Fly tying thread is easily the most important aspect to consider when it comes to material for tying flies. This is of course besides the hook itself. The reason it’s so important is the best fly tying thread will hold all the other materials in place.
It can be a little confusing starting out. There are a lot of different buzz words that float around in the tying world that a novice would not understand, such as single vs multi-strand, waxed vs non-waxed, or denier.
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Simply put, thread matters. So, below I’ve compiled a short list of the best fly tying threads you can purchase, as well as some explanations of some of the keywords so you know what to ask for when approaching a fly shop associate.
If you’re new to fly tying, or looking to take your flies to the next level, be sure to check out our Fly Tying Section, which has everything you need to know about becoming an expert tier.
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Things to Know About the Best Fly Tying Thread
Now that I’ve mentioned a few different types of thread, let’s talk more about the features of each type. Thread can become surprisingly confusing, so below I’ll to break it down.
Single vs Multi-Strand Threads
Both of these have their own pros and cons. However, single strand is easier to tie with, especially for a novice. Multi-strand threads usually lay flatter on the shank than a single thread.
Because the breaking strength is higher on the multi, it can be difficult to work with, though. A multi-strand thread can start to fray if you’re not careful. This is caused by wrapping it too tightly or nicking it with the hook.
Most thread is made with multiple parallel fibers, meaning that it will have some twist to it. If you’d like, you can flatten it. This will make it easier for you to produce a smooth head on the fly.
Bonded thread is semi-round and is created by bonding filaments together. It will be round when it comes off the spool, but if you warm it up in your hands, then it will lie flat on the shank of the hook. Bonded thread is much more abrasion-resistant.
If you don’t want a twist in a multi-strand thread, then all you have to do is spin the dobbin. When the thread is twisted, it will be less prone to fraying. When flattened out, it’ll be flatter and easier to work with.
There are several different types of material you can use for fly tying, but the big three are nylon, polyester, and Kevlar. Nylon and polyester are both cheap and strong, making them ideal types of material for all fly tiers.
Nylon typically has a little more stretch than polyester, making it a little bit easier to work with. You’ll find that Kevlar is super strong and has no stretch to it. Like I said earlier, it can be a pain to work with but it’s great for large flies.
There is one extra type of thread. It’s relatively new and is not used all that much, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s gel spun polyethylene, otherwise known as GSP.
It’s extremely strong. It used to be that thread strength was determined by its size and thickness. This is not the case with GSP. A piece of GSP with the same diameter as polyester or nylon will easily outproduce it.
For being as strong as it is, it can be difficult to work with. You have to be really comfortable tying flies and using tough materials to really get a good fly out of it. It’s also more expensive. However, if you can foot the bill and tie it, then you’ll love it.
Most fly tiers use the smallest diameter possible. This is because the smaller the thread, the less bulk and size you’re going to add to your fly. The exception to this rule is when you’re tying creature patterns.
Below I’ll go over the different sizes and what they can be used for.
This can be very difficult for tiers to work with because it’s so big and bulky. It’s not ideal for a novice, and even pros could have trouble with it. That being said, it’s incredibly strong and durable.
Kevlar is ideal for saltwater flies or flies for big game species.
This is another very strong thread. It’s ideal for use on streamer patterns, on Wooly Buggers, and also on terrestrials. You can use this when working on synthetics, and it can be wound tightly without fraying.
A 6/0 is still considered a strong and durable thread. This is ideal for a medium-sized fly that uses natural materials. It’s strong enough to hold down any natural fibers while also not adding any extra bulk to your flies.
This is considered a thread of average strength. When you think of the best thread for fly tying, this is it. This is the one that all tiers use because it’s just that versatile. Plan to have a few rolls of this in your arsenal.
A very fine and delicate thread. This is used on smaller nymphs and dry flies. It may not be the best thread for fly tying beginners. Be careful when tying because you could snap the line if it’s wound too tightly. It doesn’t have the strength to hold down bulky materials.
Waxed vs Non-Waxed
Tying thread comes in these two varieties. Waxed is a little bit easier to work with. This is especially true when working with materials that you have a hard time with. The reason for this is the wax sticks to the materials and holds them in place.
A non-waxed thread is cleaner. This is because it doesn’t pick up any type of dirt, sand, or other material from around your fly tying station, unlike waxed thread.
However, a non-waxed thread will also have less bulk and can be worked with glue much more easily than a waxed based thread. If you’re a beginner, then a waxed based thread would be nice to start off with, but graduating to non-waxed should be the goal.
For a decent comparison of different fly tying threads, check out this chart by JS Fly Fishing.
An aspect of tying that gets forgotten by beginners is the denier, which is easy to understand because it’s not something you’d just know. The denier is the weight in grams of 9000 meters of polyester or nylon thread.
Basically, if you see two pieces of thread that look identical, but one says 30 denier and the other says 70 denier, then know that the 70 is stronger than the 30.
So, a thread that’s a 3/0 size has a denier of 180, while a thread that’s a 10/0 has a denier of 60.
Best Fly Tying Thread
Now that you know the most important parts about shopping for the best fly tying thread, I’ll list a few threads that I always like to have on my bench. These are great all-around threads for any fly tier.
- Pros: Great for large flies
- Cons: Difficult to use on smaller nymphs and dries
The Uni Thread Waxed 3/0 Thread is perfect for tying larger dries or streamers, anything that can be tied with a size 12 or larger hook. This is a strong thread that can hold up and keep your fly usable, even if you catch several fish on one fly.
It’s made of the same material as a 6/0 or 8/0 thread. However, the only difference is that it’s stronger and has an increased number of filaments on the 100-yard spools.
If you enjoy tying streamers or other baitfish imitations, then this is the thread for you. This thread also comes in waxed, which means you can get a better grip on the material you’re tying.
Be careful, though, because wax can also cause clog dobbins and add extra and unneeded bulk to your fly. It really is just up to you and what you prefer.
- Pros: Great for tying smaller flies
- Cons: Difficult to work with if you’re a novice
The Uni Thread 8/0 is great for tying on smaller nymphs or dry flies. This super-thin thread allows you to easily and quickly tie those micro flies, if that’s what you enjoy using.
It’s ideal for tying smaller flies like midges or small dries that you want to throw on backwater streams, where the bugs are plentiful but might not be as a big as a tailwater or a spring-fed river.
Because the material is so small and fine, it can be difficult to tie with, even for the most advanced tier. So, if you’re new to tying and want a challenge, then this could be a great way to get good.
Otherwise, you’re better off starting with a larger thread instead of this one. It could lead to frustration and headaches.
- Pros: A great all-around thread
- Cons: Difficult to use for specialty flies
The Uni Thread 6/0 is great for all-around fly tying. Feel free to use this on nymphs, dries, streamers, or anything you can concoct at your fly tying station. It’s perfect for someone new to tying and also great for the pro.
It’s made of tough and durable continuous polyester filaments. This thread will lay flat on the hook or it can be twisted by using a bobbin. The 6/0 thread is considered very strong for a thread of its diameter.
Uni 6/0 also comes in waxed or unwaxed, giving the tier the option to use whatever they prefer.
Uni thread also comes in many different color schemes. Black, white, and olive are the most popular and most used. However, if you want to tie something in a different color, then just know that uni thread has you covered.
- Pros: Strong and durable
- Cons: Color can fade quickly in the sun
You read that right. The Fly Shack Kevlar Thread is made out of the same material as a bulletproof vest. Kevlar thread is incredibly strong and will give durability and toughness to all of the flies you tie. It has an eight-pound working strength.
This is the ideal thread for use on big flies. It’s even better for use in salt water or when throwing flies to other toothy predators such as muskie or pike. If you plan on tying anything for salt water, then you should use this.
Kevlar does not come in waxed, so you may find it difficult to handle at first. However, with a little practice, you should be fine. Be careful and don’t try to break the thread with your hands. It can easily cut you. Use scissors instead.
Kevlar thread does seem to have an issue with the color lasting. If used enough, the sun can start to bleach the thread, causing what used be a black thread to turn into more of a charcoal or grey color.
- Pros: This is a kit that comes with 16 spools
- Cons: Can be difficult to tie
The Phecda Sport Silk Tying Thread comes with 16 spools. Silk tying thread is what some of the original fly tiers used. Since then, stronger materials have come out that are also cheaper, such as polyester. However, silk can still be a great thread for tying flies.
If you enjoy tying smaller flies in a delicate manner, then silk is the thread for you. It isn’t best for a novice to get started with since it can break easily. However, it’s a very effective material when tied properly.
This is a great kit. It comes with 10 different colors that you can utilize for your tying station, allowing you to use whatever color you want in your selection.
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Table of Contents
- Fly Tying Materials
- Things to Know About the Best Fly Tying Thread
- Fly Tying Tutorials
- Best Fly Tying Thread
- 1. Uni Thread Waxed 3/0
- 2. Uni Thread 8/0
- 3. Uni Thread 6/0
- 4. Fly Shack Kevlar Thread
- 5. Phecda Sport Silk Tying Thread (16 Spools)
There’s a surprising amount of information and facts out there about fly tying threads. Hopefully, the above information and products allow you to have a better understanding of how to break into the fly tying world.
Don’t be discouraged by all the information. The best thing to do is go out and buy some basic thread and start tying. You’ll be able to pick it up after you get more comfortable with a bobbin in your hand.
Check out some of the products I’ve listed above, and head down to your local fly shop or an online store to pick them up!
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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