One of the beauties of Fly Tying Month is that it draws both seasoned and brand new fly tyers into a fun online community—something we all need right now. I was completely new to tying when I first discovered FTM and learned so much from everyone’s shared experiences and insightful answers to the posted discussion topics. I still remember the question, “What do you wish someone had told you when you first started tying?” At the time, I was too new to the addiction to know what I didn’t know, but in hindsight, I wish someone had recommended the most versatile and essential fly tying materials so I didn’t just buy everything ad hoc every time I read a new fly pattern recipe.
I made the unfortunate error of starting out with a sub-par starter kit (not from Avidmax). It was from a solid brand, so to this day I’m surprised they still put their name on it (which I found was literally pasted over the previous company’s label). The kit included a starter vise and “everything you need” to tie the most popular pattern such as the Adams, Woolly Buggers, Elk Hair Caddis, and so on. The problem was the materials were such poor quality that I nearly gave up before I even realized they were the problem. For example, the hackle was so large that it would barely even fit on a huge 1/0 Woolly Bugger, let alone the included recipe for a size #14 Adams dry, and the tying thread was more like bad quality braided fishing line.
So, if you go the route of getting a starter kit, I’d highly recommend going with one from Hareline. There is a version without a vise if you want to choose your own (for more tips on that, read how to choose a vise here), and the one with a vise includes a no-frills but quality stationary vise by Griffin. The reason I recommend this kit is that it truly has what you need to get started on some great patterns that you can fish anywhere; such as Clouser Minnows, Wooly Buggers, Copper Johns, Hare’s Ear nymphs, Pheasant Tails and many others. I look at the contents of this kit and look at my tying desk and they are all there. It even includes quality hackle and Veevus thread, which is my personal favorite for its strength and fray resistance. The kit may sound expensive, but if you were to buy everything separately, you would pay much more.
If you don’t get a starter kit (or already have started collecting materials), here is my short (not exhaustive) list of materials every tier should have:
Feathers and fur:
Hare’s mask (grade #1)
Pheasant tail (in natural, brown or olive)
Quality hackle (see if you can find a Whiting farms introductory set)
Coq de Leon “CDL” (in medium speckled brown)
Hungarian Partridge or Hen Hackle in speckled brown or gray (for soft hackle flies)
CDC (start with natural dun and white and go from there)
Marabou in olive and white
Turkey and goose biots (you can start with black, white and olive)
Bucktail (white and chartreuse)
Deer hair (natural brown)
Elk hair (Cow and Bull)
Copper Ultra Wire (in brassie, small and xtra small)
Silver and gold Ultra Wire (small and xtra small)
Palmer chenille in olive and white (medium)
Superfine dubbing in Adams gray, olive, black and PMD
Pearl tinsel (medium)
Krystal Flash (pearl)
Thin Skin in black and mottled black
Veevus 6/0 and 8/0 thread or UTC 70 and 140 denier — you can stick with white and color with permanent markers if you don’t want to buy a ton of colors of thread—it just gets old coloring your thread on thread-body flies like zebra midges). If you buy colored thread, you at least need white, black, red, tan, olive and gray.
Solarez UV resin (get the three pack)
Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails
Firehole 315 (all around great multi-purpose nymph, emerger, klinkhamer hook)
Firehole 718 multi-purpose hook
Cyclops beads (I use gold and silver the most—be sure to consult the bead size chart for the right sizes for your hooks)
I’m sure there will be plenty of comments recommending items I missed, but this is will give new tyers a good start.
Guest blogger Jeremy Anderson is a Creative Director in Nashville, Tennessee by day and amateur fly tyer by night when his wife and two young boys go to bed. It’s his nightly decompression routine that keeps him connected to his passion even when he can’t be on the water. Follow Jeremy on Instagram: @hacklejob
2 thoughts on “The Most Essential and Versatile Materials Every Tyer Should Have”
Absolutely GREAT addition, Freddy! I’m Jeremy Anderson and I approve this message. 😉
Great post Jeremy! I cannot think of anything to add (well with time maybe) but would like to state this…
For new tiers, when you are buying natural materials like hair patches and hackle offerings, it’s not always possible but highly recommended to “see” and “handle” what you are buying. Even the best quality producers and suppliers are selling you “natural” materials, and these will not all be the same because they are not man-made (just man-packaged). For instance, I was in a local shop recently and wanted to purchase a quality dry fly cape (a black one). There were two to choose from. One of the two I would not have bought with your money and the other one was awesome. Same grade, same manufacturer, but from different birds so the feather counts on the capes were different. Also, one bird’s feathers were just a little longer and shinier than the other. Both capes were “quality grade”, but I was happy to see them and select the one I would ultimately purchase!
The same goes with hair patches when you find the color labeled as “Natural”. The local shop had all different shades of the “Natural” (i.e., not bleached and/or dyed) on the same peg in the fly shop. Just remember you are buying materials from birds and beasts and that should help guide you once you are better familiar with materials you are tying with.
Lastly, I won’t name names here, but some material available from some manufacturers are just “finer quality” than others and with time, if mail ordering is your only option, you might want to be selective. You’ll learn over time but buy online from reputable companies and you should be good to go!
Get yourself the materials as your budget allows per Jeremy’s recommendations. I wish I read this when I was heading off into the world of fly tying. This takes a lot of guesswork out of the completely massive amount of stuff out there. Mostly – HAVE FUN!
All the best and tight bobbins – Freddy