After last weeks vice, scissors and bobbin holder, Ben reveals his remaining selection of fiendish instruments in flytying including, of course, the "whip sucker tool".
Woe is me.
My new friend in the tackle shop did give me some good advice so I won't fault him for that, BUT I also got sold some real shite that day. In particular I got sold something called a bobbin threader. If anybody EVER!! tries to sell you one then slap them really hard. I'm not joking, treat it like he's just insulted your mother. A bobbin threader is a device that is used to pull the tying thread through the bobbin holder tube. It is a piece of twisted wire with a loop in the end, it is pushed up the tube, the thread is passed through the loop and it's pulled back through. I have seen bobbin threaders costing £10 or more simply because they have a polished brass handle. Do yourself a favour, buy a spool of copper wire for about 50p, cut eight inches, loop it around something and twist the underneath. Instant bobbin threader for about 2p. Oh but wait, even better still you could suck the thread through. Apparently women are much better at this, which is completely Paul's opinion by the way.
Nipple clamps errrrrrr!! hackle pliers. Remember Bond, I wasn't joking. Hackle pliers are small spring loaded gripping devices, you squeeze them they open, you let go they shut. Hackle pliers are most commonly used for gripping and winding feathers around hooks. They are not restricted to this and are frequently used with any material that needs to be held firmly and wound. Your fingers will prove to be you most useful fly tying tools but sometimes things will just be too small for you to grip effectively, hackle pliers are a great help in these situations. Most tools come in many different shapes and sizes, these being no exception. Some have rubber-lined jaws, some have long nosed jaws, some grip too tight and some grip to loose. Most tiers like to put their finger through the hole whilst winding but some pliers don't allow this, mini and micro midge pliers are prime examples. Go for a 'Standard English style' hackle pliers; they're basic, functional and retail at around £2 to £3.
Something rather simple now, a needle, most goes under the name of dubbing needle. When you finish a fly you may want to ruff it up a bit, dubbing needles are used to pick out fibres to achieve this look. You can use practically any pointy or rough object for this purpose. Paul uses a lollystick with Velcro (Thanks to Lars - Paul) although he does think that the combination *could* be seen as perverted. They're also very handy for applying varnish to finished fly heads, the needle that is, not the lollystick. You can get a commercial 'fly tying' needle for between £1.50 and £5 depending on how shiny you want it or alternatively you could visit your nearest embroidery shop who will stock a bewildering array of needles in all shapes and sizes. If you're a dentist by the way plaque removers are also ideal.
I have left this one until last on purpose; it is the whip finish tool. I won't delve too deeply in to this at the moment, since it would get a little long winded. The whip finish tool is used to tie the knot that finishes the fly. During the tying part of this series it will be fully explained but for now I want to you to look at the picture, there are two whip finish tools here, one is good and one is not. These two tools represent two of the most common variations of this particular item. The one on top is the one to buy, the head is pretty distinctive and rotates whilst the handle remains static, look for this feature, it's very comfortable. For me the design of the head of this tool makes it far easier to use, the hook, bump and rigidity of it are all beneficial. It's just personal opinion but I believe that most people would find this style substantially more user friendly. They generally retail from about £4 and sometimes go under the name of matarelli. You will see more expensive ones in this style but the only difference is aesthetic. Some people prefer the other style but the combination of bendy arms (I hate bendy arms) and the rather jagged hooks make it feel a little odd to me. Also worth buying are a set of hackle guards. This item(s) are (sometimes) used in the construction of dry flies by holding stray fibres out of the way whilst the fly is finished. They are very handy and cheap. Mine cost £1.10. Soon all will be revealed.
(NB: I'd like to make the point that this particular tool is not essential, not least because I'm got to make the whip finish animated gif and I have absolutely no idea how it works and having just had an email from Ben BTW I'm not entirely sure he does either - Paul :-))
Pick and mix
So that's it, those were my big five, well, six if you include the hackle guards, ok, seven with the bobbin threader, which I sell at the very reasonable price of £15.99 by the way. There is one thing however that I haven't discussed as of yet and that is buying tools in kits. Judging by my previous rants you'll probably have guessed what I'm going to say by now but I'll say it any way. Don't buy kits, cheap ones will probably contain a crap vice, crap scissors, crap whip finisher and will probably contain a bobbin threader (look of disgust). Expensive ones will be the same but with a better vice. The point is that either way you will end up with at least two things that are completely useless. Pick and mix is the only way to go.
Buying fly tying tools can be difficult, everyone has a different opinion and unfortunately many think they know everything. Although I didn't know it at the time one such person was teaching me. I received some genuinely good advice that day and it's still the main reason I continue to tie, but despite having the best will in the world that gentleman sold me a couple of really crappy tools. Looking back gives me a feeling of disbelief, I can't believe the shops fly tying consultant sold me the kind of tools any flytyer worth his salt would have thrown in the bin. Practically all articles on tying tools will suggest different things, I'm not going to suggest that my way is the right way but I hope to have brought certain things to light that may help you in your decisions. I am also aware that there may still be unanswered questions regarding tools and where you can get certain ones so do not hesitate in emailing me if you have any questions, bearing in mind that I'm in the UK and know bugger all about Scandinavian, American or Antipodean fly shops of course.
Next week: "Thread, wax, varnish and waffles" (according to Ben) :-)