The following 32 fly tying tips were provided by Henry Hoffman, the famous breeder of genetic chickens fame. Henry has compiled some useful suggestions on making your tying experience easier and more efficient. Some of the devices described can be easily constructed and used at the class tying stations or your individual tying table. Tip #2 should be followed in the preparation of all your classes.

  1. Make a portable tying set up by fastening 1/4 inch peg-board to 3/4 inch lumber. Continue the 1/4 holes from the peg-board into the underlying boards with a drill. Use dowling or tinker toys to make framework to hold spooled items. Bobbins and scissors can be placed vertical in the 1/4 inch holes. Larger holes can be drilled to hold bigger items.
  2. Spill proof head cement holder can be made by drilling a 1 1/2 inch hole into a 5 inch piece of 2x6.
  3. To make head cement applicators that are adjustable to pick up the same size drop each time, push a piece of spinner making wire through a wine cork. As the head cement gets lower in the bottle, push a little more wire through the cork. Different thicknesses of wire can be used to make a set of small, medium, and large size applicators. When not being used, keep the original cap on the bottle.
  4. (Addition to tip #3) On the untapered wire the drop of head cement will be right on the tip; it's much less likely to get into your hackle. With a bodkin the drop of cement stays up on the thicker tapered area above the tip. See an example of this on page 79 of Dave Hughes' fine book The Fly Tyers Reference.
  5. Glass bead heads are easier to do if the beads are glued on ahead of time. One of the cork applicators works well for this with water base head cement that has been allowed to thicken some.
  6. With Scotch Tape, securely fasten a couple of bar magnets to vise to hold hooks.
  7. If you have a rotary vise, turn hook to point up position to apply foundation thread wraps. In this position you are less likely to hit hook point with the thread. In some situations the whip finish is easier to do with the hook inverted.
  8. To prevent that back pain that comes between the shoulder blades when you spend a lot of time tying, use an office chair with arm rest. Also, get a Dyna King height adjustor and lower the vise. This will allow you to rest your forearms on the arm rest while you tie.
  9. To make mono eyes: Use a birthday candle to get a small flame. Drill a few holes in a piece of 2x4 or 2x6. Mount a candle in one of the holes. In order to use all of the candle and not set the wood on fire, take a piece of aluminum foil and punch a hole in it the size of the canle. Slide the foil over the candle and down against the wood. Have 20 or 30 pieces of mono precut into short lengths and ready to use before you light the candle. Use filed down tongs to hold and turn the pieces of mono. Hold mono down be side of flame to keep soot off as eyes form.
  10. For better color on the black manufactured mono eyes you get at the fly shops, overcoat them with a black marker.
  11. Beaver guard hairs can be stacked in a minature stacker and used for stiff dry fly tails.
  12. Beaver underfur makes a good durable substitute for marabou or chickabou tails on nymphs.
  13. Use third hand vise attachment to hold pieces of Beaver, Muskrat, or other furs next to vise where it will be in the same place each time.
  14. Use double third hand tool to hold pieces of Elk or Deer hide. To even tips of hair, stand hair up at right angle to hide with fingers and cut off with scissors in other hand.
  15. If you've ever tried cutting a dried animal hide into smaller pieces with a knife or razor blade, you probably had some difficulties, especially on thick ones like Elk. I've recently found that a hacksaw cuts really well. Saw from the skin side and saw in the direction of the slant of the hair. If you want to go across the grain, slant the saw to match the angle of the hair.
  16. The Mono Loop: The hair that will float your stone fly or stimulators the best also has a tendancy to flair more than you want. To reduce the flair of the wing, tie in a piece of 1 lb mono to the underside of hook just before tying on the hair. After hair is tied down with your regular tying thread, take one turn over the hair about 1/8 inch farther back with the mono. Use only moderate pressure and tie off the mono loop with your regular thread.
  17. Mono thead can be bought cheaply at fabric shops. It can be used as a basic wrap on hook shanks where you don't want any color coming up from underneath. I use this on my Shad flies on silver hooks with translucent pearl ribbon floss bodies.
  18. Use third hand tool to hold feathers next to vise. With thumb and fore finger, pull feather taut. Now, with free your free hand you can fold hackle or pull barbs off for tailing material. You can pull sections off from either side of quill or both at the same time.
  19. Save medium rooster quills for quill bodies. Use heavy quill sections to make a base for dumbbell eyes so they are more stable.
  20. Use burning tool to singe off errant fibers.
  21. To make wide flat bodied nymphs, take two or three strands of lead wire and twist into a rope. Lash on piece onto each side of hook. Twisted rope stays in place better than a single heavy strand.
  22. To prevent lead stains, cover lead with multi strand rayon floss.
  23. When using wire for ribbing, counter wrapping does the most good to reinforce weak material. If you are doing this with a pattern with mono, bead chain, or dumbbell eyes, you can make the final wrap counterclockwise around one of the eyes. Now you'll have the wire and the tying thread both going in the same direction at the completion of the ribbing.
  24. After wire ribbing is tied off, cut off excess with utility knife blade: or wiggle the wire back and forth until it breaks off where it comes out from under the thread. (Saves your scissor blades)
  25. Recently Butler Gum Floss Threaders are gaining favor for fly tying. The most effective way I've found to use these is to start out with spool already in the bobbin. Hold it small end down and have about six inches of thread hanging along the side of the tube. Take threader and slide it up over the thread and then poke the thin end of threader down the tube from the back end.
  26. Hackle pliers with metal-to-metal jaws or any with sharp edges will tend to cut off tips of fine quilled feathers. Thompson nonskid with rubber pads don't cut off hackle tips but they tend to slip. Solution? Just remove one of the rubber pads. Now you have a hackle plier that holds real well without damage to quills.
  27. Save shallow containers such as frozen orange juice lids for throw away mixing containers for mixing epoxy for fly heads.
  28. Use rooster flank feathers (from breast) to make matuka wings. To keep these wing feathers from rolling out of alignment, cut barbs off side that is going next to body. The stubble left from cutting the feathers digs into the chenille. Tie on the two far side feathers first, then the two near side ones. Don't attempt all four at once!
  29. The Bobbin Toss: If you want to speed up tying off materials like tinsel, yarn, chenille, etc., you can hold the material end to right side with right hand. With left hand you fling the bobbin over the top of hook and toss it again as it comes around under the shank. With practice, you can have the bobbin spinning quickly around the hook. Don't attempt this with small flies and light threads.
  30. To keep epoxy spread evenly on fly heads or bodies: mount a small block of styrofoam on end of a rotary vise. Three or four flies can be rotated at a time until epoxy sets up.
  31. To make 10 to 15 compartment moth proof material storage sets, use slide bar freezer bags, 2 sizes available. Have pieces of chipboard, like what is used as inserts with necks and saddles. Cut into 2x10 inch strips for gallon size bags and 2x8 1/2 inches for quart size. Punch three 1/4 inch hinge holes 1/2 inch from outer edges. Staple one of these to each bag on side opposite to slide bar. Connect the bags together like a book with a spiral binding with cable ties. Be sure to leave enough slack in the cable ties so you can turn the pages of your material file. You can put a drop of super glue into the locking part of the cable ties to prevent them from getting accidently tightened down into smaller loops later.
  32. Anytime you get or tie a newly designed fly, test it in a sink, bath tub, or aquarium to check the action. One time I tied damsel nymphs on swimming nymph hooks and found that on a retrieve they'd turn on their side unless weighted at the goose neck curve of the hook. Another time, I designed a crayfish fly to ride point up. When watching them in one of my plexy glass water tanks I soon found I had to have the weight in a new location to get the proper balance. A good way to do these tests is to make a miniture fishing rod with a 1/4 inch piece of doweling. Just add a short piece of mono at the tip along with your fly.