I suppose you could call these fly tying tips, but I’m aware of my own limitations and hesitate to make any great claims for these odd ways of mine. I only publish them because they may be useful, or at least a source of amusement, to others.
Number 1 No Whip Finishing Tool
I learnt to tie flies from books and magazine articles (in the dark ages before the enlightenment of the Internet and the coming of the great god Google). I didn’t know anyone who tied flies and there weren’t any shops selling fly tying gear where I lived (and this was even pre-mail order!).
So I taught myself how to whip finish using my fingers. Took me ages, until I realised what I was trying to achieve, namely, wrapping that part of the loop over the standing thread. Here’s pretty much how I do it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-WqowBsrBY
Number 2. I tie backwards
Just about everyone else I know winds the thread up, over and away. Me I tie down, under and towards. Not better, not worse, just different. The result of self-teaching from books, perhaps.
Number 3 Nail varnish
Now, I know I am not alone in raiding the bargain bin for nail varnish to use instead of fly tying varnish/cement. I have three types that I use fairly often:- clear, white, and glitter. The clear is for general purpose use. The white I use for white heads or white background for eyes. The glitter is used for fish bodies or just to add a little flash.
A little trick: I cut the brush applicator down to a few hairs for applying the clear varnish to small flies.
Number 4 Eyes on flies
Usually I will build up a head out of tying silk (yes, that’s silk see Number 5) and apply the clear varnish as a base coat. When that is dry I will add a dab of white on each side. When dry I will make the pupil using a fine black marker (Sharpie). Then I will dab (don’t stroke as this may lift the marker) with the glitter varnish all over the head. Usually this leaves a little sparkle in the eye.
Number 5 Silk and Tinsel
Again, I am not unique in this regard. Pure silk thread and the most amazing holographic tinsel is available in the craft stores (in Australia Spotlight stocks Gutermann silk and metallic threads).
Number 6 Cutting
A scalpel or a pair of nail clippers cuts the thread more neatly and more safely than scissors. Nail clippers are also good for cutting tinsel and wire.
Number 7 Ribbing
If possible, I wind the ribbing straight off the reel, rather than cutting a length. This reduces the waste and gives better control over the tension.
Number 8 Waste Not
All those little bits of fur and the short hairs pulled from fur wings go into a ziplock bag for later use.
Number 9 Spool control
I use small hair ties wrapped around the spools to keep the thread from unravelling. This looks like a good idea, too. http://flyguys.net/fishing-information/fly-tying-tips-tricks
Number 10 Out of credit?
Two uses for old credit cards.
Glue the hook part of Velcro onto an old credit card cut into a long triangular shape. Glue the Velcro around one of the edges so you have a fine side to get into small spaces.
Cut into appropriate shapes, they make great applicators for glue, varnish, and goop of any kind.
Here’s a really good site for ideas about how to tie flies, including everything you ever wanted to know about dubbing, but were afraid to ask: http://thelimpcobra.com/category/fly-tying/fly-tying-tips-and-tricks/