Whether you are new to the world of fly tying or a confessed pro, we can all agree that a good bobbin is so essential.
You don’t need to tie flies daily, I’m sure most of us would love to be able to, but modern life just doesn’t allow this. Regardless of the time spent at the vise, a good quality bobbin is imperative to clean, well-tied flies.
If you have been tying for years, you probably have a stack of used bobbins that just don’t cut it anymore and the few good ones that you will go to war with! Well, if there was a fly-tying war.
The article below will break down what to look for in bobbins, the different brands, and styles and hopefully help you decide what you may like and what will best suit your needs.
After years of fly tying and working through my fair share of bobbins and other tools, the Rite bobbin is excellent. I have been using it for a while now and can comfortably say it’s easily my favorite bobbin. Montana made these bobbins come in 3 sizes and will get the job done.
Why the Rite Bobbin Half Hitch is Best!
- Made in Montana USA
- Superior thread tension
- Designed for accurately placing thread
- Comfortable, with grippy O-rings
What I Like About Rite Bobbin
- They come in three different sizes
- They have a great tensioning clamp on the side of the spool
- The stainless-steel nose, to prevent thread cutting
- Great spool control, which in turn provides great thread control
- Made in the USA
What’s Not So Great About the Rite Bobbin
To be honest, there isn’t much not to like about the Rite bobbin, it ticks all the boxes and is just a very cool tool.
I suppose the only thing that one could not like about it is if it doesn’t fit your hand nicely. I have had this before with other bobbins, and that’s not to say they are bad quality; they just don’t work well with my hand shape and the way I hold them when tying.
Stonfo is no newbie to the fishing world and has a very well-established reputation in the fly-fishing arena. This Italian-based company has been making fly tying tools with expert precision for many years. You just need to jump onto their website to see what I’m talking about.
Read more reviews about the Stonfo Elite Disc Drag and check current prices with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin
What I Like About Stonfo Elite Bobbin
- Stainless steel body and tube prevents fraying of threads
- Great tension control, giving the tier great thread control and ease of thread delivery
- Quick and easy tension adjustments
- Fits all thread spools. This is a great perk. Some of the cheaper brands don’t.
What’s Not So Great About Stonfo Elite Bobbin
While the Stonfo Elite is a great bobbin and provides amazing thread tension and control, there are a few minor things that some tiers don’t like.
- The tension control screw does tend to loosen at times, and this makes the thread lose its tension sometimes
- The screw itself can also be tricky to remove when changing spools.
Guide Tip: Hey, I have a FREE PDF that details the essential tools for fly tying , no strings just click the button link below.
The Loon outdoor brand is a dominant force in the fly fishing world. They make everything from tying tools to merchandise. They have a very high standard and are known for their quality products.
What I Like About Loon Ergo Bobbin
- Great value for money, especially when buying the kit.
- Holds most spool sizes
- Provides enough tension to the spools
- Fits the palm comfortably
- Holds the spool tight enough for good tight wraps on deer hair
A great price and great reviews. You can’t go wrong with the Loon Ergo Bobbin read what folks on Amazon say with this shortcut link 👉 Loon Ergo Bobbin
What’s Not So Great About Loon Ergo Bobbin
- The tension provided is often too much for the thinner threads
- Can have difficulties adjusting the tension on the arms
- Doesn’t hold all types of thread spoons
- The strong-arm design can hinder the thread tensions and cause breaks
- Better models on the market for the price
If your getting into fly tying, I’ve got you covered with a bunch of good stuff.
- A 118 page book was written about hooks for fly tying – I condensed it in – Understanding Fly Fishing Hooks
- Is there something special with fly tying scissors? Read – How to Select and Use Fly Tying Scissors
- Whip finish (it sounds like a new dance craze) Learn what it is and how to tie in this article – How to Use a Whip Finish Tool
- What’s so special about tying flies? Heck read – What is a Fly Tying Bobbin?
- Have you heard the term hair stacking? Let me show you how in – What is a Hair Stacker and How to Use it
If you have been trying for a while, you will have surely seen the Dr. Slick brand. This fly-tying tool and gear company has been making top-class tools and accessories for years, and they are known for their scissors and bobbins.
What I Like About Dr. Slick Glass Bobbin
- The bobbins come in three different nose lengths, which come in very handy when trying various sizes of flies.
- They have Dual Glass, Ceramic, or Titanium Inserts, which all are great choices and last a long time
- Delrin feet provide a smooth tension on the spool, delivering a smooth thread control.
- Glass inserts provide a smaller smooth tubing for the smaller threads.
- Maintains good tension throughout the tying process
Dr. Slick Products have moved the needle up a couple notches for fly tiers. The Dr. Slick Glass Bobbin is sure to become a favorite. Read more reviews about the Glass Bobbin with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 Dr. Slick Glass Bobbin
What’s Not So Great About Dr. Slick Glass Bobbin
- Ceramic inserts can crack if dropped, and this may cause the thread to fray
- It can be very difficult to thread if you don’t have a threader.
Masterfully crafted by Stonfo, their smaller, simpler Bobtec bobbin is an excellent choice for allrounders.
Its simple tension slider makes for easy adjustments and eases when swapping out thread spools. The hardened brush steel tube prevents the fraying of thread. All in all, an excellent bobbin to have and use.
What I Like About Stonfo Bobtec Bobbin
- Simple design, I love to keep things simple, and this is a great bobbin for that
- The thread control sliding bar is super easy to use
- Super quick spool changes
- Perfectly balanced bobbin that makes split thread dubbing loops very easy to make.
- Brushed steel tube for that is long-lasting and doesn’t fray the thread
- Great value for money
Amazon carries the Stonfo Bobtec, check current prices with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 Stonfo Bobtec Bobbin
What’s Not So Great About Stonfo Bobtec Bobbin
- The nose snoot tends to come loose, but nothing a little glue can’t fix
- The tension clip slides up and loosens the spool at times
Qualities of Great Tying Bobbins
There are a few things that I look out for when shopping for a new bobbin. If your local fly shop allows it, ask if you could get to feel it in your hand and possibly tie with it. Things I look out for are.
- I prefer a straight-set bobbin, the offset ones I find difficult to control.
- It’s best to have and use a short and long nose bobbin. You often need both when tying the bigger patterns
- The tension screw must be well seated on the thread, so it doesn’t unwind itself.
- A bobbin needs to provide tension for equally good thread control. Thread control is key to consistent fly tying.
Thread tension and control are arguably the most important things to understand when fly tying. If you are new to the fly-tying world, I highly recommend you spend a few minutes and watch videos on the basics of tension and control. They work hand in hand; without the correct tension, you will never achieve the correct thread control.
High tension is when you need to apply a bit more tension to the thread to secure or spin. The tighter the thread spool, the more tension you can place on the thread. This high-tensioned thread is used when tying dumbbell eyes to the hook before the glue or when spinning deer hair.
In both these stages of fly tying, you want to be able to apply the tension confidently and not expect the thread to break.
It is also important to use a stronger thread such as Semperfli nano silk 18/0 or 12/0 when you are using a high tensioned setting.
PRO TIP– when spinning deer hair, make sure you counterwind your thread so that it is nice and flat on the shank and material. If it is wound up when you apply tension to the hair, it will cut the hair like a hot knife through butter. This is the gripe that purists have with more modern threads is their textile strength.
Light tension- A light tensioned thread would be the exact opposite of a high tensioned thread. The light tensioned thread is needed for all the delicate work with materials that tend to break or damage easily.
Examples can be made of small flies, with their tiny hackle wraps and peacock hurl bodies, a small Cat Skill style dry, or pheasant tail nymphs. With all of these patterns, a delicate approach is needed. The thread you use and the tension applied to make for easier typing.
My preference is to use a lighter thread, something like a Griffiths Sheer 14/0, and then have the lighter tensioned thread wraps as well.
Remembering a light thread pulled to its full tension is better than a strong thread lightly wrapped. If you know what I mean. I prefer to apply the max tension to the Griffiths Sheer thread, which is delicate enough to not cut or break most of the softer materials.
Bending Arms to create tension
The bending of the bobbin arms is done to tighten or loosen the tension on the thread spool. This is done to the more entry-level bobbins and is a very effective way of thread control. These bobbins are cheap enough to have a few of them, all bent and tensioned to the specific thread spooled. It is best to keep that thread on it and know that it is tensioned correctly.
Drag systems like disc drag on a fly reel
The drag system style bobbins are the new era of bobbins, that’s for sure. The concept is the same as that of a fly reel drag system. A set of washers that tension the spool face is adjusted by the tension screw or knob. These are great and can fit most thread spools.
Manual, squeeze with the hand
The manual squeeze with the hand to provide more tension than what is set is also a great way to apply tension to the thread for a few short, quick wraps. It can’t be maintained for the whole duration of the fly pattern.
Length of Bobbin
The length of the bobbin is referred to as the nose length and the spool to nose length. The longer nose bobbins are best for the bigger flies when you need to reach over longer fibers to secure, or you are working on a longer hook shank. The shorter, smaller bobbin noses are great for the smaller size flies and hooks.
Palm comfort and Weight
The way the bobbin fits your palm and the weight of the bobbin are things you will develop a feeling for, the more you tie. I’m not a fan of heavy bobbins, especially for the lighter, smaller flies. Yes, if I were tying up a batch of Sempers for GTs, then sure, a heavy thread with a big heavy bobbin would be the right move. I generally tie the smaller flies, and so I choose to use a lighter, more delicate bobbin.
PRO TIP– when you are comfortable with how you tie and have found your happy place with the bobbin saga, then a small tip is to have a few bobbins spooled up and ready to go. This speeds up production when tying a large number of flies for a big trip or for possible clients or mates.
For more information on the above, please take a look at this short video https://youtu.be/g1QQujS-6n0
If you are starting out or want to get a travel kit for when you are on the road, then the DR Slick Tying Kit is a great choice. The tools are great to learn with and are of great quality. Kit bobbins are the basic ones that work great initially but tend to wear out, as mentioned above. Check out the video review of the Dr. Slick tying kit https://youtu.be/cUI_T05Js74
Do Bobbins Wear Out?
The short answer is yes. Over time the threaded tube will develop micro-cuts or channels that the thread creates. These small grooves will start to fray your thread. The first signs of this are when the thread shows signs it has been picked at or hooked, and you haven’t started to tie with it yet. In this case, don’t throw it away. Use t to spool your ribbing wires or your brush-making wires.
Bobbins that have ceramic tips tend to last longer, so when shopping consider ceramic.
Do You Need a Bobbin to Tie Flies?
Yes, the bobbin is an essential piece of equipment needed to tie fly patterns properly.
How Do I Load a Fly Bobbin?
Threading the bobbin is done using a threading tool, which makes for quick and simple changing of thread spools. You can also thread the thread into the base of the tube and give it a sharp, quick suck, as you would like a straw in a drink, and the thread shoots through to the tube to the opposite end. You can then grab the thread and begin.
Guide Recommended: I own several Rite Bobbins, I actually had a booth at a couple fly shows next to Lyle Graff and his son Justin. The bobbin is smooth, accurate and comfortable – HIGHLY recommended for any fly tier! Check out more on Amazon with this shortcut link 👉 Rite Bobbin for Fly Tying
As with most passions, sports and hobbies, there are many opinions and options. The best is not to get too overwhelmed by the whole selection process and work on what it is you need to start and work your way up from there.
Figure out what fish you want to target. This will point you towards what flies you need to tie and then to what bobbin style you may need.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process and always try to have fun doing it.
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Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.