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Introduction to the basic tools of fly tying

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Basic Fly Tying Tools - pictured from left to right Basic Fly Tying Tools - pictured from left to right

If you are just getting started or considering beginning tying your own flies it can be a bit daunting sifting through all the different tools and other items on offer. Our fly tying editor Simon Young shows you the basic fly tying tool selection that is needed in addition to a vice to get you up and running.

Hackle Pliers

These are used to grip the end of a hackle feather to make it easier to wind the hackle around the hook shank, also useful to hold ribbing material when palmering a hackle along a fly body, the weight of the pliers will hold the rib in place before tying in. Therefore acting as a “Third hand” in which case it’s worth buying 2 of them.


Bobbin Holder

A bobbin holder is used to hold the spool of tying thread and keep the thread under tension allowing it to be released from the spool in a controlled manner. It’s worth buying one with either a ceramic tube or ceramic insert as they are much smoother to use are much more durable. With the standard metal tubed variety even the slightest nick or roughness will cause the fine tying thread to break. It’s worth having a couple as you progress, for different diameters or colours of thread. If you use tying thread that is heavily waxed it’s useful to have a piece of pipe cleaner to hand to keep the tube of the holder clear of any wax build-up.



It’s usual to have a couple of pairs of these. A fine pair for close up delicate work and another sturdier pair for cutting ribbing materials such as wire, or tough hackle stems etc


Whip finish tool

This tool is often regarded as a mystery/unwieldy piece of kit, but once mastered it is the ideal gadget for placing the thread whip finish exactly where required, in front of or behind hackles etc to complete the tying of a fly.


Dubbing needle

This simple tool is used to apply a small controlled spot of varnish at the head of the fly or tease out dubbed fur bodies to give a softer more natural looking profile. It can be as simple as a needle stuck in a cork or for more control a purpose made one.

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