Several years ago, when I had taken up tying again after a long break, I brought a box of dry flies, nymphs, and streamers to my local Orvis store. One of the employees showed my box of flies to the fishing manager, who was a former commercial fly tyer. I forgot virtually all of what the manager said that day. He talked a mile a minute and seemed to make tangental leaps throughout the entire conversation. At least at that time, I had a hard time following the advice he gave me. I did glom onto one specific thing, however. He told me to buy Production Fly Tying by A.K. Best.
I bought the book and read it cover to cover. It was interesting, but it didn't speak to me quite as much as it spoke to the store manager. I am a slow tyer. For the most part, I don't mind being slow. I listen to music or comedy and use the time to relax. Not all of the book's messages were lost on me, however. At the time, I tied every fly one at a time, from beginning to end. Best made me rethink that process, especially when tying several flies of the same pattern.
Shortly after reading the book, I began tying flies in stages. The more I tied a particular pattern, the more I noticed that each fly had natural "pause points." These pause points were places where it made sense to stop tying, tie off the thread, and tie the next fly up to that same point. Because I wasn't using all the materials for a pattern at one time, my tying desk was neater while tying a pattern. Pre-cutting materials saved a lot of time too, especially when it came to body materials. If it was tying anything with a bead or a cone, I put the beads or cones on all the hooks before I touched a bobbin.
This isn't anything revelatory, nor is it anything that hasn't been talked about a thousand other times in the past. Since efficiency might be a concept foreign to new tyers, it's helpful to discuss it now and then. A tyer can take this as far as he or she wants. I am definitely not the world's most efficient fly tyer. I'm not a speed tyer, nor will I ever be a full-time commercial tyer. I don't like to tie with my scissors in my hand at all times, which is a huge time saver. Unless I'm learning a how to tie a new pattern, or if I only want to tie a single fly, I will use a basic sequence to help speed things up a bit. Though I am using a Buck Bug to demonstrate a simple tying sequence, the basic concept can be applied to virtually any type of fly.
Buck Bug/Green Machine Tying Sequence
Green Machine w/White Tail (green & red butt)
Hook: Mustad 3399A
Threads: White 6/0, Green GSP, and Green or Black 6/0
Tail: White calf tail or calf body
Butts: Chartreuse and Chinese red Uni-Yarn
Body: Green deer hair
Hackle: Brown rooster neck or saddle
Note: This is not step-by-step tying instructions. To see step-by-step instructions for tying a Buck Bug, refer to my ebook, Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon, or see this tutorial.
Step 1: Set aside all the hooks needed and separate them by size. In this case, I am tying a half dozen Green Machines, two of each in sizes 4-8.
|Fig I: White thread materials|
|Fig II: The deer hair body is tied in with green GSP thread|
|Fig III: A small pile of bugs, ready for trimming|
|Fig IV: Trimmed body|
|Fig. V: Apply head cement to the pile of finished flies|
This simple tying sequence can be easily modified to fit virtually any fly pattern. Like I said before, it's not a mind blowing revelation, but formulating a more efficient game plan can help speed up your tying a little. If you put away your materials after each step, it saves clean up time as well. For way more ideas on how to become a more efficient fly tyer, read Production Fly Tying by A.K. Best or watch a full-time commercial fly tyer in action.