Woolly Buggers and Stealth Bombers
Have you ever thought you could build a better mousetrap? Many fly fishers feel the same way.
Rather than purchase flies, they find satisfaction from tying their own flies and catching fish with them. Aside from the pride of creating something beautiful, tying your own flies allows for small changes that can bring better results.
Tied flies are lovely to watch in action, all feathers and fluffs floating magically over the water. Their names are whimsical and amusing: Golden Comet, Woolly Bugger, Sneaky Duck, Llanolope and Goober Bug. Let’s wade into the water and learn a little more.
Fly tying takes a little practice, but it’s well worth the effort. The equipment is pretty basic. Many people use a vise to hold their flies in place, while others tie by hand, holding the hook as they wrap the materials around. To hold the thread, you’ll need a special bobbin, found in most sporting goods stores. You’ll eventually need other tools, but you can be creative. Some fly-tying friends make a few of their own tools out of popsicle sticks.
What you are fishing for will determine the size of your hook. Each fly has a different pattern. After deciding on a design, you’ll need to purchase specific materials. Fly shops have a wide variety of tools and materials; craft stores carry many useful supplies as well. Choose from a rainbow of specialty threads or just use sewing thread. Depending on the pattern, you may need thin foam, feathers or dubbing (soft fluffy stuff that can even come off your dog or cat).
It’s not hard to find feathers on the ground, but you can’t use just any of them. It’s illegal to use a feather that doesn’t come from a game bird, pigeon, Eurasian collared-dove, starling or sparrow. Check the TPWD Outdoor Annual for information about birds that are unprotected by state or federal law.
I learned to tie flies during a fly-fishing event. Also, fly fishing clubs and stores across the state meet regularly and are thrilled to include beginners. Some clubs and fly shops even offer classes on basic skills. Other educational tools to help you learn to tie new patterns are books, YouTube videos and even Facebook groups.
Be sure to check out the TPWD online calendar for places and dates when people are gathering to tie flies across the state.