Friday, July 15, 2011

Fly Tying Simplicity

A #10 Royal Sakasa Kebari and Pheasant & orange tied without a vise
As I have grown older I have tried to simplify many activities in my life.  This is one reason I have become so enamored with Tenkara.  Tenkara consists of not much more than a rod, line, and fly. Although I still go fishing using other methods such as using spin rods and bait, Tenkara has become my dominant and preferred method for spending a morning or evening out on the water. Before I made my first cast with a Tenkara rod I had become fully obsessed with the art of tying flies.  To me, this hobby is on par with the enjoyment I get while fishing.  But if one is not careful, the cost and acquisition of materials can get out of hand.  This in turn could lead to a mild but enjoyable form of chaos.  I wrote a post awhile back on creating a simplified fly tying kit that one could easily place in a pocket for a road trip or sit on the couch and tie without the effort involved in dragging out vises or rummaging through bins of materials.  If done slowly, I can produce quality flies with the small pin vise included in my kit.  Everything I need fits into an Altoids tin.  But after reading a recent thread on the Tenkara USA forum I have decided to take the simplicity of this kit one step further.  For centuries there were no fly tying vises.  I have read that many tiers of north country flies in the past and even a number of Tenkara anglers in Japan today tie flies without the aid of a vise.  Granted some of these flies may be larger in size and that helps in holding the hook but with a little practise (and some hand cramping) small well tied flies can be produced also.  Pictured above are my first two attempts at tying without a vise of any kind.  Despite the fact they took me longer than usual to produce I think they came out pretty good.  They are size #10 Mustad nymph hooks.  This is a little bigger than the size #12 and #14 hooks I am accustomed to but I have no doubt that they will catch fish.  Do I plan on giving up my vise?  Not on your life, but its nice to know in a pinch or just for the fun of it I can tie a good fly with nothing more than a bobbin, thread, hook, and a feather.  I also viewed tying like this as a challenge that may in the end improve my ability to tie.  I hope to tackle smaller and more complex flies in this manner in the future and plan to post results when I get a chance.     


  1. The flies are truly simple in material, but will as most, take fish.
    Fish are uncomplicated, food, clean environs, and the ability to reproduce.
    Your ability to tie these in perhaps the most simple, uncomplicated fashion, enhances your reward on the water.

    I tied a streamer last year with out a vise..... it was nice, but never again.

  2. Brk Trt, I definitely agree with you. When I eventually fish these flies and catch something it will be personally rewarding and enhance my overall experience. As with any fly I tie for me or someone else, I take great satisfaction when I find they catch fish. It was fun to do but I also agree I would always prefer a vise.