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Getting Started, Take a Lesson (3/16/03)

By: Don Varga, New Jersey Correspondent - The Fly Fishing Report

The first time I saw someone tying a fly was during my first trip to the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York.  A friend of mine, Brian Farmer who had invited me was running out of glowbugz, thanks to me.  I said to myself while watching him tie, “Too much work, I’m never going to tie flies.”  I was one of those fly fishermen that didn’t mind buying flies from the local shop or bumming them off my friends.  By the end of that trip I must have used 100 glowbugz.  Brian would not except any money for the glowbugz, all he kept saying was that when I get my own vise I could tie some glowbugz for him.  Since I really enjoyed salmon fishing and planned on making it part of my annual outdoors activities I decided to buy a vise, just to tie replacement glowbugz.  My friend gave me a quick lesson on glowbugz tying and I was hooked on it since.  The next season I tied and brought over 500 glowbugz.  Since tying that first glowbugz, the fly tying bug has bitten me.  So I must warn you, fly tying is contagious.  Before you start, become an educated tier, take a lesson to see if you like it and then purchase your vise and materials.

As a Fly-Tying Instructor, one question that often gets asked of me is, “What do I need to get started in Fly Tying and What if I don’t like it?”  The problem starts when you first visit a fly shop. You are usually drawn to the expensive vises and equipment and realize you don’t want to make a large financial commitment towards a hobby that you know nothing about.  So before buying anything, check on the following things.

Ask if the shop offers a basic/beginners fly tying course.  This is the first step taken towards a hobby that will determine if it’s something that you will want to continue. 

Ask if they provide the equipment needed for the lessons.  You’ll find in most cases, the shop offering the course will provide you with the vise, tools and materials.  This may or may not be included in the cost for the course.  Courses cost different amounts depending on the program and the materials used.

Ask your instructor if they use rotary or non-rotary vises in the lessons.  Ask your instructor to demonstrate and explain the difference between the two styles of vises.  If the course vise is a non-rotary vise and the shop you’re at sells rotary vises ask if you can try one for your next lesson.  Most shops will let you try it out since it’s in their best interest to sell that vise to you at the conclusion of the course.

With the exception of the whip finish tool, most tools work the same way.  Ask your instructor to demonstrate as many whip-finishing techniques and tools that he can, including whip finishing without the use of tools.  Whip finishing from my experience, is the single hardest thing to learn in basic fly tying

Check out the course curriculum.  Ask which flies are being offered during the instruction.  Most basic courses start you out with the easiest of flies to tie.  This doesn’t mean they are flies that do not work well, only that these flies should teach you techniques that help progressively develop your fly tying techniques.  When I develop my courses it usually depends on the local fishing conditions and what type of flies are successfully used.  Teaching someone to tie a fly that they may never use while fishing doesn’t seem practical unless there’s a technique involved that cannot be mirrored into a fly used locally.

Ask lots of questions.  Your instructor should be able to provide you with different resources and techniques regarding fly tying.  Most instructors are not afraid to refer you to another shop or instructor that can help you with different techniques or offering different style of classes.

Check out online resources.  There are many web pages, chat rooms and news groups offering every type and style of tying advice that you can possibly want.  These resources are quickly becoming the most popular avenues of information.

From lessons and experience you will develop your own personal style of fly tying.  Usually after that first course you will have a good idea if fly tying is for you.  But, if after the course is completed and you still are not sure, don’t fret.  Once you catch a fish on a fly that you’ve tied your decision will be made.  You will know without a doubt whether or not fly tying is for you.  So, unless you have received a vise and materials as a gift, do not buy one or any materials until after you have taken a lesson or two.

Now to answer the second part of the original question, for the cost of lessons you should have only made a minimal investment and have started to become an educated fly tier.  Using this method to introduce you to fly tying is not only practical but also financially responsible.  So if you decide that tying is not for you, your initial investment is being spent more on time then on payment.

Reprinted from The Fly Fishing Report


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