Fly Tying (Shady Flies)

A Fly Tyer’s Perfect Present. Homemade Flies.

I admit I discovered it slowly.  I had just started tying for my next trip to the Yakima River.  My brother lives in Seattle and owns a drift boat and when I visit him, we try to make it east of the mountains into the Yakima Canyon with our fly rods.  I had just decided to make him a gift of an assortment of flies I knew would come in handy on The Yak.

My wife now knows that a Pat’s Stone is a classic stonefly nymph.  Bulky and weighted, it works well on the Yakima River among many other trout streams.  Or perhaps she only knows that it is a fly her crazy husband taught her son to pronounce.  It is hard to say for sure, as her education on the topic may have been incomplete, mostly being explained by our three-year-old son who was in the throes of a budding career in fly tying and had been “helping” me tie them.

Each morning before breakfast, almost yelling, our son could be heard, “Ready to knock out some Pat’s Stones Pop!?!”

My son exclaimed this, and other deliberate statements at various times throughout the morning.  His obvious intent, to motivate his father to descend into the basement and spend time with him in front of the vise.  Brushing his teeth.  Jumping down our stairs for breakfast.  Even the moment he awoke and subsequently scrambled to wake his folks. 

It seems normal now, but statements such as “Let’s go knock out some Pat’s Stones Pop”, coming from her toddler’s vocabulary justifiably provoked curiosity in a spouse unfamiliar with the productivity and necessity of creating the rugged “Pat’s Stone”.

So it came as no surprise one morning, after our son diligently explained the importance of “tying fwies” to his mother with a serious tone and furrowed brow, while his father observed proudly with a cup of coffee, that my wife finally asked,  “What are you working on down there?”

“I’m tying some flies for Drew.”  I realized as I said the words that my brother would be on the Yakima well before I was visiting.

“Oh, that’s nice.  For his birthday coming up?”

Ummm.  “Yup.”

“Uh-huh.”  She turned to my son. “And are you helping Papa?” 

“Yup.”  With a wide milk mustache smile.

We continued to tie feverishly in the Wadeoutthere Nerve Center of our basement for my brother’s birthday gift with wide eyes and renewed inspiration.  My son was now even more proud of his efforts in assistance. 

Why Tie Them Flies?

Tying flies is a perfect holiday or birthday gift.  It shows that you care more than just picking something up from Amazon.  It is the ultimate homemade gift for someone who loves fly fishing.  Especially if you are a new fly tyer.  Your gift of flies will be even more special to the person receiving them, knowing that it was not easy to create whatever number of flies you manage.

How Many Flies Should I Tie?

My wife knocked this question out of the park when I told her how many flies I had tied for my brother.  A random number I was proud of simply as a result of the previous work required to produce them.

“That’s great honey.  Good job.  You should try making him thirty-six flies.  He’s turning 36 you know.”


I did not know.

And there it was.  Like many things in my life, my wife’s involvement in the scenario, however slight, served to elevate the entire operation.  Birthday present flies which number the same age of the recipient.  Brilliant.  Although, this tactic can be tricky depending on time, ability, and the requirements involved in tying flies for a grandfather-aged fly-fishing accomplice.

The other answer is simple.  Tie what you can manage before the postman’s mailing deadline.  Everyone’s fly tying skill level is different.  Even if you can only produce a few flies, it is a great gift. 

Try setting a goal ahead of time that you can work towards. I wrote about setting goals as a way of sticking with fly tying for a beginner in one of my early blog posts.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | DON’T BUY A FLY TYING KIT! A Beginners Guide On How to Start and Keep Tying Your Own Flies.

What Flies Should I Tie? 

Look it up.  Online or on the phone are equally viable options.  Many fly shops have blogs that will keep you up to date on what flies are working.  You can check the archives from previous years to finds some productive flies. 

For my brother, I looked online and called a fly shop on the Yakima.  They were happy to oblige and although I haven’t tried this yet, I think if you told them it was for a gift, they might be even more apt to help. 

Tying at least two to four of each fly is useful, because you get to keep using the same materials and save time while providing some spares for lost flies on the river.

However you decide, try to apply the Wadeoutthere the R2FS (River to Fly Strategy) in execution. 

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | River to Fly Strategy (R2FS) – A Fly Tying Process for the Beginner’s Success.

Pick a time of year and a river that you know your loved one or friend will be fishing and tie the flies that will work for that environment.  It’s more likely that they will be used and even catch fish than if you tie random flies or ones that fish better in your home waters. 

A homemade fly, given to someone you care about, and then used to catch a great fish creates a memory that cannot be replaced.  You will be a part of that joyful experience forever.

Icing on the Cake. 

After you have tied whatever number of flies you decide to give, present them in a fly box.  My favorite are the Tacky fly boxes, because they are sleek and fit well in any vest or on a necklace lanyard depending on the size.  I also like the silicone they use to hold the flies. 

The featured image for this blog post is the Tacky fly box I gave my brother filled with the thirty-six flies I tied him. 

I like their fly boxes, but I am not an affiliate for Tacky and receive no commissions from them.  Check out Tacky Fly Boxes at:

There are other options for fly boxes of course.  You could find something very fancy as well.  The special part of the gift is what is inside.

In the End it’s the Thought that Counts.

Tying flies is a meaningful and rewarding gift no matter what the occasion.  Plus, it is excellent practice for your personal progression as a fly tyer.  Throw in a fly box for good measure and you have the perfect gift from one fly fisherman to another.


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Jason Shemchuk

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  • Reply
    Jeff Sliwoski
    November 27, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    This is a great idea! Thanks for posting. If I get started now I’ll have 36 tied by next Christmas!

    • Reply
      Jason Shemchuk
      November 27, 2019 at 9:39 pm

      Hahaha. You’ll be surprised once you start how much you learn my friend! I’ll keep posting my TTPs on fly tying for you. Thanks for reading.

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