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Books and DVDs for First-Time Tiers

by Philip Monahan

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Fly Tyingphoto by Amanda Vernor

Question: I’m looking to start tying flies for the first time. After wading through all of the options for vises, tools, materials, etc., I’m still left with one big decision to make: What books/DVDs do you recommend for a first-time fly tier?

Jan M., currently in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but lives in South Dakota.

Answer: There are a ton of resources out there for the beginner, so I can understand your dilemma. Luckily, there are also a plethora of excellent books to get you started.

Unfortunately, my favorite beginner’s book—Basic Fly Tying: A Beginner’s Benchside Reference, by the late Dick Talleur—is out of print. (However, I’m sure there are others to be found online.) Talleur’s easy-to-follow, plainspoken instruction and focus on the mechanics of the art of fly tying set this book apart. Having worked with “Uncle Dickie” when he was the fly-tying columnist for American Angler, I can assure you that his painstaking attention to detail resulted in some of the most perfectly formed and proportioned flies I have ever seen.

Here are a couple other books that rise to the top of the pile:

  1. The Benchside Introduction to Fly Tying, by Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer. The team of Leeson and Schollmeyer has produced some of the most important fly-tying books of the past two decades, and their book for beginners maintains those high standards. The combination of Leeson’s words and Schollmeyer’s photos is enhanced by an ingenious design and layout. Each page is cut in half horizontally, so you can keep an eye on the recipe and the finished fly on the top half, while following the step-by-step tying instructions on the bottom half.
  2. The Orvis Fly Tying Guide, by Tom Rosenbauer, will take you from absolute novice all the way to accomplished fly tier. Rosenbauer has a knack for getting right to the important information without a lot of extraneous stuff, and both his instruction and step-by-step sequences are very clear and full of practical hints and tricks. With a huge selection of flies and recipes, this is a book that you’ll want to keep next to your tying bench for years to come.

As far as fly-tying videos go, most of the really good ones are for more advanced tiers and focus on specific styles of patterns, advanced techniques, or species. Two  true beginners’ DVDs that stand out are Marvin Nolte’s two-DVD set Basic Fly Tying: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started and Cabela’s Getting Started Fly Tying with Jack Dennis. That said, if you spend some time on YouTube and Vimeo, you can find a wealth of instructional, step-by-step videos that will help you tie better. Good luck.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Phil Monahan is a former Alaskan guide and was the long-time editor of American Angler magazine. He's now a columnist for MidCurrent and writes and edits the fly-fishing blog at You can email your fly fishing questions to us at
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  • Gofishinor

    Charlie Craven also has very good books and DVD’s on tying. At Charlie’s Fly Box. One of the best tyers in the country.

  • SoDakFarmboy

    I”m the one who posed the original question, so thanks for taking the time to answer it. I’m already ordering some of the things mentioned.

    Jan M. in Kazakhstan (but longing for the Black Hills of South Dakota)

  • Fall RiverBum

    There are also great tips on the internet.
    Just Goggle Fly tying for the beginner.

  • DidsFlyFisher

    I would highly recommend Skip Morris’s “FLY TYING Made Clear & Simple”. It is spiral bound book with step by step instructions taking you from a simple nymph, like Rick’s Caddis and helps you build the necessary skills to tie more complex patterns. there is also a DVD by the same name. Although I am not a profecient tyer yet, I have found that my skills are becoming better evry time I proceed to a new fly.

  • SoDakFarmboy

    If you’re ever interested, it’s a relatively cheap destination, except for the costs of housing accomodation in the summer time. (Tent camping in U.S. Forest land is free, though.) There are a lot of wonderful little high country streams, many of which are undisturbed. It’s not big water fishing, and almost all of the trout in the lakes are stocked, but if you like small stream fishing with lots of different stream types, structure, etc., it’s really fun. Spearfish Creek/Canyon and Rapid Creek are unbelievably beautiful. If you’ve never been there, do a Google search and look at the pictures.

  • Frehbein

    The DVD “50 Years Behind the Vise,” by Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser is a must for all beginning tyers (and experts). These two men have been instrumental in creating a good many of the materials and techniques used by fly tyers worldwide over the past 50 years.

  • ct fly tier

    When I started I bought Skip Morris book Fly Tying made clear and simple it’s a great beginner book avaliable from Frank Amato publishers, he also has a dvd. Best of all they are priced right won’t break the bank.