I started catching trout when I started tying flies. Coincidence? Maybe. But if you’re a trout angler, there’s no such thing as coincidence if it means breaking a trout drought!
However, even though I fish with a Tenkara rod, I didn’t get started tying Tenkara flies. I tried, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of the basic “one fly” kits I’d bought from Tenkara Bum. I can now, but I was missing some very basic skills and needed a way to kickstart my fly tying skill base before I could use them. I’m a self-starter by nature and prefer to teach myself new skills, even if it takes a little longer.
Contrary to the Tenkara pundits who advise against buying kits, I got a beginner fly tying kit, the LL Double L Fly Tying Kit, and was quickly typing basic fly patterns with a bobbin, vise, and hackle pliers. Priced at $129, it has the fixings to tie 17 different fly patterns including enough feathers, fur, yarn, hooks, thread and wire to last well beyond the set of hooks included. LL Bean also sells a smaller kit called the Angler Fly Tying Kit for $99, that includes the same manual, but only has the fixings for 10 flies.
The LL Bean Fly Tying Manual
While it’s very convenient to have all of the tools, hooks, and materials available and organized to start tying flies, the real value of these two kits is the fly tying manual that comes with them. Put simply, it provides step by step instructions on how to use each tool and how to tie each fly, so you can slow down the process and understand what’s going on.
I’ve tried watching fly tying videos on Youtube and as a beginner it is too hard for me to follow what is going on, even if I pause them and loop segments over and over. There’s also an entire linguistic vernacular that fly tiers use that is meaningless to beginner trout anglers and frustrating to understand. “What the heck is hackle, saddle, or maribou?,” I wondered.
Of course, everyone has their own preferred learning style, but the one provided by this manual and fly tying kit really resonated with me. It helped me quickly achieve a basic competency that I could leverage to start tying Tenkara patterns and start making my custom modifications to conventional trout flies. After a week or two of tying more conventional trout flies and Tenkara patterns, I began to tie my own fly patterns and test them out on the river. What fun!
What’s this have to do with hiking and backpacking? Fly fishing has proven to be another way to immerse myself in a wilderness experience. While you can buy flies that other people tie, tying your own provides an opportunity for you to learn about the foods that trout eat and the insect life of rivers. It’s really a fascinating subject that has expanded my appreciation of mountain ecosystems and given me an excuse to learn still more!
The LL Bean Fly Tying Kit I’m using includes materials that go beyond the flies that are included in the manual that accompanies the kit. The quality of the tools included in the kit are pretty good and the fly tying materials are abundant so you can tie many more flies than the number of hooks included. While I’ll probably upgrade the tools at some point, the vise, bobbin, hackle pliers, dubbing needle, scissors etc. are all more than sufficient for my needs.
Once I got some fly tying experience with the kit, I went back to the Tenkara kits that I’d bought before I got the LL Bean Fly Tying Kit including the Ishigaki Fly and the Pink Chenille Worm and didn’t have any problems using and mastering them. But the barrier to using them as a complete beginner, before I’d gained some basic fly tying experience using the LL Bean Kit, had been too high to overcome on my own.
If you’re stuck trying to learn how to tie trout flies, try using one these kits. They made a believer out of me and gave me the basic skills and experience I needed to become a fly tier.
Disclosure: LL Bean provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with the sample LL Bean Fly Tying Kit described in this review.