Fly Tying (Materials) 101

By Don Fine

This week, at the PVFF combined Roundtable tying session, one of the fly tiers suggested that those who consider themselves ‘neophytes’ to fly tying might need a list of the most commonly used tying materials, to which a fly tier would purchase (have in her/his collection) in order to tie some of the more favorite flies.

It just so happens, that I had previously put together such a list for a ‘newcomer’ to in stocking her/his ‘fly tying materials box’. The list below will not only provide for tying nine of the most popular common flies that one might have in a fly box, but which can be also used to tie perhaps another dozen or so common fly patterns.

Nine Most Popular Fly Patterns

A consensus from many experienced fly tying instructors, these nine patterns will provide most newcomers both an introduction to fly tying and get them fly fishing with their own tied flies.

    [ ] Green Weenie
    [ ] San Juan Worm
    [ ] Woollybugger / Egg Sucking Leech
    [ ] Clouser Minnow
    [ ] Pheasant Tail Nymph
    [ ] Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph
    [ ] Soft Hackle wet fly
    [ ] Elk Hair Caddis
    [ ] Adams (dry fly)

Rather than provide the list of ‘ingredients’ (materials) that are commonly used in constructing each of the nine flies above, I have provide below the combined materials list for the nine flies above, as well as other commonly used patterns. I’m sure that other seasoned fly tiers might want to add or subtract to the list below, but this is a place to start.

Before proceeding with this list, I would like to pass along one of the most basic concepts that I learned through my 40+ years of tying flies. In tying any fly, it is more important to replicate the natural food form (i.e. insect) itself, in size and natural features, rather than it is to replicate the fly using the materials that was used by the creator of the particular fly. For example, Bob Clouser used exclusively deer hair and Flashabou in his original deep minnow pattern. But other synthetics came along which gave more flash, translucency and action to the fly than the original. Bob certainly gave credit to these modifications, to the point that his later patterns incorporated more of the newer materials.

Look to the list below in preparing to stock your Arsenal of Fly Tying Materials.


I suggest you buy these in quantities of 25 packs_size rather than 100 packs to provide more flexibility in your tying.

    [ ] Wet Flies/Nymphs 
        - Mustad 3906B or equivalent – size #12, #14, #16 
    [ ] Dry Flies 
        – Mustad 94840 or equivalent – size #12, #14, #16 
    [ ] Streamers 
        – Mustad 79580 or equivalent – size #6, #8, #10 


One spool of each color to start.

    [ ] Black, Olive, Tan – size 6/0 & 8/0
    [ ] Fire Orange, Red – size 6/0 

Silk Floss

 [ ] Insect Green, Orange, Yellow


Consider buying plastic multicolor dispenser with selection of Wet Fly & Dry Fly dubbings.

    [ ] Wet Fly/Nymph Patterns 
        — Rabbit Dubbing with Antron (e.g. Haretron) — Adam’s Grey, Black, Brown, Dirty Yellow, Hare’s Ear, Insect Green 
    [ ] Dry Fly Patterns 
        — Beaver or equivalent — Adam’s Grey, Black, Caddis Green, Cream, Olive, Tan 

Flashabou / Krystal Flash

One package each color

 [ ] Black, Chartreuse, Gold, Pearl & Silver 

Deer Tails

    [ ] Chartreuse/White
    [ ] Grey/White Bucktail

Deer / Elk Spinning/Stacking Hair

1 package each color

    [ ] Coastal Deer Hair 
    [ ] Natural — Light & Dark 

Mallard Flank Feathers

 [ ] 1 package

Partridge Soft Hackle

 [ ] 1 package

Peacock Herl

 [ ] 1 package

Pheasant Tail

 [ ] 1 package, 4 to 6 feathers


 [ ] Black, Olive – size Medium

Crystal Chenille

 [ ] Brown, Olive, White – size Medium


 [ ] Chartreuse – size Small


1 package each color

 [ ] Black, Olive

Egg Yarn

1 package each color

[ ] Fluorescent Red, Orange

Fine Copper Wire

1 spool each size

[ ] Size – Medium, Fine

Lead / Lead Free Wire

1 spool each size

[ ] Size – Medium, Small

Beads (Brass / Tungsten)

	[ ] Black, Gold – size to fit Hook size #8 – #16

Neck Hackle

	[ ] Chestnut, Grizzly, Tan

Saddle Hackle

	[ ] Black, Olive

I make two notes in closing this list. First, each fly tier’s list of essential materials will vary depending on what type of fly fishing he/she intends to do; my list is personalized for my type of fishing. I accept the fact that other fly tiers might deviate from what is found above. Secondly, this list is meant solely to get a newcomer started into the ‘awesome pastime of tying flies’. Many, many other materials in various colors, sizes, textures and composition are available. So if one questions why I have not included a particular material that they find essential, so be it. That is the beauty of the art of fly tying! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.