Books and DVDs for First-Time Tiers

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Fly Tying

photo 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.