“As a flyfishing guide, I often used to sit at my fly tying desk before a trip and before I know it, I’m battling to find materials, scissors, beads and the like,” says guide Rowan Black.

According to Rowan, he used to sit down at the vise and start with one pattern only to find himself two hours later with six patterns. “All different flies I might add and an empty whiskey glass…”

“I would sit down and start tying and then 2 or 3 flies later decide that another pattern would work well. So, I would go grab more materials and tie that quickly,” he says.

“After a while my desk would be a complete wreck with materials for 3-4 patterns scattered everywhere, leaving me unable to find anything I need to tie the flies I wanted in the first place.”

Sound familiar? Rowan got to a point where he made a conscious decision to clean up his act.

“This was the best decision I made as a flytyer, inevitably this has helped me out on the water as well whether fishing on a personal trip or guiding.”

Here are a few of the basic things he suggests to perhaps help you see the tying desk below all those materials again:

1. Storage
Sort it and pack it…Plastic shoe box storage containers work extremely well. They are cheap and be purchased from a store such as Mambos or Westpack. I also use smaller ones in which I store my commonly-used materials. The boxes are arranged next to my tying desk where I have easy access to them.


My hooks are stored in their boxes. I make use of a metal board (brought from a stationery shop). to keep them neat, each box has a strip of magnetic tape glued to it and it then goes in its place on the board.

My saltwater hooks are kept in their original packets and stored in a plastic box. I also put in one or two silica gel packs (those you find in medicine bottles) to prevent any rust forming over time. Even the perspiration from your hands and humidity can cause rust over long periods of time.

2. Ergonomics
I have a base vise which I’ve placed in the centre of my desk. There is a bright light on either side. I sometimes make use of a third light (from the front of my desk) too.

Tools go in a caddy that stores all my tools, thread spool holder with the thread, wire and yarn I used most often.
Then I have a board covered in foam for hook preparation and to store my prepped and completed flies.

3. Preparation
To get the most out of your time while tying, preparation is key. I’ll use a Largemouth Yellowfish pattern for this example, the Muishond:

Now that I’ve chosen what I want to tie, I want to tie them in two or three sizes or different weights.

I will then put the lead, beads or dumbbells on the hooks I want to tie for the session.

If I’m using lead to weight or dumbbell eyes on my flies, I will wrap the hooks in lead or tie in the dumbbells, then secure them with some super glue and let them dry.

I place my prepped hooks on a piece of foam.

After this I get the materials I’ll need for the fly and place them in the sequence in which I’ll be using them.

Take it to the next level by making an assembly line to speed up production.

As I’ll be using a Largemouth fly for this example, I would cut the zonker strips and insert my mono tail guard on each before moving on.

4. Tie in stages
I’ll have all my hooks pre-prepped with dumbbell eyes secured in place.

I now tie in the zonker tail with the mono tail guard, then tie off.

After each stage I secure the thread wraps with a waterproof super glue such as Zap a Gap or Loctite.

I will now do the same for the rest of the hooks I’d like to tie.

Now that we have pre-prepped all the flies with tails we proceed to the next step, in this case it would be to tie in the brush.

Wrap the brush all the way to the front and then whip finish with 4-5 wraps the use a head cement to finish the fly.

If you would like to put in a weed guard, we do it at this step before we secure the head wraps.
I’ve been using Zap a Gap, I have taken a liking to the new Solarez Bone dry clear, put a small amount over the head wraps and hit with the UV torch.

By doing the fly in stages we end up tying quicker and more consistently and at the end of the day you become an efficient flytyer with better flies.

As a bonus, the mess and clutter becomes drastically less, maybe one day we’ll be able to leave the door open and not get a mouthful from your better half about the clutter and state of our fly tying room….we can only hope…

I hope this helps you tie a little more efficiently, stay safe.