Five Most Common Mistakes of New Fly Tyers (and Advice)

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Are you new to fly tying?  Have you been tying for a while now, but still are not super happy with what you have created?  

I was new to fly tying at one point (heck I a still new to some flies), and I KNOW these mistakes, because I made them too.  I did not have anyone to teach me what to do, and I had not yet discovered YouTube to help learn from.  So, I just saw patterns that I thought looked effective and tried to re-create them on my own.  Sometime they came out ok, most of the time I made mistakes and they came out horrible.  Here is my advice to new fly tyers.

These are the five most common mistakes of new fly tyers.

1) Never Tying the Same Pattern

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Some of my early ties.  Never tied the same fly twice.

Looking back, one of the first things I noticed about myself was that I never wanted to tie more than one of a specific fly pattern.  I see this all the time with posts from new fly tyers also.  There is no way to improve on that pattern if you don't practice tying it.  

One of the best things you can do as a fly tyer is tie the same pattern over and over.  If you get board with one color combination of that fly, change the material colors, but that is it.  Become an expert at tying that fly before you move on to trying to master something else.  

Advice for a New Tyer: Pick a pattern that you like to fish.  Practice tying it over and over until you can tie it as good or better than you can buy it in a store.  Then tie it some more in different colors.  Once you have it mastered, move onto a different pattern.

Tying the same pattern over and over.
(San Marcos Salamander)

2) Trying to Reinvent the Wheel

Experiment from my early days

I have a tendency to look at things, flies included, and think to myself, "that's nice, but I think I could improve it."  That can be a great attitude sometimes, but not necessarily when tying flies.  If you have an idea to improve a fly, I bet it has been done before.

If you think you can invent a "new" fly out of thin air (like I tried to do) without knowing the basics of fly tying first, you might come up with new flies, but more than likely, your flies will be ugly and won't fish the way you want them to.

Advice for a New Tyer: Follow how to video's on YouTube (like on Texas Freshwater Fly Fishing's YouTube Channel) or one of the many other great ones out there.  You will learn simple tips and tricks that will make you a more efficient fly tyer, and the flies you "invent" later on better!  

A wooly bugger is a great fly to start learning on.
Teaches techniques, and catches fish!

3) Too Much on the Hook
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Poorly tied Clouser with
Way too much material.

I am talking about material and thread.  One of the biggest problems I had as a beginning fly tyer was just this, putting too much material (feathers, hair, flash) onto the flies I was tying.  I thought that the more material the better.  

Part of that was just a complete misunderstanding of how flies perform.  Adding more material might make the fly look "fuller" but it won't allow the fly to fish properly.

Advice for a New Tyer: When putting material on a hook, use half of what you think you need (then sometimes cut this in half again!)  When wrapping on the material use as few wraps as possible.  If you are trying to "build up a head"...don't.  Let the material you tie on and the wraps you use to hold that material on form the head of the fly.

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Properly tied Clouser Minnows

4) Crowding the Eye

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Way to crowded at the front. 
Also, way too much material.

Another mistake that I had to learn the hard way (and one I see often with beginning fly tyers) is that they have a tendency to "crowd the eye" of the hook.  Meaning, they want to put the material closer to the front of the fly.

This will make it hard to tie your material on and create an unbalanced fly.  It will also make the head of your fly ugly and not smooth (allowing it to hang up on and hold more junk from the water.)

Advice for a New Tyer: Watch videos and learn where material should be tied on.  And, in most cases, it is better to tie it on further back than you think and have extra room at the front of the hook.

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Proper space between material and 
the eye of the hook.

5) Not Knowing What Different Hooks are For

Learn the different styles and sizes of hooks, and what each one is best suited for.  When I first started tying, I had access to live bait hooks from Wal-Mart.  That was about it.  So, that is what I used.  They didn't work out too well in most cases.  These hooks can be curved in weird ways, causing your flies to twist when you fish them.  They can be heavier than you want, causing dry flies to sink. Or, they could have a multitude of other problems.

Advice for a New Tyer: Take a little bit of time reading about different hook styles, and what they are designed for.  And, going back to #1, buy a pack of hooks for that ONE fly you are learning to tie.  That way you don't have to buy so many different styles and sizes all at once.

I hope you learned a few tips to help you on your fly tying journey.  If you can avoid making these mistakes, you will become a much better fly tyer, much sooner than I did.  Let me know if you have made these mistakes before, and let me know if these pointers helped you out!

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