HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS
Your tools are the most important part in tying. If you don’t have good or even the right tools, fly tying becomes a huge pain. There are a few tools to be sure to have and make sure they are quality.
First off, have a pair of fine point tying scissors. A pair that either can be sharpened or a pair that are micro serrated so you can be sure they will cut right every time (it is incredibly annoying when scissors miss-cut). Another tool one should have is a ceramic bobbin. The ceramic part is key, it stops the metal tube from cutting your thread. Have a whip finish tool handy also.
There are a few other tools that make tying easier: four-inch hair scissors, dubbing brush, dubbing twister, bodkin, half hitch tool, and a hair stacker can help based on what flies you tie.
TIE ONE FLY AT A TIME
It seems like the biggest problem with fly tiers is the mess. So one of the best ways to cut down on the mess and clutter is tie one type or just one pattern at a time. This helps you not lose material, keep things separate, and quickly recover if you mess up. You can never lose all the mess, but this helps.
SAVE THE SCRAPS IF YOU CAN
The scraps do have value. Save your feather scraps, wire, dubbing, some fur clippings (use in custom dubbing blends) and bits of flash. You can tie 2-3 flies with a single neck feather (4-6 with a saddle feather). Most of the time you cut too much wire and you can use the leftovers for the next flies and it also cuts down on the mess, clutter, and waste.
SHARPEN YOUR WHIP FINISH TOOL
“What?” you might be saying. If you sharpen the base of your whip finish tool, after you finish a fly you can just cut your thread with your tool and you don’t have too pick up your scissors. I have tied flies using my scissors once or never. It definitely speeds up tying. Sharpen the base with either a file or some scrap sand paper. Spend 10-15 seconds on both sides of the base and it will be plenty sharp to cut thread.
DITCH THE HEAD CEMENT (IF YOU CAN)
Head cement is the the most touchy material a fly tier uses. It uses up a lot of time and has the possibility of ruining a perfectly good fly. When you finish a fly, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and then do another 4 or 5 turn finish. Two whip finishes is as strong as a layer of head cement. I use cement on thread heads and on post and poly wings just for stability and so they don’t pull out. Also head cement tends to make flies sink so try your best to not use it on dry flies.
It’s not what you think. Cut the corners off the bags of dubbing. This makes all the bags of dubbing into dispensers. This makes pulling small amounts of dubbing easy and reduces waste. I keep all my dubbing on zip ties and hang them next to my desk, it works great.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure makes you better. You always get what you put into anything. If you are willing to learn, be taught, and practice, you can be a great tier. The best flies to practice with is a Woolly Bugger for proportions and a Hare’s Ear for dubbing and thread control.