A good fly tying kit can help take some of the frustration out of not being able to fish your favorite water.

By Jim Brearton

Tying my own flies added a whole new dimension to my enjoyment of fly fishing. It was a surprisingly easy and inexpensive venture and I'd like to offer a few suggestions to help get you started.

The most expensive item in equipment you'll need is the vise. A vise will cost anywhere from 25 to 180 dollars and I recommend an inexpensive one to start. All the vise does is hold the hook, but some cheap vises are really a pain to use with smaller hooks.

Other tools you will need are a bobbin and bobbin threader, a whip finisher, a hair stacker, scissors, hackle pliers and a bodkin, or sharp needle like tool used to pick out dubbing or hair or to apply head cement. These tools cost anywhere from one to five dollars each.

The only real costly materials needed are the hackles. A really good Metz neck hackle can run over $80. Most of my hackles are much less expensive but I've found that for small dry flies the 30 or 40 dollar plus hackles are really worth it. The feathers are especially groomed for tying with short hackles on long barbules.

All other materials are very inexpensive unless you use something exotic like seal fur. Most furs or synthetics are very inexpensive for the number of flies you can tie and one soon realizes that most of the dollar charged to purchase a fly is for the labor involved.

Materials needed are thread in two sizes and of varying color, either size 6/0 or monocord, the former for small patterns size 14 or smaller and the latter for larger patterns. Also needed are elk hair, deer hair, various furs for dubbing, maribou for streamers, chenile or wool, floss or wire or tinsel, peacock and ostrich herl and much more.

Before you start to get discouraged, please realize that one neck hackle can tie hundreds of flies and most of the material items are less than a dollar and can be slowly accumulated. Hooks can be purchased by the hundred or in smaller quantities.

I've acquired enough material to tie most any fly but I started out with an inexpensive kit. These kits sell for under fifty dollars and give one a basic set of tools and a vise along with enough materials to tie several basic patterns. For a small investment one can get started and gradually upgrade to better tools and materials.

If you have a few hundred dollars you can by all quality tools and a few neck hackles and all the material you can probably use in a lifetime.

Several excellent tying books are available with step-by-step instrucions on how to tie each pattern and a few tips on techniques. The best way to learn the techniques is to take a class offered by one of the local tackle shops. These are usually conducted during the winter on weeknights. All tools and materials are provided.

Fly tying, like fly fishing, is a very engrossing activity that one never could completely master. There is always something to learn or create. It is extremely enjoyable to catch trophy fish or just fool any ol' fish on one of your own ties, maybe even a pattern you've created. Losing a fly to a strearnside bush or even a fish is no longer painful if you tie your own.

For about 50 cents worth of materials I can tie up twelve flies that would cost me 12 to 15 dollars at the tackle shop. But regardless of its cost effectiveness, tying flies is just plain enjoyable. I have made my equipment as portable as possible so I can tie during campside respites right on the river, matching whatever seems to be going on.

Tying is akin to creating in an artistic sense and some of the best tyers are women. If you don't consider yourself artistic then just do it to save a buck and for the therapy the activity seems to provide. Classes are still available this winter at your local fly shop if you hurry.