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Like A Surgeon

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Video Transcript:

As fly tiers we're easily distracted by new patterns, materials and techniques, and all too often neglect certain basic things that can make the fly tying process more enjoyable and might actually make us better tiers.

If you start to think like a surgeon these things become very obvious. First of all, like a surgeon, you absolutely need to see what you are doing, and this requires plenty of light. Ideally, you also want the correct quality of light, such as full spectrum lighting, which will yield the most true-to-life colors. An added bonus to this type of lighting is that it also cuts down on glare and reduces eye strain. I have one of these lights that's quite large and easily maneuvered into a variety of positions, that stays on my tying table, and a second smaller portable version that works just great when I'm traveling with tying gear.

The other part of seeing what you're doing is the actual seeing. I'm not too proud to admit that I need magnifiers to do just about everything these days and can't imagine tying without them. Granny glasses work well for me, but I know many people who prefer the large magnifying lenses. Give magnification a try, you might just see a marked improvement in your tying.

Another absolutely critical piece of fly tying equipment is your vise, think of it as your operating table. Vises vary tremendously in terms of form and function but all need to do one thing really, really well and that is to hold a hook so it does not move. If your vise is not holding the sizes and types of hooks you normally tie with as secure as you would like, you need to make a change, whether that means replacing the jaws or replacing the whole vise. Hooks that move around while you're tying are not only frustrating but can also be dangerous. I'm fortunate enough to have two vises, one is a large bench model which firmly holds a tremendous range of hook sizes, everything from an 8/0 all the way down to a 22. The other is a much smaller, lighter travel vise, and although it doesn't hold quite the range of hooks as the larger one, it's a joy to take on the road.

Getting back to the surgeon analogy, think of your small scissors as your scalpel. Find ones that are comfortable in your hand and more importantly, fit into small places and never miss a cut. Some people prefer straight blades, while others prefer curved. I also like to have at least one pair of larger scissors that I use for cutting larger materials. Basically what this does is decrease the wear and tear on my smaller scissors which makes them last much longer.

Finally, and this part won't cost you a thing, scrub in before you tie. I not only use soap and warm water but also a small nail brush to remove dirt, sweat and oils from my hands, as these have a nasty habit of discoloring threads and dubbings. Dry with a clean towel and you're ready to tie.

I hope these tips help, they work well for me.