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Friday, October 2, 2015

5 Tying Station No-No's

Just say "NO"

I realize this post might not go over well with a lot of people, but sometimes you just gotta help your friends make some informed decisions. And before anyone that reads this wants to punch me in the face because you're doing these things, I'll admit I've been guilty of most of these babies, so there you go! We're trying to help you from making the same mistakes we did.

1. Spooled threads and materials that are stored on those awesome spindle thingies. Here's an example of what I mean with the photo on the right.

"What's wrong this this?!!" you ask. Well for starters, what color thread is under the blue wire on the third row back? Yeah, I thought so. Even if you didn't have this staggered setup and could see each spindle in its entirety, you'd still have to remove the top spools to get to anything underneath them. Too much work.

Beyond that, having your thread out in the wide open like that turns it into a dust magnet. Makes for really clean flies when you already have a nice thin layer of brown "dubbing".

Good use of wall space
And more than anything, this method just isn't scalable. The collection above is probably from someone just getting started. But before too long, you'll have threads, tinsels, wires and other spooled materials in all colors, sizes and types. Good luck fitting them all on a spindle without going to something like this -->

So what do we recommend? I'm a big fan of small plastic drawer units or even tackle boxes. You can sort the spools out, keep them readily accessible and away from the awesome dust.

This guy violated two rules...oops!
2. Peg Board. I'm not sure what first made me so attracted to the idea of putting all my materials onto gigantic walls of pegboard spread-out all over my man-cave, but I went all out. (NOTE: The picture to the right is not mine. I was too embarrassed to shoot photos of that failed setup). Anyway, I put peg board on the walls, the closet and even built a peg board tool rack. But it didn't take too long to realize I was barking up the wrong tree.

First off, it never failed that the package of marabou I needed was at the back of the stack so I'd have to pull the whole bunch off the hook (and hope the stupid hook didn't come with it) and replace the ones I didn't need. What a pain! You'd probably save time by just throwing all your materials onto the floor. ;)

And probably the biggest inefficiency, I ended up having materials well beyond my reach as I was seated at my desk because they were spread out over such a large geographical area in my office. Ask yourself why do fly shops store materials this way. They do it so that they can showcase what they have and actually "fill" a fly shop. And once I got over the whole "Hey I need to spread out all my tying materials for all my friends to see how much stuff I've got", I realized it's more about efficiency. And pegboard is definitely not the most efficient way to store things for easy and re-usable access.

Look at all that storage space!
3. Roll Top Desks. So I probably just blasphemed some sort of fly tying station code of conduct right there, but yeah, I'm not a fan of the roll top desk. For starters, they have next to nothing in terms storage space. It might work for you as you get started, but you'll outgrow the minimal storage space soon enough. And while it's cool you can "hide" your fly tying mess in the middle of your living room, every time you want to tie, you'll still need to bust out the rest of the materials you have stored in the closet downstairs. Yeah, it won't take too long before you ditch that idea.

So forget all those fancy visions of tying flies on your roll top desk, smoking a cigar as you lounge in your flannel shirt and regale your friends with stories of 30 pound trout. I think the roll top is just an over-hyped super-expensive semi-useful piece of furniture. If you can spare the space, just get a cheap flat table or desk and build your station with portable storage. Much cheaper and you'll be able to store your materials without having to worry about running out of space or selling your kidney to afford a roll top.

4. Making your entire collection portable. For some reason, especially for people who may not have a set and/or dedicated space in their home or apartment for tying flies, tyers tend to think in terms of making sure their materials and tools are all fully and immediately portable. "Maybe I'll be tying at a show!", "What if I want to tie on my fishing trip?".  But again, when you're starting out, sure you might be able to pull off the trick of bringing your entire material and tool selection, but it won't take long to grow beyond that. So that means your best option is to just plan to keep your materials in one spot (even if it's in the closet) and then raid the collection for only the items you need to take. Then you use a bag, bin or suitcase of some sort to cart your materials to wherever you're going. Too many times I see tyers come to fly tying shows or demos around the country carting around what can only be assumed is their entire material and tool collection. That's just an unnecessary pain and limits how and where you can organize your stuff. Plus, if you ever travel longer distances with your loot, good luck with that. We have a hard enough time getting tying gear checked as baggage and moved around even with a very small subset of our tying stuff.

Cheech ties flies at his computer desk sometimes
5. Having your computer in the middle of your fly tying area. As a computer nerd over the years, I've seen some pretty nasty things happen to desktops and laptops and I can tell you that keyboards, mice or even monitors don't take well to spilled glue or paint, tiny bits of feathers or fur and other nasties that can make their way onto and into your expensive electronics. If you need to watch our fly tying videos at your tying station (which is an activity highly encouraged here), make sure to keep the electronics free and clear of materials, liquids and glues (with maybe a pull-out keyboard shelf?) and look to elevate your monitor above the fray so that it's not accidentally tagged with some errant scissors or a stray bodkin. A best case scenario, assuming you have the space, is to keep your computer/tying areas separated. And as you can see in the photo of Cheech here, too much time on the computer is ultimately going to take away from your tying time and possibly cause weight gain.

In the end, of course, there are no hard set rules in all of this. Do what works best for you. We're here to help with some friendly suggestions based on things not working for us in the past.


  1. I have been down all those roads for the most part. I've settled (for now) on large plastic bags on the pegboard of material 'types' ie: marabou is all in one or two plastic bags on this hook (large ziplocs). So I've got 18 or so 'spots' need some bou... just pull the bag grab the color and put it back. Easier than digging through totes. And cleans up nice. Thanks!

  2. I use pegboard for my go to materials. never an inconvenience. The stuff i use less often gets tossed in plastic drawers that are labeled. It is worth noting that i only put 1 material per hook on the pegboard. Turkey biots olive only on one. i don't put 10 different colors of biots on 1 hook. i do overlap on some stuff but its mostly hackle etc as i use it less than most other things

  3. I totally agree with every point you made. I was a production tier some time ago and had way way way more materials than most local shops. The only thing that works for me is labeled shoe box type containers and glass spaghetti jars-there are a lot of them but it works. I have a small room and a bunch of shelving around the perimeter all within fairly easy reach. I also have a fear of bug infestation so I can drop a moth ball in each bin every other year. I tie on a long fold up table. Its definitely not the best-it could be a little sturdier but it works fine all in all. They key for me is I do use one of the little rubber renzetti tool caddies and a few of the spirit river pro-20 hook boxes for hook storage. The ultimate key is a nice piece of light green matboard glued to the table to give me a easy on the eyes background

    1. Yep... I think the key here is to realize that your fly tying collection is ever growing, and the more materials you amass, the more you have to change your setup.

  4. Love it. I am proud to say that I am not currently violating any of those rules although I have seriously flirted with the pegboard idea at times.

    Is Cheech wearing undies in that pic? Not that you can see anything under all the bulk but I am more concerned about the hygienic situation of the chair itself. ;)


    1. I might be, I might not be... Now to try to find a drift boat that will float me.

  5. Agree with all of them. The pegboard is ridiculous unless you are in a flyshop

    1. Bingo. No need to "display" all of your pretty materials.

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  7. It doesn't rise to the level of blasphemy, but I disagree with your assessment of the roll top desk. The example you show isn't a "real" roll top, it's a cheap, small, poorly designed, modern copy of one. I've been tying for 43 years and have amassed a fair amount of tools and materials. I use a 100+ year old behemoth oak roll top that holds everything with room to spare, and as a bonus, it's a beautiful piece of furniture. It has 23 drawers on the top section and 9 drawers in the pedestals. Everything can be reached while tying without leaving my swivel chair. Although it probably helps to have long arms and not be short in stature. ALL my threads and tinsel are covered and out of the sunlight. Best of all, I don't need 150 of those cheap ass clear plastic totes stacked up all over the place. Different strokes for different folks I guess. I do agree with your take on the dowel rod thread holders and the peg board system is absolutely ridiculous. Maybe consider an intervention with Cheech, he's starting to slip away haha.

    1. I think Roll top desks are pretty nice, but I could probably fill 23 drawers just with cape hackle with my current setup. I think Curtis' article was more geared toward the guy who has more materials than most small shops (Like Curtis and I). We quickly realized that most "solutions" simply didn't work once you got to the point of no return with materials. We also realized that in order to cut down costs on organization, function plays a much more critical role than form, hence the cheap plastic totes.

  8. Well for the Roll Top desk haters - - I purchased a Roll Top desk at a local Good Will for $40.00 excellent condition and solid. I enjoy it.