Beginners: Getting Outfitted for Fly Tying

Fly Tying Kits or Not?

Cabela's Fly Tying Kit

Besides the popular, "can I tie with my cat's belly hair and what's the best way to extract it?" question, probably one of the more commonly asked questions for tyers is whether or not a fly tying kit is something a beginning tyer should consider. Or more specifically "There's so much stuff to buy, how do I know what to get???"

In simple terms, my answer is usually "it depends", but in general, kits can be a really convenient way to get started as long as they're full of stuff you'll need and use and not some store-bought made-in-China setups. There are two good reasons we recommend being careful with those types of kits:

  • First and foremost, almost any commercial kit I've seen usually has materials or tools that you don't need. What I mean by that is that you might be interested in tying pheasant tails and brassies, but it comes with materials to tie flies that are not specific to your region or your style of fishing. Or worse, they throw in a couple of spools of regular sewing thread or some huge pieces of regular yarn that you wouldn't use anyway. In that case, a custom-built kit would be the way to go. With that, you can choose the specific materials in the quantities and colors you choose.
  • A good portion of the pre-assembled kits have sub-par tools and/or materials. While I've seen some quality kits out there, I'd say the majority of them try to skimp on both quality and quantity of tools and materials. I remember back to when I got into tying over 20 years ago and I, of course, rushed out and bought a kit. I probably still have materials from that kit that I've yet to use because they were either horrible quality or the colors were not consistent with the materials I needed. Now this doesn't mean there aren't good kits, but you'll see a mixed bag there. Don't be fooled into thinking that because the kit is cheaper than the sum of the individual parts, that you're actually saving money.
What you have to look forward to!

So because of these two challenges, we've decided to take a different approach. We get asked by all sorts of beginning tyers what we think the "perfect kit" would be. There are two ways to go about this:

Curated fly tying kit
  1. If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer or have a few tools already, we've provided a fly tying kit primer for a list of what to look for. The options listed there are good tools and you can pick and choose what you want. You can also choose materials based on what flies you might tie. It's more of a hunt-and-peck effort, so if you want to just cut to the chase, look at the 2nd option here.
  2. The 2nd option here is more for the "give me all the stuff I need so I don't have to hunt around and find things all over the place!". Cheech and I have gone through our most popular tools, vises, materials and doodads to come up with a curated list of things that we would recommend to anyone starting out. They range from just materials to just tools to all of the above. You can mix and match and pick only what you want! Check them out here.
    The main advantage to this option here is that you get a complete material and tool list to tie some very specific and useful entry level flies. Not only that, these flies are all documented and include video tutorials for your viewing pleasure.