Fly tying (or to give it its posh name, fly dressing) is presumably as old as fly fishing and indeed, there is a very good case to be made that seeing wild fish taking and eating real flies on the surface of the water was probably the original inspiration for rod fishing as we understand it . Whoever was then inspired to try and fool those fish in imitating those real flies by binding some appropriate coloured feathers or fur to a rudimentary hook almost certainly invented fly tying and to whom modern fly fishing and fly tying is eternally grateful! He or she also produced the very first artificial fishing fly. It was soon clear that different fish, at different times, seasons and locations responded to many different insects or prey and the subsequent artificial fly variations became known as ‘fly patterns’ or fly tying patterns. The early dominant game species was definitely the trout and so trout fly patterns became a popular reference. Fly tying thence rapidly increased in popularity and these new fly tyers in turn generated a need for more specialist fly tying materials such as specific fly tying tools, fly tying hooks, fly tying thread and it wasn’t long before specialist fly tying supplies became available through a growing number of fly tying equipment manufacturers and fly tying suppliers.
Those first trout flies were literally tied by and in the hand. The specific fly tying vice did not really appear as a common or consumable item until the mid-19th Century but when they did, this in turn created a wealth of better and more dedicated fly tying tools such as hackle pliers, bobbin holders, dubbing needles and even the first whip finishing tool was on the way as a huge help to those with less than nimble fingers! The particular desires and needs of salmon fly fishermen were also catered for with the advent of specialist salmon double hooks and salmon treble hooks, Waddington shanks and hollow alloy tubes for salmon tube flies.
The first fly tying books began to appear which fired the imagination of a legion of fly tyers in much the same way that fly fishing magazines, fly tying videos and fly tying you tube does today! Fly tying vises rapidly increased in efficiency and design and together with the same improvements in fly tying tools allowed greater skills and fly tying techniques. As we rolled through the 20th Century, the huge developments in and the availability of synthetic fly tying materials gave modern fly tying a further boost. For many, fly fishing and fly tying became more than just a hobby or aid to their fly fishing. Many turned their hobby into a business and became fly tying materials wholesale distributors offering fly tying materials for sale. Veniard fly tying materials, one of the world’s most respected fly tying suppliers, started in this way. Other ‘expert’ fly fishing folk began teaching their skills and offered tuition or courses in fly tying for beginners, pioneered the ‘fly tying forum’ and helped to push the boundaries of this delightful pastime further and to a wider, willing audience.
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