new hobby and at the same time, save money?
Should You Buy A Fly Tying Kit
Well this question is really up to you, but I will try to outline the pros and cons, so your decision is easier. Starting with the money aspect again:
Buying a fly tying kit is usually cheaper than getting everything separately.
However, companies obviously do not lose money on those kits and that is only possible because they use fairly cheap fly tying tools and fly tying materials. As a beginner, you might not really care and maybe not even notice, that the vise that comes with your cheap kit looks like trash next to a proper one.
Why should you bother buying a kit then?
Starting out with this hobby, there is a good chance you never tied a fly before. So how do you know you like it? Wouldn’t it be annoying to spend that much money on high-quality tools and releasing two weeks in that this is just not for you? Well, although it is unlikely that you do not enjoy fly tying, there is a chance, therefore a risk you waste money. If you get the best fly tying kit (yes, not all are that horrible), it can easily last you the first few month and once you know you gonna stick to self-tying, you can slowly replace the tools with better ones. Sounds not too bad right?
That being said, you do not have to choose between the best fly tying kit and the most expensive tools money can buy. There are options in between that are definitely worth considering.
Once you know what exactly you need, to be well-set up for your first fly patterns it is easy to find fair priced tools, that are made from decent quality. All in all, they will be more expensive than a fly tying starter kit, but will last you longer and beat most of the products included in such kits. And anyway, if you do the math and consider how affordable the fly tying supplies are, you will produce new flies at almost no cost which will save you tons of money long term.
To sum it up quickly, I recommend one of the following options for fly tying beginners:
- Buy a good fly tying starter set
- Buy a good tool set and choose the materials yourself
- Buy every tool and material separately, for a slightly higher price
How you decide here is totally up to you, but in the following text, I will first present you the best fly tying kits for beginners, followed by a list of tools that you would need if you buy everything separately. I will also include a brief description of what you will use them for and a recommendation, of what is worth buying. So however you decide, it will be worth reading the whole post.
The Best Fly Tying Starter Kit – All In One
So you decided to go the slightly easier way and get a fly making kit, including all the stuff you need. Since you do not want something that breaks in your hands after the first few flies, I definitely do not recommend buying the cheapest fly tying kit you can find. I will first show you a good fly tying kit, which includes (almost) everything you need, followed by a tool set, which includes only the tools. If you want to go for the latter, you can just pick your materials as described further down and continue reading on the best fly tying tool set.
Creative Angler Deluxe Fly Tying Kit
- Includes all basic tools you will need
- Includes decent materials to tie classic flies
- A free case and instruction DVD can’t hurt
As someone tying flies for a bit longer now, I was always a bit skeptical about starter kits and never bought one for myself. However, I read some good things about this complete set on the internet, and since I had a friend who was always amazed by self-tied flies, but never actually made the jump to try it himself, I ordered that kit. Since I did not want to ruin his start with low-quality stuff, I took a look at everything myself, before handing it over.
Surprisingly most of the tools are pretty decent. No, you can not expect top-notch quality for that price, but to tie your first flies and see if you like it, they sure do the trick. Nothing outstanding, but also nothing really bad, just average tools that will work for you when you start out. As a beginner, you have the luxury of not being spoiled about your equipment and while a seasoned fly-tier would probably not even touch a tying kit, this one will be perfectly fine for someone’s first self-tied flies! The only thing I am missing here is a whip finish, but don’t worry you can get one really cheap separately.
The fly tying supplies included are basic stuff, nothing exotic and overly expensive obviously but if you are looking for something like that, you probably won’t consider a pre-packed kit anyway. You will be able to tie a few classic flies, that are pretty enough to land you some fish. The DVD can help you out with that, but I would recommend checking out my section about how to get started and picking patterns further down.
The Best Fly Tying Tool Set
There is another option, which I definitely prefer to buying an all-in-one kit like the one shown above. It consists of buying a tool set and pick the materials yourself. A lot of tool sets include equipment from surprisingly good quality, some of them might even last you years in your fly-tying career.
In addition to that, the lack of tying materials is almost a benefit in my opinion. Why is that?
Deciding on a pattern and picking the materials is a big part of the fun!
One of the reasons, why self-tying is so popular, is the creativity you can act out while you do it. Ever looked at a fly and thought:
I would have done that differently!
Well, now you can and most fly tying materials are dirt-cheap! Think about it, why limit your creativity with the boring materials that are included in pre-packed sets? Choosing them yourself is way more fun, but I will write about that further down.
Dr. Slick Fly Tying Tool Set
- Includes every tool you need in HIGH quality
- No fly tying supplies and no vise included
I won’t bother describing every tool here, since all of them are made from equal quality. Honestly, the tools included here are the best I ever saw in a kit. Well made equipment, that will last you quite a while. The scissors are extremely sharp, the bobbin works perfectly with every thread I tried so far and all in all there is really nothing to complain about.The only thing you will need to buy separately is the fly tying materials and a vise and you are ready to tie your first creations. Check further down for a fly tying vise recommendation.
As stated earlier, for a beginner that can’t be bothered with buying everything separately, this is the way to go. You will work with those tools for a while and they will outlast every other fly making kit I saw so far. If you would buy all of those tools separately, you would spend way more for the same quality.
Build Your Own Fly Tying Starter Kit
The third way to get started in fly tying is buying everything you need separately. All in all, this will be more expensive than the options described before, but if you choose every part carefully, the outcome should be the best fly tying kit. Although I would not recommend buying the best of the best as a beginner, simply because the prices are almost open end in this industry and you should be really sure that you like this hobby, before dropping that much money on it.
Getting Everything Separately – Is It Worth The Effort?
Well, that highly depends on your budget. If you do not plan on spending more than the price of that tool set shown above, getting the one I recommended is definitely the better choice. The quality of the included tools is way better than the stuff you would get if you use that money to buy everything separately. However, if your budget is higher than that, it can definitely make sense to pick the equipment yourself. That way you can decide how much you want to spend for each part and if you picked the right stuff, you won’t see yourself forced to replace something for quite a few years. And anyway, assembling your personal best fly tying kit is a lot of fun!
The Best Fly Tying Tools -What Do I Need To Start Tying Flies
There are quite a few tools needed if you want to make your start as smooth as possible. However, I will only cover the basic things that are definitely sufficient for tying your own flies. I will give you a brief and simple description what they are needed for and a recommendation of which product will serve you well. No matter if you are going to buy all of them to compile the best fly tying starter kit, or if you bought a kit a while ago and want to replace certain tools, this list got you covered.
The Fly Vise
Starting out with the most important piece of equipment of a fly making kit, the fly vise. It is made to hold the hook in place, on which you are going to tie. You want it to be sturdy enough to not wobble around when you put tension on the thread. Rotating jaws (the things that hold your hook) are nice but not a must-have, many commercial fly tiers work without this feature. The vise should be able to hold all sizes of hooks. Since this is the part you are going to drop the most money on, it should be nothing you have to replace just because it doesn’t fit your needs anymore. Get the right one in the first place and maybe use it for a lifetime.
Griffin Odyssey Spider
This one offers literally everything you might need. Griffin is a big brand in the fly tying industry and known for its quality products. The jaws hold any size of hook and although it’s their entry level product, you won’t see a need to upgrade during the next years. It is made in the USA and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Get this rotary fly tying vise and never worry about one again. I have it for a while now and always enjoyed using it. It might seem pricey to you as a beginner, but trust me, if there is one thing where you should bite the bullet and spend a little more, it is a proper vise.
Griffin Superior 2A
If this is simply out of your budget have a look at the Griffin Superior 2A. It costs a little less, lacks some features but will still serve you ten times better than every vise you will get in a pre-packed fly tying kit. The price/performance is as good as in every other product they offer and you can’t really go wrong Griffin.
The Best Fly Tying Bobbin
The next thing you want to have is a bobbin. This little thing is made to hold the thread you are using, while at the same time holding it tight enough to provide steady tension. The thread runs through a small pipe, made out of ceramic or stainless, making it far easier to position said thread on the hook and where you want it to be. In the beginning, one is definitely enough, but soon you will realize that changing threads constantly can be pretty annoying, so fly tiers usually own more than one of these.
Same as for the vise, to pay a little more on bobbins will pay out in the long run. There is nothing more annoying than a bobbin that cuts off your thread in the middle of a fly recipe. It will make you rage eventually and can ruin the fun.
With around $25 for the standard version, this one might cost a little more than all the other cheap ones out there but it is one of the best fly tying bobbins I ever used. The one thing that you might not even notice, if you never used another one before, is how perfectly adjustable it is, giving you awesome thread control.
Everything is made from high quality and you will never feel the need to use a different one. It might take a little longer to change spools but trust me, that extra time will be definitely worth it during the fly tying process. Do yourself a favor and get this one.
The Best Fly Tying Scissors
Another tool you will need are scissors. You will cut fly tying materials, thread, or even wire. You might think now:
Well, can’t I just use the scissors I already have at home?
The answer is, this obviously depends on the scissors you already have. Are they small enough to precisely cut fine thread? Are they sharp enough so they definitely do it on the first try? If you are unsure about that, I recommend just getting a new sharp pair. They are usually really affordable with around 10 bucks. Eventually, you will probably buy another pair, for cutting thin wire or certain other fly tying supplies, but this will be further down the road.
Dr. Slick All Purpose Scissors
Nothing much to say here, besides it’s a great pair of scissors for fly tying, probably impossible to break during reasonable use and you can sharpen it once it gets dull. For around $10 you get yourself a companion, that you could use for a lifetime of fly tying. Sounds like a good deal right? You can choose between a curved and a straight version and the straight will work just fine.
The Best Whip Finisher
Using a whip finisher, although it is not necessary, will make your life a lot easier. It is used to tie the last “knot” on the fly. Once you are satisfied with your creation, a final step is needed to hold everything in place: The whip finish.
If you wonder how to use a whip finisher, read further down where all the basics will be explained.
Dr. Slick Whip Finisher
Another Dr. Slick product on this list and no, they do not pay me money for that (I wish), they just produce good quality, fair priced tools. I use a lot of their stuff myself and keep recommending it to friends regularly. It is a basic rotary whip finisher, that will do the job just fine. Nothing fancy, no unnecessary features, just something that will do the job. What else could you ask for? Get the 4-inch version and you will be setup, to finish your flies like a pro.
Which Materials Should You Buy
As stated earlier, one thing I do not like about pre-packed kits is, that they already include fly tying supplies. This limits your creativity! The better way to start out as a beginner is to use the hundreds of recipes that are already out there, pick a few you would like to try your own, check out what materials you need and go ahead and buy them. It will be way more fun tying flies, that you actually find interesting, than using already provided and most of the time boring fly tying materials in pre-packed kits.
You probably already know the names of your favorite flies, so go ahead and google:
“[name of the fly] recipe”
“[name of the fly] tutorial”
I guarantee, if it has a name, you will find it online, with a description of how to tie it yourself. This way you already start to get a feeling of what materials you need for certain flies, you will learn their names and your start in this hobby will be way more interesting.
Inspiration And Tutorials
If you have no idea what you want to tie and the flies you already have aren’t what you are looking for, here are a few resources that will give you some inspiration:
Steelhead Alley Fly Tying – Step By Step tying instructions for salmon and trout flies.
FrankenFly – Where Fly Tying Comes To Life!
A great selection of Nymph and Dry Flies summed up by Fishtales Outfitting
Fly Tying Step By Step – Fly patterns- What you need to tie them and tutorials.
Youtube User Scflytying – Great video tutorials for popular flies.
If you want to see what’s possible and is pretty much the end-game of this beautiful hobby, check out addictedtovise.com. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Best Place To Buy Fly Tying Materials
Once you picked a couple of patterns you find appealing and figured out what you need to tie them, you are probably wondering where to get all this stuff. This is not as hard as you might think. You can go to your local store and buy them, check one of the several online stores, that offer exclusively fly tying supplies, or just go on Amazon and search for the materials and I guarantee you will find what you are looking for. This is really up to you, there is not really a best place to buy fly tying materials.
How to get started – The Basics
You got all the tools you need, you picked the flies you want to tie and gathered all the necessary materials, so what is the next step? Tying obviously!
Although a few fly pattern tutorials cover the basics, there are three techniques you should learn correct right from start. Since you will use them for every fly you are going to tie, you should practice them as much as possible.
How To Tie A Jam Knot
This knot is used to attach the thread, you are going to use for your fly, onto the hook. After you placed the hook in the vise and loaded your bobbin, this is the first thing you will do
The Pinch Wrap
This technique is used to hold the materials in place and is basically just how you wrap the thread around the hook while placing feathers or hair at the right positions.
How To Use A Whip Finisher Tool
The final step of fly tying. Once you are done and the fly looks like you want it to be, you are going to use your whip finisher tool to set the last knot. This can also be done by hand, but once you are used to the tool, you will never want to try that, trust me.
I could describe those techniques as much as I want, it will never come close to how much easier it will be for you if you just watch this great video. Seeing something definitely beats a written description, at least here it does. Therefore I recommend watching this video, which perfectly explains all of those techniques and I also highly recommend, to check out the other videos made by this guy. Some really interesting stuff and great to learn for beginners.
The Best Fly Tying Books
There are tons of books out there covering this topic. Type “fly tying books” into google and you literally get over one million results. There a lot of good ones, that are definitely worth the money, but most of them just cover basic stuff that you can find with a quick google search. I own a couple, read them all, but there is only one that I still open regularly and is in my opinion, the best fly tying book for beginners.
The Fly-Tying Bible
If there is one book you are going to get, make it this one. Like I said earlier, a lot of them are just recycled content, but this one actually offers value that is worth the money. For $15 you get 100 salmon and trout fly patterns with beautiful colored pictures and tutorials of how to tie them. They cover every skill level, so as a beginner you will have an easy time starting out. The descriptions and step by step guides are really simple to understand and I guarantee, you will find a lot of flies you want to tie in there.
I know this a lot of information to process, especially when you went into this article with the purpose of just buying the best fly tying starter kit and in the process of reading decided, you want to go the slightly more complicated way. If you made it this far into the article, let me tell you once again, it is worth it! Especially the last step of choosing patterns you like and buying your own materials. Do it right from the start and you will have a lot more fun while avoiding all the trouble with cheap tools and useless materials. I promise you, there is a really high chance you will get addicted to this awesome hobby, which is almost as fun as fly fishing itself.
How did you get into fly tying? How did you start? What is your favorite pattern? Or anything else you feel like sharing with us, leave a comment!
8 thoughts on “The Best Fly Tying Starter Kit”
Thank you for this great post, tons of stuff I did not know before! I came into this post with the intention to find the best fly tying kit for beginners, but I am definetly going the way of buying everything separately now.
I was wondering, is it necessary to get a hair stacker right from the start? I watched some fly tying videos before and saw some people using it. Do you think one is mandatory for a fly tying starter kit? If so, what would be your recommendation?
Thanks a lot!
thanks a lot for your reply.
Good choice on getting everything separately, it will beat even the best fly fishing kit out there!
For the hair stacker, no, you do not really need one right from the start. However, it is definitely a nice tool, that is worth getting eventually. If you feel like buying one, have a look at the one made by Dr. Slick. Really affordable and it does the job well. You can also check google for instructions, of how to build a hair stacker yourself. You might be surprised how easy it is.
Have fun with your new hobby!
Thanks a lot! I was close to buying an all in one fly tying package for my son, but will definitely get the tool set you recommend now. Glad that I did not buy one of those cheap fly tying kits I initially planned to order.
Awesome seeing you mention Frankenfly. One of my favorite fly tying blogs out there.
Great guide and although I am not really a beginner, I can tell that this is a perfect place to start.
Nice article. I wish the tools were not made of brass in kits. Call me crazy but I don’t like dealing with brass due to the lead content. I do see that Loon now offers a tool kit that is powder coated but it $20 or so higher than the Dr. Slick kit.
Thank you so much for this great advise. I have been looking at Kota online n reading reviews stating a lot of things you are talking about . I plan on making my own kit n doing it right the first time. Also going to find The Fly-Tying Bible : )
Tammy Klon : )
I really liked this article, but I wish I could have read this back when I got started. (A LONG TIME AGO) The fly tying bible is a great book ! I got started tying in an activities period in Jr. High School. Two of my favorite teachers taught the class, in different years I took the class both years. My parents bought me a kit from E. Hille Angler Supply House, the first year for Christmas. It has developed into quite a large kit that required a complete roll top desk to hold it all. I still have most of my original tools even after 30 + years of this. The internet would have been great for learning this back then, but fortunately I had some really good books. You asked what my favorite pattern is, well it is two, a Light Cahill and Slate Drake dry’s for central Pa. trout. I tied on and off the first few years, but did not learn to fly fish till I was in my 20’s. I tied for a neighbor and my cousin at the beginning, then later for myself as I learned to fly fish. From the beginning I just liked the relaxation of tying and the satisfaction of making something useful to catch fish. I did not have anyone else in this hobby with me for a lot of years and had to learn on my own. We also did not have internet videos back then, what a great time we live in now, you can learn almost anything you want to.
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