Material prep is the key
What really speeds up the process is material preparation. I’m not just talking about counting out your hooks. I’m talking about prepping all of the materials for the fly before you get started.
There are a lot of things you can do. Let’s start with marabou. Marabou comes strung together so removing the marabou from the clump and sorting the plumes you want for the particular fly will save you time at the vise. Most folks usually like a different feather for say a woolly bugger than that for a steelhead marabou fly. After I’ve sorted the feathers any feathers left over that are not used are put back in the bag the marabou came in potentially sorted for specific flies. Bad feathers are thrown away, why keep feathers around you won’t use? I used to tie a fly that was a woolly bugger variation that I could tie at the rate of 3 dozen in 50 minutes. I had to tie about 200 dozen of this pattern each year. All of the hooks were put out which for this fly meant a box of 100 or more at a time, hackle was sized and ready to grab, marabou was cleaned off the string and sorted and the body material was cut to length to allow for three flies per fly and a little to hang on to.
Hackle is a bit different story, it doesn’t matter if it is dry fly or saddle hackle. I size the hackle and then put them in zip lock bags labeled by size (I may have been helping keep Ziplock in business all these years). Then when you want to tie a particular size of fly, just grab the baggie and get busy. Hackle feathers for tails are stored in a baggie by color.
Even soft hackle feathers like pheasant rump and partridge can be sized and stored ready for use just like chicken hackle. I usually put partridge with the fluff already stripped off in a cheap compartmented fly box again labelled by size. Other land birds can be sorted the same way. Pheasant obviously goes into baggies and labeled by size. Duck feathers can be sorted by shape, such as the feathers that are “centers” (equal length of fiber on each side) into a bag for wings or winding, other feathers to be used for tails, wings, etc., into another bag. Any waste material can be thrown away so your stash of materials doesn’t get too big with feathers you may never use.
- Bob Newman
- 50 plus year award winning fly tyer and commercial tyer