Spring Bonus: More Tying Tools Tested

  • By: Ted Leeson

Ted Lesson writes in the Spring 2010 issue: “At bottom, fly-tying is all about building better mousetraps, so tiers are forever on the lookout for new patterns and materials, and tools that increase the efficiency, ease and speed of tying; enhance the pleasure of time spent at the vise; and improve the finished products. While it’s true that the best tools in fly-tying are our 10 fingers, most of us find them a necessary, but not sufficient, condition.” Here are some bonus reviews on new tying tools from Ted’s latest Fly Rod & Reel Field Test….


Full Wing Burners are ingenious tools for fashioning a variety of wing and wing-pad styles. A pair of precision-cut, wing-shaped dies are epoxied to the jaws of a modified pair of hemostats. You clamp the wing material between the dies, and burn the wing to shape (a cauterizer works better than an open flame). You can use feathers in many of the burners, including the caddis style I tried (which produced elegant wings); unlike tweezer-type burners, these allow for precise placement of the feather stem, yield a wing that needs no further trimming to shape, and come in a greater range of sizes. The mayfly wing burner, however, is best used with film winging materials, though with some fussing, feathers work. These are nicely made tools and give very good results, though the cost is perhaps best justified for tiers who routinely tie burned-wing patterns. Wing and wing-case burners for eight insects run $15 to $24 each, and tool sets are available. www.fullwingburners.com

DR. SLICK Braid Scissors

Gel-spun poly (GSP) tying threads are becoming increasingly popular for deer-hair work, big saltwater flies, dubbing loops and other applications that require high thread-strength. But GSP dulls the bejeezus out of ordinary tying scissors, which tend to mash and fray the thread rather trimming it neatly. But Dr. Slick’s Braid Scissors are a step toward solving the problem. The one-inch blades handily sheer the heaviest GSP and Kevlar threads I could find (200 denier), and are useful in cutting thick materials—V-Rib, oval tinsels with heavy cores, and so on—that can punish fine-tipped tying scissors. There’s one drawback—the tips of the Braid Scissors are thick and slightly blunt, so they don’t trim materials perfectly flush with the hook shank. But I find the tradeoff eminently acceptable; they give a clean cut, save the blades of your good scissors, and at $7, don’t cost much. www.drslick.com

RENZETTI Visual Enhancement Plate

In my early years, I regarded fly-tying backplates as a dismissible luxury. Then I tried one and discovered how well a plain background highlights detail and improves tying accuracy, particularly with smaller flies. I’ve used several types and prefer the Renzetti Visual Enhancement Plate for two reasons. First, a wide range of position adjustments allow for useful, out-of-the-way placement. And second, the reversible plate is light gray on one side, a pale sage green on the other, both in matte finish, that provides excellent contrast while being easy on the eyes. The stem mount fits any vise. This is a high-quality, lifetime piece of equipment. $49.95. www.renzetti.com

STONFO Spring Hackle Pliers

The new Stonfo Spring Hackle Pliers bring two small, but useful, innovations to wrapping hackle. First, the handle is a simple plastic ring that slides very smoothly around your finger. Second, between the handle and jaws is a short spring, which absorbs any small tugs, yanks, or inconsistencies in tension during wrapping, which reduces the likelihood of feather breakage. The spring also allows a bit of stretch so you can more easily pass your hand beneath the hanging bobbin when hackling. This is a practical and pleasing tool, $8.50. A longer, spring version—for shorter feathers or use with a gallows tool—is also available. Distributed by Hareline.