Fly-Tying: No bugs allowed


I did it. I finally managed to juggle my shelter schedule on a Tuesday night to get to the Edgartown Rod and Gun Club to attend a fly-tying session. I am determined to learn how to fly-fish this year, and to actually spend hours fishing with my fly rod instead of always grabbing my spin rod. 

I admit, I do not make my own lures or plugs for my spin rod, except during the M.V. Surfcasters luremaking contest. I’m working on a super-fun, hopefully productive, lure for this year’s contest. Testing will begin as soon as the bluefish arrive. 

Fly-tying is an art form that I’ve admired for a while, and boldly thought I might be able to do. Please notice I said, “might.” When I walked into the Rod and Gun Club last Tuesday night, everyone had a lot of supplies laid out on the tables in front of them. I had a notebook. 

Jamie Boyle was the instructor. Jamie has won many Derby awards on the fly rod, and runs Boylermaker Charters here on-Island. He’s famous for Vineyard Squid fly, the Bonito Bunny fly, and the Red Can Squid fly. 

Jamie had a bunch of supplies on his table for everyone to use to make the fly of the night: Tutti Frutti. 

The Tutti Frutti is pink with a chartreuse overlay, great for targeting false albacore and bonito. 

I watched, listened, and took copious notes as Jamie led the group through the “simple” steps to create a Tutti Frutti. First step: “Get a good wrap of thread on the hook to get a good base.” Jamie was using 6.0 white thread. Next came the pink craft fur, which looked and felt a bit like a child’s stuffed animal, though not overly cuddly. 

The trick with the craft fur is to “pull out the short fibers so you’re only using the long fibers. Then twist the fibers to get them tight,” instructed Jamie. I watched closely as Jamie laid the pink fibers on the hook and wound the thread tightly over the pink to the bend of the hook and back to the eye. 

 “Thread control is the biggest and hardest thing to do. You have to have control,” he said.

The next step was flash. Think super-thin strips of colored tinsel, folded and trimmed and cut to size. Once again, Jamie wrapped the white thread down and back from eye, to bend, to eye. Jamie then picked up a length glittery white of micro-chenille. The chenille, I learned, makes up the “body” of the fly. This time, Jamie held the chenille and spun the vise arm with his palm, so the chenille moved in a spiral, creating what really did look like a fly body. When he got to the eye of the hook, he tied off and cut the chenille.

At this point, I’ve taken lots of notes and pictures, and I’m still wondering how I’m going to be able to do this at home without adult supervision. 

Jamie grabbed some of the chartreuse craft fur, pulled out the short fibers, trimmed the long fibers to match the length of the pink. The top part, or wing, was wrapped only at the top near the eye of the hook. Jamie tied off the fly with a whip knot using a bodkin. I cannot describe this to you. He did it so quickly, I made a note to Google “whip knot.” 

The fly was almost done. Jamie uses ultraviolet glue to secure his flies. He put the glue between the tail (pink) and the wing (green), and using a UV light, he then glued the portion for about 30 seconds. He put another layer of glue on to the bend, and again used the UV light.

“Be careful with the UV lights. They are very strong,” he said, and he advised having rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes on hand to take the UV glue off easily.

Now the fly needed eyes. Jamie used size 2 blue eyes. “Fold the eyes in half so they crease before you pick them off the sheet, so they’re easier to glue on,” said Jamie. 

The last step was to glue the eyes on and seal them with the UV light.

While Jamie uses UV glue and a UV light to dry the glue on his flies, he shared his best advice: “Nothing is better than curing them in the sun,” he said. “Put them on the dash of your truck for a couple of days.”

Fortunately, Jamie repeated this process a few more times so I could take even more notes.

Jamie suggested anyone interested in tying flies should head to Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown. Coop will get you set up, and answer any questions you might have. Jamie noted beginners can purchase a Umpqua fly-tying kit to get started. I looked them up online, and they run about $100. Personally, I’m going to Coop’s.

“It’s worth it to spend money on a good vise, a ceramic bobbin, and a good pair of scissors,” said Jamie, adding, “You can buy mustache brushes at the dollar store to brush the flies.”

When the class finished, Coop Gilkes walked over and asked me, “Are you serious about this?” 

I smiled. Coop’s been trying to get me to fly-fish for a few years. I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes. I’ll see you Saturday to buy all my equipment.”

Coop grinned and said, “You will love it.”

Coop erased the doubts I had about my skill set. Coop is an encourager. When he believes in you, you believe in you.

I showed up at Coop’s on Saturday with a ton of enthusiasm and a credit card. I left with my supplies, a promise to come back on a warm, windless day and practice, and even more enthusiasm. 

I went home, took out my notes, opened all my new gear, and made my first fly. It’s far from perfect, maybe not even attractive to the fish, but it’s a start.

I’m going to catch a fish on my fly rod on a fly I made. This is the year. I believe it. 

I hope to see you on the beach, and I hope I’m casting a fly that I made.