How to Tie Flies for Fly Fishing

If you love fishing in general and fly fishing in particular, here is a little guidance on how to tie flies for your personal use or for sale as a side income.

| May/June 1973

Silverstein Fishing Flies

A selection of ten popular fishing fly design styles.


I first learned to tie flies when I was a boy of 13. After watching a man up the street create beauties with such magical names as Parmachene Belle, Silver Doctor, Cowdung, Rio Grande King, March Brown and Black Ghost, I couldn't wait to make my own attempt at this old craft. Every Sunday afternoon for several weeks I carefully observed by mentor in action, then finally took the plunge and invested $5.00 in a fly-tying kit.

The quality of those original supplies was poor, but I didn't care . . . I only wanted to get my hands on the fur, bright feathers, and glittering tinsels and combine them into enticements for trout and salmon. When I wasn't actually in the process of tying a fly or fishing, I would often sit mesmerized just admiring the raw materials: raffia grass from Africa, silver and gold tinsels from France, rabbit skins and glossy rooster plumage, to name a few.

My initial efforts were very sloppily executed, but the fish didn't seem to notice. With just a little practice I was soon able to make a few of the simpler trout baits quite proficiently (and to sell them to local fishermen).

At present I tie flies only for myself and for friends who go trout and salmon fishing here in Maine but, in the near future, I plan to start selling my creations once again to earn some extra money. It's an absorbing and profitable craft at which you might like to try your hand.

What is Fly-Tying?

Fly-tying is basically a method of securing various materials such as furs feathers and tinsels to a fishhook. The resulting fly may or may not imitate an aquatic creature which fish feed upon: A Royal Coachman doesn't look like anything you'll ever see swimming in the water, whereas Roche's Dragonfly does . . . and they both catch fish.   

The Skills You'll Need

Although a hand-tied fly looks like a complicated creation, it's actually put together in an orderly, step-by-step process that can be mastered by anyone able to form a knot in a piece of thread. You needn't even be a fly fisherman, though it certainly helps.

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