Teach A Kid to Tie a Fly

I spent the last couple of afternoons at the Toronto Sportsman’s Show. Believe it or not, I was actually there helping to teach kids how to tie a fly, a wooly worm. The booth, I believe, is sponsored by Trout Unlimited, and most of the volunteers were from the Izaak Walton Fly Fishing Club. (This club is really active, quite a large membership, and is organizing a Fly Fishing Forum next month that looks spectacular!)

I was somewhat skeptical that I was qualified, and somewhat terrified to even try teaching, but volunteer organizer Bill Christmas assured me that it would be a lot of fun, that I would learn a lot by watching… so I gave it a try!

It was a fantastic experience. The kids were really keen, and quite earnest in their effort to create a perfectly tied fly. I met a lot of great kids, and a lot of great moms and dads sharing their spring break. I actually did learn a lot by teaching, to say nothing of being able to watch the approach of eight other highly qualified tyers.

All in all it was time well spent!



The Fly Tying Bench

There was one of those big fishing shows a couple of weeks ago, and I had planned on taking the day Friday to wander around, and look at all the great fly fishing stuff that people with more disposable income than I have (or perhaps a better line of credit) might consider purchasing on a cold mid-winter weekend. Don’t forget, I’m trying to do this on a budget, and I am still getting the feeling for what I might actually need.

I’ve enjoyed my preliminary attempts at tying flies…. but the process of working on my desk was driving me a little nuts! First I would have to clear everything off my desk, then clamp the vise to the edge (which blocks the drawer), then start scattering all the various threads, tools, feathers, and other fluffy bits all over the desk… needless to say, once I started tying, it was difficult to turn the computer on, and do anything even remotely work related.

I realized that I needed a Fly Tying bench.

There was an advt for a used Fly Tying Kit on kijiji that caught my eye… and suddenly, I knew that I was better spending my time and money investing in a really sweet setup that would really round out my tying needs… the fishing show would just have to wait until next year.

For just $40, I got this sturdy oak Fly Tying bench, some more tools, lots of hooks, feathers, furs, chennilles, marabou, and assorted other fluffy bits that I can only imagine what to do with!

Best of all there was another vise in the lot. While the simple chrome vise that I won at the Symposium does the job, I found it a little awkward to have a single clamp control all the movements. You know, you lock down the hook only to discover that it is just slightly rotated away from you, so you have to start again, dropping the hook, and the cycle repeats itself.

A little frustrating.

This new vise, also manufactured by Integra, has an additional clamp which controls the rotation of the arm which holds the hook. So now, the vise clamps to the bench itself, can go up or down on the center column, the cam sets and locks to hold the hook, and the rotation can also be set to either vertical, bottom, or the sides if need be!

Here's a couple of other views of the new vise...


I’m pretty happy to have found this Fly Tying Bench. It not only has a slightly better tying vise, but it’s going to help me keep organized, and at least relatively tidy, I suppose…








Best of all, I can just pick it up, and move the entire fly tying set-up very quickly. This not only means that I can be tying flies wherever I feel like, but it also means that I can pick up the whole mess and get out of the way, no matter how much of a mess I have made.

Overall, having slots for tools, a work surface, a strong wooden arm to clamp the vise onto, and all those dowels for holding the many various colours of fly tying threads, I believe that this “new-to-me” Fly Tying Bench will prove to be a welcome addition to my set-up.

All this, and for a great price.

I may have missed the really big show, but…


I think I just made my own little show a whole lot sweeter!

Learning to Tie Flies at The Fly Tying Symposium

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the 17th annual Fly Tying Symposium as presented by volunteers from a Toronto group, Winter Hatches Fly Fishing Club. It’s a phenomenal gathering really… There must have been over 100 eager souls who braved the cold of an early February morning to make their way to the North York Civic Centre. Their purpose was to get together with other like minded fly fishermen, hunch over a vise, and learn yet another unique way to tie assorted fluffy bits to a cold steel hook!

As for me, I had signed up for the Beginner’s Workshop, run by a passionate tyer, William Gerrard, who is actually the Director of the entire Fly Tying Symposium. Now, I was pretty nervous heading in… I’m all thumbs really. I was pretty panicked that they might actually kick me out, give me a refund, tell me it was hopeless! Understand, these flies are pretty darn small, people… I wasn’t sure I would be able to even *see* the darn things, let alone manipulate them to look pretty and have them stick together.

It was a fairly interesting mix of people in the room…

Some were fly-tyers who hadn’t practiced in a while, some were adolescent boys, and there were several women in the room. At my table was a big brute of a guy, who walked in with three big boxes full of tying gear… and his ten year old niece.

At this point, I knew, that no matter what, I would look like an idiot!

The plan for the Beginners was to learn the history, introduce the tools, a few other basics, and tie five flies

1. Just-A-Bug

2. Hamill’s Killer

3. Deep Minnow Silver Shiner

4. Elk Hair Caddis

5. Bead Head Pheasant Tail


Somehow, it seemed to me that everyone else in the room had just started magically whirring thread to hook, and I was still fumbling through my bag of materials, trying to find a hook. Well, I was pretty lucky, as the big guy next to me was teaching his niece, so of course that left just little old me for our table’s instructor, Ron Massie, to focus on. Ron was methodical and precise, patient, demanding, and understanding. If I did something wrong, he made me do it over. If everything went shooting off the vise, scattering all over the table, he would merely sigh, and say “Well, let’s try that again…” I don’t think I could have had a better teacher.


Somewhere along the way, mid-afternoon, I began to realize that I was having a blast. That this was a really cool thing to do, that I *could* get better at it, and that I wanted to go home, and try my hand at it some more, without all the anxiety and sweaty palms!

The bonus? I won the door prize, a fly tying kit with a vise, basic tools, and a travelling kit!

Yes, I plan to go again, hopefully learn some more from the guys at the Winter Hatches meetings. There is an event called “Cabin Fever Cure” in April, an outdoor gathering with fly rods, open water, and dozens of experienced fly fisherman willing to help show a newbie such as myself a few things about the sport.


I’m thinking that would be a pretty cool way to spend an afternoon…