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10 Great Tools for Fly Tying Fiends

Get a load of the top ten tools for fly tying, each playing an important role in the creation process.

2 - renzetti

So you want to tie your own homemade flies for fishing purposes, but you haven’t got the foggiest idea of where to start or what sort of equipment you will need to get the job done. Suffice to say that you are not alone here.

While many flies are incredibly simplistic in design and therefore quite easy to tie, fly tying is only ever really easy if you have the right arsenal of tools and have taken time to learn the basics. As you likely know if you’ve spent any time looking through fly tying guidebooks or instructional tutorials online, every fly is a bit different and requires different tying methods and materials. You can buy extra materials, from animal fur to googly eyes, once you decide which flies you want to tie.

RELATED: 8 Ways to Be a Better Fly Fisherman

For now though, just stock up on the essentials that you will need for every fly you tie.

As a bonus, any of the items mentioned in this list that are from Cabela’s qualify for free shipping on orders of $99 or more. Just use coupon code 44FREE before April 9, 2014, 11:59 p.m. (EST) and you fly fishing tools will be headed your way with no shipping charges.

View the slideshow to see the tools suggested, and leave a comment if we left any out.


Photo via Cabela’s

It almost goes without saying that you are going to need a nice supply of hooks for any fishing-related activity, but when it comes to fly tying, hooks are the first essential part of the equation.

The hook is the body of the fly. It’s what will hold the design – the fur, the feathers, the string, the fake eyes, and whatever else you add to your flies – together, and it’s what will help your fly transcend arts and crafts and become a viable tool for catching fish. If you plan on doing a lot of tying, stock up hooks.

For starters, try these Mustad Signature Z Steel hooks.

Be warned, however, that fly tying hooks can come in a wide variety of styles. As a general rule, you will want lighter-weight hooks for dry flies and heavier hooks for wet flies. Other variations are available, though, so do your homework to determine which hook styles are best for the flies you want to tie.

Fly Vise 

Photo via Cabela’s

If you’ve looked at photographs of different flies, you’ve probably seen part of a fly vise. In the simplest of terms, it’s the device that holds the fly in place while the tyer sets to work designing it, like the fly tying art’s equivalent of an easel.

Like hooks, fly vises come in a wide variety of different styles. Some are meant for smaller or larger flies, while others support hooks of all styles and sizes. Some have rotary features that allow the tyer to pivot their fly as they work, making the manipulation of thread, fur, feathers, and other materials easier.

Take a look at the Renzetti Cam Series Traveler Vise for a versatile and effective choice.

Remember though, the fly vise is the most important part of the fly tying process; don’t make this the area where you try to cut costs.


Photo via Cabela’s

Just as they do on sewing machines, bobbins used in the fly tying process hold your thread on a spool and direct it through a small, adjustable tube. This tube serves a similar purpose to the top of a glue bottle, helping to direct the thread where you want it to go and giving you the maximum control that is so essential for tying meticulously crafted flies.

The Griffin Ceramic Bobbin would make things easier with its smooth operation and thread fraying avoidance. We’d suggest the Magnum model for all around use.

REALTED: 10 Flies to Slay Monster Bass


Photo via Cabela’s

Like hooks, scissors are a no-brainer entry on this list. However, no just any pair of cheap scissors will do.

On the contrary, you will want to invest in some high-quality, razor sharp scissors that will cut dependably without resulting in snags or frays. In fact, many tyers actually like to have two different pairs of scissors for their fly-tying craft, one with fine sharp points for snipping thread, and another for cutting animal hair or other more heavy-duty materials.

Cabela’s makes their own fly-tying scissors, which are sure to get the job done. They’re less specialized, but still super reliable for basic jobs.

Hackle Pliers 

Photo via Cabela’s

Sure, you may have regular pliers sitting around in your toolbox, but those won’t work for fly tying. Hackle pliers are specialized, forceps-like tools that maintain their tension and grip and are used for wrapping feathers (generally hackle feathers, as the name of the pliers implies) around the fly tying hook.

The Griffin Rotary Hackle Pliers are great for small flies, and make hackle wrapping a much simpler task than it would seem.


Photo via Cabela’s

Perhaps the most simplistic tool in a fly tyer’s arsenal, the bodkin is little more than a sharp needle attached to a handle, like a screwdriver with a sharp needle-point rather than a flathead or Phillips-head. Bodkins can have multiple uses in the process of fly tying, but are most frequently employed to apply head cement to the fly – an important finishing touch to the fly that will help to keep it from unraveling in the water.

Cabela’s bodkin is inexpensive, and has a recessed top that helps tie half hitches.

Hackle Guards 

Photo via

Not all fly tyers see a need for hackle guards, but for particularly feathery flies – or for small flies where feathers can easily get in the way during the final steps of the tie – hackle guards can be enormously helpful. Hackle guards help to hold the feathers out of the way as the tyer applies head cement to the fly and ties the finishing knot that holds the whole thing together.

RELATED: 10 Essential Flies for Trout That Simply Can’t Be Beat

Hair Stackers 

Photo via Cabela’s

Adding bits on animal fur to a fly – whether as wings, tails, fins, heads, or other aesthetic flourishes –can be the most difficult part of the process. Hair has a tendency to want to get everywhere, and can cause a big mess if you’re not careful.

It’s also not easy to get a small clump of hair aligned and stacked so it actually resembles a fish tail instead of, well, a clump of a hair. A hair stacker is a tool designed to help with this conundrum and turn clumps of hair into smooth “stacks” that can then be added to the fly.

Go with the Dr. Slick Brass Hair Stackers because they’ll create a clean, symmetrical look every time.

Bullet Head Tool 

Photo via

Another tool used for distributing animal hair in a certain way, bullet heads are not used as frequently as hair stackers. In fact, a “bullet head” is a type of cylindrical hair tying method that is generally only used on large dry flies, meaning that you may not need this tool at all. However, if a bullet-headed fly is on your list, then you will want bullet head tool to avoid the headache of trying to manipulate the hair correctly with your fingertips.

Whip Finisher 

Photo via Cabela’s

As the name of this tool suggests, it’s the final item you will need to complete your fly. In the simplest of terms, the whip finisher tool is used to tie a strong and secure knot at the head of the fly, so as to keep the entire contraption from unraveling during a fight with a fish.

The Cabela’s Whip Finisher is versatile and well-built, able to withstand strong tugs to finish off the job. As Cabela’s customer reviewer RhineitNZ put it, this is a “Great tool that considerably speeds up finishing the fly whip compared to doing it by hand.”

There’s quite a learning curve to using the whip finisher tool, and some tyers don’t like to use it at all, but if you want the strongest and most well-made flies possible, add this tool to your list.

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