If You Had to Teach Someone to Tie Flies, Which Pattern Would You Start With?

By Joe Cermele

There is a really good article posted on the website of the Alaska's Peninsula Clarion about tips for getting young people started in fly tying. In it, author Brian Smith interviews area flyfishermen and fly shop owners to get their pointers, a lot of which make sense. As a few examples, guide Nick Ohlrich suggests starting with flies that don't imitate something too specific, such as a flesh fly instead of stonefly nymph. Guide Lee Kuepper says beginners should start with a kit rather than get overwhelmed by choosing individual materials. It's worth a read, but it made me think of which patterns I'd start with if I had to teach someone to tie.

Those two patterns would undoubtedly be the San Juan Worm and sucker spawn (above), which happens to be something I've been tying a ton of lately for an up-coming steelhead trip. I realize that these bugs won't teach you how to split wings, work with hackle, or use dubbing, but in my opinion--and the article agrees--all of that can come later. What these two patterns will do is get someone used to working on the vise, help them learn the whip finish, and actually create flies that are simple yet highly effective quickly.

To me, that's important, because there is no better way to get someone amped about learning more tying techniques and mastering the art than getting them to catch a fish on a fly they made right out of the gate. And on another note, if you happen to already be an experienced tyer, shame on you if you buy San Juans or sucker spawn. I mean you should be able to tie those with you eyes closed.

So if you had to teach someone to tie, which pattern would you start with? Which pattern did you master first?