Guy Turck Fly Tying

Fly Tying Tips for Speed & Productivity

The good news is you don’t have to be a whirling dervish to tie lots of flies. Speed is something that comes of its own by spending time at the vise. It just sort of happens. Not to split hairs, but more important than raw speed is being productive, and that comes, first and foremost, from organization.

Set Up a Killer Tying Bench

My fly tying benchIf possible, set aside an area in your home just for tying flies and leave it set up. Sometimes you can spend more time setting up and searching for the materials you’ll need than actually tying. When it comes to actual production, this may be the single most important tying tip I can suggest. It has the huge added bonus of allowing you to spend small bits of time tying flies which would otherwise go untied (since that small bit of time would otherwise be eaten up by set up and searching for materials).

Make sure your tying bench is very well lit. Bad lighting will slow you down tremendously.

Tie Your Flies in Large Lots

Beginning fly tyers will often tie one fly at a time, then switching to another pattern. I understand the urge, I used to do it myself, but it is not very productive.

Try to tie at least three or four (of the same pattern and size) at a time. A dozen is even better.

Not only will you save time by using an assembly line approach, your flies will be of higher quality because you get better with each successive fly. It takes a lot of experience to tie high quality flies while constantly switching patterns.

Organize Materials Prior to Tying

Organize your materials prior to tyingBefore beginning to tie a fly, lay out all the materials you’ll need for that pattern in a semi-circle around your vise in the order the materials will be used. With my materials laid out, I like to work, from left to right.

In the photo on the right, the materials to tie a Tarantula are laid out from left to right...golden pheasant tippets for the tail, yarn for the underbody, dubbing for the body, pre-stacked wings, pre-stacked collars, rubber legs and deer hair for the head.

Prep Materials Prior to Tying

Before laying out your materials (in the order they’ll be used) prep them to the extent possible. Some possibilities include:

-- Taking the hooks you’ll need out of their packaging and laying them on the tying bench. Crimp the barbs before tying in case the hook point breaks off.

-- Pull dry fly hackle off the neck and strip the barbules from the base of the feather so that it is ready to be tied to the hook. Do this for as many flies as you intend to tie.

-- Cut rubber legs to the length you want for tying (not necessarily the length they will end up at when the fly is finished) and then separate them. I've found 2" to be a good length for tying Tarantulas. I then trim them to size when the fly is finished.

Pre-stacked moose tails & pre-knotted hopper legs-- If you are using moose hair for dry fly tails, stack a big (not huge) wad of hair and wrap a rubber band around the butts. The rubber band will keep the tips aligned and dozens of flies can be tied from one pre-stacked wad of hair. Simply trim a tails worth off the wad as needed.

-- Pheasant tail hopper legs can be prepped by pre-knotting them. You can now buy hopper legs pre-knotted, or you can do it yourself.

-- Woolly Bugger/Streamer tails can be prepped by stripping the the fuzzy marabou at the base of the stem.

-- And so on.

Use Specialized Tools to Speed Things Up

"Six-shooter" style multiple hair stackers-- Use multiple hair stackers. Center a wine cork in the middle of six hair stackers and wrap duct tape around the outside of the stackers to hold everything in place. The resulting unit resembles the revolver of a six-shooter. The cap to a glass jar makes a nice lid.

Stack six wings, tails or whatever at a time. Or stack the wings and collars for three Tarantulas at a time (alternate wings and collars in the six-shooter).

Use a third hand to hold materials-- Use a third hand (this is an A.K. Best tip). Glue a clothes pin to small strip of wood and clamp the wood to your tying bench (a c-clamp works well for this). Use the clothes pin to hold hair patches, krystal flash (or whatever) in place while you tie. More handy than it sounds.

-- Use a tooth brush instead of a comb for cleaning hair, it is much more effective than standard fly tying combs. Leash the tooth brush to your tying bench so it doesn’t fall on the floor or get misplaced.

Keep Your Tying Tools Organized

When using tying tools like whip finishers and bodkins strive to set them in the same place on your tying bench when not in use. Searching for tying tools is almost as bad as searching for tying materials.

Your tying scissors should be on your hand at all times when tying! They are used far too frequently to be constantly having to pick them up.

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