Fly Tying with Kids

I will never forget the first fish I caught on a dry fly that I tied.  I was 14 and spent the morning fishing Mill River in Connecticut with a friend of mine.  We had not caught a thing come noon.  On our way out we passed a much older man who was smoking a pipe and sitting on the bank.  He had been watching us for a while.
“You fellas should wait it out until this afternoon,” he said in between puffs.  “The Light Cahills will start coming off around 4 p.m..  It should be a pretty good hatch today.”

The Light Cahill is a cream-colored fly, with four upright wings and three tails.  When it hatches it drifts downstream until a trout sips it off the surface.  There were no Light Cahills in our boxes.  So back home we went and dug out some materials. We hastily tied on the wood duck breast feather wings and added some ginger hackle fibers for a tail.  We then spun a body of light tan dubbing, and finished with a few turns of ginger hackle.  We tied six new flies in an hour and they were sloppy at best.

Back to the river we went, and on my third cast a trout came up and took my crude fly. It was a proud moment.

Paula and Byron Begley, owners of the award-winning fly shop Little River Outfitters in Townsend, TN offer fly tying classes that will turn a rank beginner into a fly tier in short order.  “Fly tying isn’t difficult,” said the Begley’s.  “Our weekly classes run all winter long, and we teach students how to tie streamers, nymphs, wet flies, emergers, and dry flies.  We show them how to use the wide variety of tools, specialty hooks and materials.  At the end of the first class our students have tied a simple and highly effective streamer called the Wooly Bugger.  From there, the sky is the limit.”

“Our students range from kids to retired adults, and that’s so refreshing to see.  Fly tying is a wonderful way to add a new dimension to fishing.  The classes make the winter pass by quickly, and before long the students are catching fish on their own flies.”

“Not everyone takes a class.  We have a lot of self-taught fly tiers who create some amazingly effective patterns.  Some of them learned from the many excellent books and videos while others have been taught by family or friends.  There is no end to the learning curve, and that is what makes fly tying such a special addition to our wonderful sport.”

Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at