20 Steps to Faster Fly Tying

You get word that your favourite spot is just on fire. You plan to head out on your next day off but remember that a while back when you looked at the box you should take with you it was an unorganized jumble of torn patterns and bent hooks. You better get to the bench.

Here's 20 steps to speed up your tying and make your time at the vise more productive.

1. Keep your workspace neat and organized. There's nothing worse than having to spend your time cleaning up after your last sit-down at the bench. Keep your tools organized and handy and don't be too worried about throwing away a scrap of material from a previous session because you think you might use it somewhere else. If you're going to keep it, store it where it belongs or toss it away because you'll soon have more of these odds and ends creating clutter than you'll ever get round to using.

2. Make sure your area has adequate lighting, a comfortable tying position and a comfortable chair. Even an hour tying is fatiguing and having to stop because of eye or muscle strain defeats the purpose of production tying.

3. Keep your materials organized so you don't have to go hunting for them when needed. Whatever works best for you, be it storage boxes, zip sealing plastic bags, shelves or pegboard, a well organized tying area gets you off on the right foot when you sit down to tie. Be exacting in your organization as it will pay off.

4. Use good tools and good materials. Struggling with a vice that won't grip a hook tightly, hackle pliers that let go of hackles as they're wound, bobbins that fray or break tying thread, and scissors that won't cut all costs you time and lead to frustration. Similarly, trying to make do with poor quality materials means that it takes you time to get them to look the way they should. Don't be cheap on tools or materials.

5. Tie several copies of the same pattern. This will help create a good rhythm. Nothing is worse than tying one example of several flies. This is time consuming and can lead to disorganization. Tie a number of a pattern and you won't have to worry about running out. You'll be glad you did.

6. Lay out the material you will need to tie the flies you will be tying. Select all hackles for equal size. Select and debarb the number of hooks you will use. Nothing is worse than tying a fly on your tippet, pinching the barb and having it break. Let it break at home, not where you're fishing. After threading your bobbin keep your threader handy in case your thread breaks. Better yet, have another bobbin loaded and ready to go. Cut enough material from spooled products to tie several flies.
If using dubbing, lay it out on your bench so you can select it easier when it's needed. If using fur taken from the hide, remove enough for your needs and prepare it in advance.

7. If tying a pattern with a bead, lead wire, bead chain or dumbbell eyes, apply these first. Help dumbbell eyes stay in place with a drop of CA glue which will dry faster if you apply a couple drops of water after you apply the glue. By the time you apply glue on the last hook the first will be dry and ready to go.



8. Learn to tie while holding onto your scissors. Do this and you'll never have to go searching for your scissors again. This is likely the easiest of these ideas to help speed you up.

9. Where possible, break off excess materials rather than cut. Thread, feather stems, and finer wires --- all can be torn off faster than they can be cut, especially if you haven't yet mastered the previous step.

10. Avoid extra wraps and half hitches. When thread control is correct half-hitches aren't required unless you're going to be using the rotary function on a rotary vise. Extra wraps and unnecessary knots waste time and build up bulk you likely don't need.

11. Manage your bobbin. Keeping the bobbin tip close to the hook makes for smaller rotations. Larger rotations require exact control of your thread and takes more time. Before selecting the next material to apply to the hook, situate your thread at the next tie in point.

12. Select just enough material each time to get the job done. This ability comes as you tie more examples of a pattern. If you take too much hair from the hide or feather fibres off the stem it takes time to prune out the excess. Getting it right the first time, saves you time

13. Size hair for wings and tails to the proper length and trim the butt ends and tie down from the butts backwards and then again forward to cover them. Attempting to trim the flared out ends of hair forward of the tie in is time consuming and if you're not careful can lead to you accidentally cutting the thread. Similarly tie yarn, floss, braid and tinsel in with the same method unless you want to achieve bulk or build a taper and if so...

14. Use body materials as you tie them on to build the shape and thickness of the underbody if required. You can extend body material forward of the tie in point and fold or wrap it back and overwrap it with your tying thread. This is faster than building a taper or creating thickness with thread alone.

15. Think a step ahead. Look at the steps used to tie your fly. Is it possible to tie the rib in with the body material? That may be faster and might lead to less bulk. Instead of wrapping the body on from the hook bend forward, could you tie it in at the front and wrap it backwards and then forward? This might lead to a thicker body if required on nymphs or if using strip material like Flashabou, a thinner body on a chironomid because you aren't wrapping it over two layers of thread.

16. Touch dubbed bodies vs. dubbing loops. Touch dubbing as a technique is quicker than forming a dubbing loop. There are times when a dubbing loop is needed like for many articulated flies. But for smaller nymphs, touch dubbing allows you to build a nice taper quickly and a little finishing touch with a Velcro brush will bring out the bugginess that your fly needs so you might not have to worry about the additional step of wrapping a hackle.

17. Keep tying and don't be distracted. Concentrate on what you're doing. Never is noise from a TV more uneccessary. This step also pays homage to the first step we discussed; keep a neat tying station. You can only be distracted by the evidence of your last tying episode if you've failed in tidying up previously.

18. Apply head cement to the heads of all your flies at the very end. Transferring your head cement into an applicator bottle also speeds up the process. This is a simple technique and will save considerable time. Some patterns that will be quickly sacrificed to a fish may not even need to have head cement applied. You can improve durability at the head by feeding more thread into the whip finish tool as you wrap, making several turns as you whip finish. Applying a second whip finish is good insurance and takes little time.

19. Pay attention to your materials and come to understand how they work. With this attention and proper thread management and control, you won't have your materials working against you but working for you.

20. Test yourself. Try tying as quick as you can and tie often. Get good at doing certain steps quickly as that will allow you to be more exacting in the steps that require more care.

For all today's advances the one thing we only have so much of is time. We have to put what precious little that we have towards those things that we enjoy, like the tug of a fish on our line. Hopefully these tips will help you use your time at the bench more productivley.
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