Brian Brown, a Brewer High School student, ties a black woolly bugger in December in the school's lecture hall. Student's received lessons from the Penobscot Fly Fishers as part of their outdoors education class.

I started tying my own flies last winter for a few reasons. First of all, it was winter, what else was I going to do? Second, a deepening obsession with fly-fishing means you start fixating on the tiniest details, and having hands-on control over how my flies looked seemed important. And third, I figured I might be able to save a little money.

I so far have been proven dead-wrong on that last point.

The main reason for that is that you always need more materials. A stop at the fly shop for a different gauge thread or a new color chenille would invariably include picking up a different size or shape hook (which are usually the most expensive single expense in this hobby), or a new pack of dubbing for Adams dry flies.

You set out just to tie your own wooly buggers or Lefty’s deceivers and you end up, like me, with an ever-expanding universe of plastic drawer organizers filled with foam sheets, tinsel and a veritable rainbow of various hackle feathers.

That is all to say: Know what you’re getting into when you start tying your own flies. It’s totally worth it and it’s a lot of fun, but you start to look at the world a little different. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve thought of using my cat’s shedded fur for dubbing. I’ve eyed the bushy tails of my backyard squirrels with the kind of hallucinatory longing usually reserved for starving Warner Brothers cartoon characters.

If you want to start tying, here’s a pretty useful infographic from Fix.com.

It shows the few tools and you need to start tying wooly buggers (one of the most useful flies) and elk hair caddis flies. The list of materials you need can be found here.

I’ve included a couple videos below that show how to tie those particular patterns. Tim Flagler’s fly-tying videos were a huge resource to me when I first started.

If you tie flies, what tips do you have for beginners? Share them in the comments.


Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the...