When you think about fly fishing, the actual fishing part is just one component to a much larger entity. Beyond casting to and hooking up with fish, a well-rounded angler usually knows a thing or two about the dynamics of water, effective gear & equipment, weather, fish behaviors, and entomology. And that’s just naming a few. This is why I often refer to fly fishing as the ‘world of fly fishing’. Because it is, in fact, far more than just fishing with flies.
Speaking of flies, have you ever tried tying your own? For many anglers, fly tying is an integral part of their fly fishing lifestyle. But only a handful of them learn to fish and tie flies simultaneously. More often than not, tying typically comes into the picture once an angler has their rigging, fly selection, casting and landing dialed in. But obviously, there are exceptions to this progression.
Regardless of where you are in your fly fishing career, tying your own flies should be on your bucket list. But with many new undertakings, attempting to start on your own can be a formidable task. There is a lot to learn and the endeavour incorporates some challenging techniques. That’s why Vail Valley Anglers offers an extremely helpful ‘Beginner Fly Tying Class.’ It’s the perfect way to get the fundamental methods under your belt and learn about the tools and materials required for the processes. Thankfully, it won’t break the bank in doing so.
For the ‘Beginner Fly Tying Class,’ there are two different cost categories. For those of you who do not have your own vise or tying tools, you will pay just $139. This includes the 2-3 hour long course plus the Umpqua Beginner’s Fly Tying Kit (which retails for $100). The kit includes a Metz beginner’s vise, hackle pliers, scissors, tying bobbin, head cement, an assortment of Tiemco hooks and a healthy selection of tying materials. It also comes with tying instructions and sample flies just in case you need a refresher after taking the class. This course package option is a steal. You’re essentially paying $100 for your own vise, tools and tying materials and getting an entire introductory class for just $39. For those of you who already own a vise and tying tools, the enrollment fee is only $59.*
As for the class itself, each participant will be provided with all the materials required to tie two different flies (more on that below). Everyone gets hands on instruction, plenty of time to ask questions and one-on-one assistance with the more difficult steps. These great features are due to the guaranteed small class size, which is limited to just 6 students. Fewer students means more time focused on helping each individual with the process.
*If you don’t yet own a vise, but know you want a different one from what’s included in the Umpqua Beginner’s Fly Tying Kit, read our blog on choosing your first fly tying vise here. It’s a great resource for learning about the different types of vises and helping you figure out which one is best for you.
None really. All levels of beginners are encouraged to sign up. Whether you’ve never touched a vise before or have already tied a few different flies on your own, the course requires no previous knowledge about fly tying. Just come ready to learn and have some fun in a relaxed setting.
About The Instructor
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The quality of a course is determined by the caliber of the instructor. And in the case of Vail Valley Anglers’ ‘Fly Tying for Beginners,’ you’ll experience some amazing instruction from a very talented teacher, Ray Kyle.
Ray is the shop supervisor in Edwards, one of our guides and our premier fly tying instructor. About 7 years ago, he began tying his own flies. And only a short year later, he started entering fly tying competitions, winning two ‘iron-fly’ style battle royales in the Vail Valley and one in Denver. Additionally, Ray competed in the inaugural GoPro fly tying event in Vail and participated in a Rocky Mountain Collective function at the Ritz Carlton in Bachelor, where he demonstrated tying in front of spectators. He also hosts open tying nights at Bonfire Brewing Company in Eagle. With his extensive understanding of entomology and fly fishing, he’s been able to create some amazing patterns perfect for fisheries throughout the state.
Last month, I had the opportunity to take the ‘Fly Tying for Beginners’ class. There were two other students besides me, both of who had previous experience with tying. I, on the other hand, was the total newbie. Ray was able to tailor the class so that each of us received specific instruction based on our varying levels of knowledge. He listened intently to our questions (of which I had many) and was able to respond with as much detail as we desired. And although some of the lessons were complicated and involved multiple precise techniques, Ray quickly broke down the material into approachable and simple steps. The class was fun, challenging and rewarding, all thanks to our solid instructor.
What To Expect
Throughout the evening, you will learn about the various tools and materials involved in the tying process. Ray will also shed light on the different types of vises on the market, explain their pros and cons and discuss his preferences. But the bulk of the class is hands on tying, where each student gets to tie two different flies.
The first fly you will learn is the classic streamer, the Wooly Bugger. It’s a great introductory fly for a few reasons. First off, the hook and materials are larger, making them easier to handle and work with. The materials are also commonly used in a multitude of other flies. So, it’s helpful to become acquainted with them right off the bat. And finally, the Wooly Bugger is a classic for a reason. Simply put, it entices strikes and can be used in an array of fishing scenarios. It’s a great addition to any angler’s streamer arsenal.
After your Wooly Bugger is complete, you’ll learn how to tie a Zebra Midge. Although this fly requires only a few ingredients and is fairly simple to tie, the materials are much smaller which can create some challenges in the process. The Zebra Midge can be lethal when fished properly, producing strikes nearly year round in most rivers in the western states. So again, knowing how to tie your own and having a handful in your box will always come in handy.
In learning how to tie these two flies, each student will acquire skills like threading your bobbin, manipulating your materials and the whip finish. Ray does a great job explaining the shortcuts and tips that he’s gathered over the years. And his tricks make tying easier without jeopardizing the quality of your flies. It sure beats trying to figure all of this out on your own.
Have you already taken the ‘Fly Tying for Beginners’ class? Or are you a decent fly tier who wants to take your skills to the next level? Vail Valley Anglers has you covered! In addition to the beginners’ class, VVA offers specialty classes as well as private fly tying sessions.*
For our specialty offerings, you can choose the ‘Streamer Clinic,’ the ‘Euro Nymph Clinic,’ or the ‘Foam Fly Clinic’ (new this year). Each class will provide the intermediate to advanced tier the opportunity to learn specialized tying methods and expand their fly tying knowledge.
As for our private, one-on-one lessons, Ray will customize each class to the students specific interests, whether it’s learning the basics or trying out some more advanced techniques. This is a great way to get a full immersion into the world of tying. The private lessons can be taken solo or with a friend or family member.
*Any of these classes will make a great holiday gift for the angler in your life! And it will be a gift that keeps on giving!
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Sign Up
- Expand your knowledge of flies and fly fishing. Knowledge = Power
- Work with your hands. There’s a lot to be said about creating something tangible.
- Meet new people. Maybe you’ll find your next fishing buddy at class.
- Tap into your creative side. Fly tying is an artform. Learn the basics then let your imagination run wild.
- Best of all, catch some fish with a fly that tied on your own. It’s a whole new level of immersion that you can take pride in.
We just expanded our fly tying materials and tool selection at our shop in Edwards. Drop on in and check it out. And you can inquire about all of our fly tying offerings while you’re there. Or check them out at our website by clicking the link here. All of the class dates and times can be found there.
Keep ‘em wet, handle them sparingly and always appreciate where you are.
Seth Kulas, Vail Valley Anglers Content Writer, @sticks2snow