Freehand Tying by Al & Gretchen Beatty

Magazine — By on August 20, 2009 7:52 pm

Are you “PC?” No! No! We’re not talking about politically correct! We’re talking about the method you use to attach your vise to your tying table. Do you use a pedestal (P) or a C-clamp (C)? Quite frankly we use both depending on the situation. If any of you have spent any time as a demonstration fly tier you already know that the tables in many convention centers were not manufactured with a fly tying vise in mind, at least not one with a c-clamp as its anchoring mechanism.
Many years ago, Al learned about this problem the hard way. He showed up to demonstrate at a show and found there was no way he could attach his vise to the table and he didn’t have a pedestal base. He corrected the problem when he got home that day however, at that time he was under-the-gun so to speak and ended up doing his demonstration freehand – without a vise.
He didn’t want the audience to see him in a panic so he chose an easy-to-tie Woolly Bugger as his first fly. He was only part way into the pattern when he was struck by the realization that he really did have a lot of freehand skills learned over the years; they had just grown a bit rusty over time due a lack of use.
This article and 12 others can be found in the 2009 issue of Hatches Click Here For More Info

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  1. Growing up in Brazil and becoming interested in fly-tying when I was 15 y.o. I was required to be very resourceful in my early fly-tying.

    The Brazilian market does not have access to the huge amount of gear available in the US. No vises were available to purchase, and I almost had one custom made by a medical equipment maker, but that would be a fortune. I was also resourceful in “foraging” for my feathers and fur.

    I learned how to tie all my flies without a vise. From about 15 to 18 I tied every single one of my flies freehand, and over the years became pretty good at it. Of course, I was tying on hooks 12 or larger, but I never stuck to the easiest patterns, there were several patterns I effectively tied. My parents still have a big box with the hundreds of flies I tied that way, maybe I should bring it back next time I visit.

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  2. Robert Cochrane says:

    Fly tying free hand is a old as fly tying itself. A small group of artisans tie professionally, their flies mounted in frames and selling to patrons of the art. Like Al, I learned to tie my first freehand fly by necessity – showing up without the vise. For me however it led to the production of a hand held vise, the ultimate in compact for travel vise.

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