Fly Tying Materials

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So, now you’ve been through the list of tools needed, let’s look at the fly tying materials you’ll need to get started. Again, just as with the tools, this is not an all-inclusive list of all the materials you’ll ever need. This is simply a very basic list of materials that will get you started with many of the simpler flies. Once you begin getting comfortable with tying, then you’ll be able to go out and purchase specific materials for the flies you’d like to tie. Here is the list. Click on any of the following links which will take you to a brief description of that item along with a small photo to give you an idea of what you’re looking for.
Three renewable materials that you’ll need are hooks, dubbing wax and head cement. Since hooks are such a crucial part of fly tying, I’ve created their own page. You can learn more about hooks at the hooks page.
Dubbing wax is simply a wax that is applied to the fingers to assist the tier in applying dubbing onto the thread. You can start with wax but you’ll probably find out in time that a simple lick of the fingers with accomplish the same purpose.
Head cement is a thin, liquid cement which is applied to the whip finish after the fly is complete to keep the knot from slipping.
Ok, now let’s review the rest of the materials you should purchase to get started…
Antron Yarn – a.k.a. Z-Lon, this trilobal material holds air bubbles and gives a life-like look to flies. Used most notably for tying parachutes and spinner wings. Start with white, light gray and pale yellow.
Beads – used to make bead head nymphs. You can save some money on some sizes of beads and find them in craft stores. Match the bead size to the hook as follows: 5/32 bead to 8-10 hook, 1/8 bead to 12-14 hook, 7/64 bead to 14-16 hook, 3/32 bead to 16-18 hook and 5/64 bead to 18-22 hook. Start with a pack of 1/8 and 7/64 to get you started. Start with gold beads at first then you can branch out from there.
Biot – most popular are goose and turkey biot. I recommend the turkey biot. It is great for creating segmented fly bodies, antennae, and tails. Longer than goose biots and much easier to use. Start with olive, white, brown and black.
Chenille, Medium – chenille is a soft, strung material that is wrapped around the hook to form a thick body on some files. It is used to tie the Woolly Bugger among others. Start with colors brown, black, olive and yellow.
Chenille, Ultra – Ultra chenille is a thinner version of the medium chenille used for smaller fly bodies and San Juan Worms. Start with colors chartreuse, red, burnt orange, olive and brown.
Deer Hair – fine hair for making wings on small caddis or hairwings. Save some money here and ask a hunter friend to cut you off a section of the hide from their next bagged deer. Cut it up in small 6″ x 6″ sections and allow to dry out first.
Dubbing – very fine synthetic material used to wrap around thread (process is called dubbing) with dubbing wax and then the dubbed thread is wrapped around the hook to create the body of the fly. Hares ear dubbing is my favorite to give nymphs a “buggy” look. Start with light cahill, sulphur orange, black, Adams gray and olive colors or simply purchase the assortment of 12 colors that comes in a small plastic container.
Elk Hair – used for making wings on flies like the elk hair caddis or hairwings. Also the favorite for spun patterns.
Foam – used for cut wings, floating bodies, posts and indicators. When using foam, be careful not to pull it tight or wrap it too tight. Doing so will crush the tiny pockets inside and will cause it to lose it floating capabilities. This is a common mistake with beginners. Start with gray, white, black, yellow, red. Note: this is another material that can be purchased less expensively at a craft store.
Hackle – hackles are used primarily to tie wings on dry flies and legs on nymphs and for such things as palmering the body of the woolly bugger. Until you get comfortable with tying and selecting the right size hackle for your flies, I recommend the Whiting 100 packs. These are hand chosen hackles of the highest quality that will allow you to tie around 100 files per package. They come sized for different hook sizes. To start out I’d recommend colors, grizzly, medium dun, black, light ginger and brown in hook sizes 14, 16 and possibly 18.
Krystal Flash – twisted mylar flash material that adds sparkle to your flies. Krystal flash can be tied in at various points of the fly as an attractant. Start with the pearl color and expand from there.
Mallard Flanks – these can be used for dry fly wings and sometimes tails and nymph legs. Sometimes dyed but stick with the natural color to start.
Marabou – Downey pin feathers have great movement in the water. The strung marabou is used for the tail of woolly buggers and for various streamer patterns. Marabou is dyed many different colors. Start with small 1/4 oz. packages of black, brown and olive.
Peacock Herl – the natural irridescence of peacock herl makes it one of the all time favorite natural fly tying materials used in wrapping bodies.
Pheasant Tail – These feathers are the main ingredient of the pheasant tail nymph. Also great for knotted hopper legs and for tails and legs on a number of nymphs and emergers.
Thread – like this one really needs any explaining??? Thread is what is used to tie all the materials onto the hook. When starting out, use either a 6/0 or 8/0 (the higher the number, the smaller the thread). Use Uni thread for smaller flies. Start with olive, chartreuse, brown, black, light yellow, fluorescent orange, fluorescent pink and red (you’ll use bright colors for streamers, salmon and steelhead flies).
Turkey Tail – turket tail feathers are used for many of the same things that pheasant tail feathers are used for, mostly wing cases and also for wings and tails.
Wire – wire is used to apply ribbing to flies. Start with size medium and colors gold and copper.
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