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Looking for a new skill to pass the time? Here are 5 tips to learn fly tying

By Spencer Durrant, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - May 8, 2020 at 12:16 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Fly fishing is one of the great pastimes here in the American West, and for good reason. It's incredibly relaxing and creates an opportunity to connect with nature in a way that's unique and special for each angler.

Most fly anglers take that connection a bit further by tying their own flies to use while fishing, much like conventional anglers will build their own lures.

Fly tying is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon, or the wintry days that are just too cold to fish. But it's also a great skill to learn, and you can even make a bit of money by selling your tied flies. A lot of folks look at how complex some of these flies can be and immediately think they don't have the skills to tie them. But tying flies is much easier than it appears — it just takes some practice (just like fly fishing).

If you've ever had an interest in tying flies, or you're looking for something new to do while the state and country slowly loosens recreational restrictions, consider these five tips on how you can easily get started with tying flies.

Take a class

Just about every fly shop here in Utah offers some form of fly tying classes. These are generally low-cost, or in some cases may even be offered free-of-charge. Fly Fish Food, a fly shop located in Orem and staffed by some of the best anglers in Utah (including world champion fisherman Lance Egan) has tons of options for classes.

Browse YouTube

There's a video for everything on YouTube, and fly tying is no exception. Tim Flagler runs a channel called Tightline Productions, and his fly tying tutorials are among the best the angling community has ever seen. What makes Flagler's videos so well done is that he shows many different techniques for accomplishing the same task.

Ask a friend

If you have any friends who tie flies or who fly fish, ask them if they don't mind teaching you a few simple patterns. Most fly anglers have at least tried tying flies; and if they haven't, they likely know someone who can help you out. There's a bit of a learning curve, but tying is fairly simple once you get the hang of it.

Don't spend a ton of money

As with anything in fly fishing, you can spend tons of cash on fly tying equipment. From vises to thread to tools and UV resin, you'll probably be shocked at just how much there is to use for any given fly. But when you're first starting out, you don't need the $500 Renzetti vise. This isn't an endeavor that demands a big up-front investment if you're smart about it. Buying a cheaper vise and a half-saddle of hackle will really cut down on your entry costs to fly tying.

Start simple

Lastly, you don't likely want to start out trying to tie premier streamers from Kelly Galloup or Gray Ghost. These are fairly technical patterns that frustrate even the most veteran of fly tiers. And, they often require more expensive materials to complete. Stick with the simple patterns, such as elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, the hare's ear nymph, and the venerable zebra midge to get the hang of just how it is that fly tying works.

Tying flies is a lot of fun, and it's a great way to pass the time when you're stuck inside and have exhausted your Netflix queue. If you're looking for something new to try while we're still in the midst of coronavirus-related shutdowns, why not give fly tying a shot?


Spencer Durrant

About the Author: Spencer Durrant

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, TROUT Magazine, Hatch Magazine, and other national publications. He's also the Managing Editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

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