Nontypical Bobbins Worth Considering
If you’re new to tying and are just acquiring what you need to start making flies, you will begin with buying a vise and quality pair of scissors. Next, you’ll want to add a bobbin to your fly tying tool kit.
If you’re an experienced tier, you might own several bobbins. Some bobbins will be loaded with different colors or sizes of thread, and others are for performing specific tying techniques or making certain types of flies. Even if you think you are set with tools, you might be interested in some of the more innovative bobbins on the market.
What Does a Bobbin Do?
A standard bobbin is a small tool that holds a spool of thread while you tie a fly. Bobbins, which come in a range of prices, serve at least three important functions.
First, a bobbin helps maintain tension on the thread when you tie a fly. In addition, when you release the thread from your hand, the bobbin holds the spool in place so it doesn’t drop to the top of your fly tying desk and roll onto the floor.
A bobbin also gives you something other than the thread spool to grasp. Your bare fingers will make less contact with the thread, keeping it clean and resulting in less fraying.
Finally, a bobbin will allow you to wrap thread more accurately. As you tie, the thread will flow out of the tip of the metal or ceramic barrel exactly where you wish on the hook. If you have trouble controlling the position of the thread on a fly, roll up the spool to bring the tip of the bobbin closer to the hook; this usually solves the problem.
These are the main advantages of using a bobbin. Yes, tiers have tied flies without the aid of bobbins—some have also made flies without vises—but I like most modern conveniences, and using a bobbin makes sense.
Here are three rather nontypical fly tying bobbins. The first bobbin has a convenient screw mechanism that allows you to adjust the tension on the thread. The other two called “automatic” bobbins, which are spring-loaded tools that retract the thread when you raise them toward the hook. Are these bobbins more convenient than using a standard bobbin? That’s for you to decide. Below are brief descriptions of these non- typical bobbins, and watch the video showing these tools in action.
RITE BOBBIN — Merco Products has offered the Rite family of bobbins for many years. They come in several sizes to meet any fly tying need. The Rite Half Hitch bobbin even has a specially tapered barrel so you can use the tip to make half-hitch and whip-finish knots on the heads of your flies. The key feature of the Rite Bobbin is the adjustable-click, thread-tensioning system. Simply place a spool of thread on the axel, screw the axel into the body of the bobbin, and adjust the exposed brass nut on the side of the spool to change the tension. The Rite Bobbin is unique and innovative, and is worthy of tying your best flies. For more info, visit ritebobbin.com.
EKICH AUTOMATIC BOBBIN — I once wrote that the Ekich Automatic Bobbin is the Cadillac of fly tying bobbins. It really is a well- designed, wonderfully made tool. The Ekich Automatic Bobbin accepts all standard thread spools. Simply slip a spool onto the axle, draw the thread through the barrel, and start tying. As you wrap the thread on the hook, the internal spring in the body of the bobbin gains tension. Later, when you raise the bobbin, the tension on the spring turns the spool backwards and retracts the thread. The beautiful thing about the Ekich Automatic Bobbin is that whether you raise or lower the bobbin, the tool remains in position where you release it. The A-Series Ekich Automatic Bobbin comes in two sizes, one for tying primarily trout flies, and a larger model for making salmon and other large patterns. The newer S-Series bobbin comes in one size for tying trout flies, but you may special-order other lengths of barrels for making different types of flies. For more info, visit www.automaticbobbin.com
NOR-VISE BOBBIN — Some years ago, we gave Norm Norlander one of our coveted Lifetime Achievement Awards for developing innovative fly tying tools. While most tiers are familiar with the Nor-Vise, he also offered an accompanying automatic bobbin. Sadly, Norm passed away just a short time ago, but Tim O’Neill now owns the company and continues offering the entire range of Nor-Vise products. The Nor-Vise Fly Tying Bobbin is aspring-loaded automatic bobbin. It uses unique aluminum spools for holding thread. Before sitting down at the vise, you’ll have to transfer the thread from its regular spool to the Nor-Vise spool with the aid of an electric drill. While this sounds complicated, Nor-Vise furnishes a special arbor that simplifies the chore. Tiers who use the Nor-Vise Fly Tying Bobbin, especially when using rotary tying methods, say they love it. For more info, visit www.nor-vise.com/bobbins.html