Salt Water Fly Tying Basics
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Texas saltwater fly fishers are blessed with accommodating weather conditions for the majority of the year. However, the little bit of in climate weather we do experience often seems to last an eternity. Smart anglers use this time to their advantage by cleaning and maintaining their equipment.

This downtime also presents an excellent opportunity to stock your fly box. For long-rodders who have mastered the relatively simple art of fly tying, loading up on patterns is an issue of how much time, rather than how many dollars, they have. With frequent blue northerns blowing through during January and February, most every angler has a little spare time.

Learning to tie is sometimes intimidating. But, once you have mastered a few simple techniques, tying is a fast, cost-effective way to fill your fly box. In addition, knowing how to tie allows you to experiment with colors or original patterns.

Saltwater patterns are elementary when held against their freshwater counterparts. Often times, local shops or clubs hold fly tying seminars during the winter. Attending one or two sessions is often enough to get you on your way. Even if you can't get to a lesson, shop professionals can usually show you the basics in a matter of minutes.

The initial investment in tools and materials can be somewhat staggering, but it doesn't have to be. Again, most saltwater patterns do not require rare or exotic materials. In addition, several materials, such as bucktail, can be used to tie a variety of offerings. For this reason, stay away from the pre-packaged kits. Most of these assortments are filled with materials that, while useful for freshwater trout patterns, may never by used by a saltwater tier.

Keep the list simple. When you are just getting started, pick materials that can be used for a variety of patterns. Knowing what you want to tie will help when selecting materials. Find a good pattern book, like Lefty Kreh's Saltwater Fly Patterns or Greg Berlocher's Fly Patterns of the Texas Coast, they will list the materials needed for each fly.

The Clouser Minnow is a good example of a simple, productive pattern that utilizes material that can be used in other patterns. The body of this pattern can be tied with bucktail, super hair, fly fur or any number of other materials. Add in a little crystal flash, some dumbbell or bead-chain eyes, thread and a hook, and you are set to go. A quick glance at the pattern book reveals that some or all of these materials can be used in at least a dozen other patterns.

The beginning fly tier will also need an assortment of basic tools. Necessities include a bobbin (for holding the thread), bobbin threader, dubbing needle, whip finisher (for tying the final hitches), hackle pliers, scissors and a vise. Actually, you only need a bobbin, scissors and a vise, but the others are nice to have.

Your vise need not be the most exquisite model on the market. The main function is for it to hold hooks. Make sure the jaws are large and strong enough to hold hooks ranging from size 6 to 3/0.

Bobbins range from plain, aluminum barrel models for a couple of bucks to versions with ceramic or titanium inserts in the barrels. The latter can cost upwards of $20. Something in the middle is most practical for saltwater tiers. Saltwater patterns require heavy thread and the lower end bobbins usually work fine. Smaller thread size will necessitate the use of a smoother bobbin to protect against nicks and abrasions.

Scissors should be comfortable on you hand and sport thin, ultra-sharp edges. Many tiers prefer to wear their scissors on their fingers the entire time they are tying, so comfort is of utmost importance. Don't be afraid to put their on your hands for a "test-tie."

As for luxuries, the bobbin threader functions like a sewing needle threader and saves the frustration of trying to push  limp thread through the barrel of the bobbin. Dubbing needles are designed to 'fluff' dubbing, but for the purpose of saltwater tying, they are most often used to apply head cement or glue. A whip finisher is a neat little tool that ties half-hitches. Although this knot is fairly simple and can be performed with fingers, whip finishers usually tie a neater, more reliable knot. And, finally, the hackle pliers are used to hold hackles, or feathers, while they are wrapped around a hook shank. Again, this can be done with fingers, but is much more efficient when done with pliers.

All in all, fly tying, much like fly fishing, is not near as complicated as it is made out to be. So, the next time a hard blow has you mulling your over the fly bar at the local fly shop, pick up a few tools and a handful of materials instead. After all, why buy when you can tie?

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