Catching a fish on a fly I have tied is an incredibly satisfying experience. I’ve written several blogs on the benefits I experience from fly tying, and it is an activity I would likely continue even if I didn’t fish. Sending flies to friends to use and hearing stories of them catching fish on the flies is wonderful. Collecting all the tools, books and supplies for fly tying is also a great hobby. Whether it is learning new techniques, applying my own creativity, or filling a box for a future trip, there are many layers to fulfillment from tying flies.
Several years ago, my in-laws generously gave me a fly tying kit and work bench that started me off on my fly tying journey. Since that time, I’ve tied hundreds of flies and I’ve transitioned to almost exclusively fishing with only flies I have tied myself. Exceptions include larger streamers and very small dry flies. I’ve adapted some of my own patterns inspired by others such as Lance Egan, Davie McPhail, Dette Flies, George Daniel, Domenick Swentosky, and Scott Major and by using materials around the house (as influenced by Jim Misiura). Tying helps engage the creative aspects of my brain and produces flies that I use to fish and share with my friends.
When I first began tying, I set up my portable fly tying bench on my dining room table and had a limited amount of tying supplies in a plastic case that is slightly larger than a bread basket. My wife supported me tying, but wasn’t thrilled about pieces of feathers and fur falling on the dinner table. I couldn’t blame her, who wants some hare’s ear in their mashed potatoes?
I then transitioned to using an antique desk as my fly tying station. It had seven drawers of various sizes for storing my materials and a good-sized desktop for supporting my work bench and various tool caddies and decorations. That was a significant upgrade over the dining room table, but after several years of accumulating, my station was overflowing. I needed more space and most importantly a better chair.
An opportunity presented itself for me to get a free drafting table. After years in college and in my career working on the smooth, green vyco drawing board cover of a drafting table I had grown accustomed to the texture and durability of drafting tables. Their height allows for storage underneath and keeps the items on the surface away from small kids and curious dogs. Combined with a nice chair with good lumbar support and a small file cabinet to store my overflowing supplies, I felt like I had the makings of a new fly tying station.
I roped in my son to help me and attempted to move the table. After a comedy of errors, my measurements were off, and it wouldn’t fit in the car fully assembled. So, we had to wait until another day and when I had the tools to take apart the table. We got the table home and I set up my new station.
Part of setting up any station is finding a comfortable space that doesn’t get in the way of family activities (code word for irritating your wife/spouse). Once a suitable location is determined, there are other desirable qualities to identify. It is important to have good access to:
- suitable lighting,
- a nearby electric outlet (with a power strip for lights, coffee grinders, chargers),
- hard floors (small hooks and beads can be easily lost in carpet and be found in unfortunate ways later and solid flows can be easily swept to clean, and I prefer rolling chairs to turn or move to access a larger area),
- wall space for inspiration or themed art or shelves for additional storage, and
- peace and quiet (but within earshot in case a dog or kid situation arises).
My new space meets all the criteria and I’ve tied more flies since it’s been set up. For those who enjoy tying flies, having a dedicated space to house supplies and provide working space can make the tying experience more satisfying and productive. Decorations can provide inspiration and motivation for your activities. Making sure you’re not in the way or too far away can reduce any family stress if you have responsibilities or need to help. Location, location, location. Lighting is one of the most important characteristics and should be a main concern as well.
With any activity, having an organized and comfortable space to keep the tools and supplies and to aid your comfort can help you enjoy your time. It’s important to think about your process and what characteristics of a space are important to facilitate the process. Cramping yourself into a small space or working in stressful conditions can discourage you from completing or enjoying your time. As you work and grow into a hobby, give yourself the room and space to grow.