My Beginning Fly Tying Journey – Chironomids

I have been a fly buyer for many years but this winter I wanted to learn to tie my own flies. I have been told by many friends who fly fish it is cool to catch a fish on a on fly that you have tied yourself – heightens the fishing experience. I decided to learn how to tie chironomids first and then would learn other patterns after that.

Fly Tying Learning Resources

Two years ago I purchased a bundle of online courses through the Stillwater Academy with Phil Rowley and Jordan Oelrich and within this bundle was a Chironomid Tying Course that Jordan had put together. It went over all the basics: equipment, materials, tying techniques and patterns. Once the lakes iced up this past season, I watched the videos over and over and built my shopping list.

Along with the course, I found the following helpful with recipes of patterns, tying techniques and/or video instruction:

Equipment and Materials

To help me understand tying vise options, I talked with Reid at Reid’s Fly Shop and I went with a Griffin Odyssey Spider vise. The vise came with a clamp only and after setting it up at home, I decided to buy a pedestal base to use with the vise. It is a good first vise purchase at a decent price. It took some practice to utilize the rotary feature effectively but what a difference maker.

My first purchases of materials focused on chironomids only. Here is a list of items:

ThreadBlack, Red, Rusty Brown, Burnt Orange, Olive, Light Olive, Gray Brown, Tan, Wine, Blue Dun, Brown
HooksScud Hooks Size 10, 12, 14
HooksCurved Nymph 2X Long Size 12, 14, 16 – should have went with size 18 instead of size 12
BeadsWhite Size 5/64, 3/32, 7/64
BeadsBlack Nickel Size 5/64, 3/32, 7/64
BeadsMagic Brown Size 5/64, 3/32, 7/64
ASBAnti-Static Bag 0.5 mm
Tinselholographic black, red and wine; laser silver, opal
Flashaboublack, red, holographic red, silver, cranberry, gun metal
Wirered, silver, gold, copper, brown, black
Buzzer Wrapsmoke, rootbeer
Gills or thoraxuni-stretch; peacock herl
Clear coatUV clear coat thin and UV Light


My first chironomid.

A rough looking first tie.

The majority of my first patterns were thread body and wire or thread rib – basic colour combinations – which allowed me to work on keeping the body thin and building a nice taper. Once comfortable with those techniques, I tried thread blending.

Then it was on to some other patterns and a few bloodworm patterns.

From a picture on Instagram, I noticed a system for batching your tying work. I would usually tie in groups of six – same pattern, 3 of one size, 3 of another size – so I created a simple magnetic strip system for my hooks. I would pinch the barb and add the bead in step 1, then add the gills to all the hooks in step 2, then tie the pattern. Using a magnetic tape strip, a paint stir stick and some duct tape I created a little tool to hold my hooks while I worked at each step.

Batch system

After some hours at the bench,

a full box to try this season.

Next up were leeches and scuds.


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