Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fly Tying Kits: A Retrospective

Recently for the weekly
Field & Stream vintage tackle contest, a gentleman submitted a neat 1960s Fly Tying Kit. These all-in-one kits were offered by many companies, so I thought I would give a little retrospective history of these kits. They were originally offered in the 1920s and by the 1950s were common, with a dozen or more companies offering their particular models.

Many of these kits were used by Boy Scout troops. In fact, they became so popular that the Boy Scouts themselves began to sell an official fly tying kit. This one dates from the 1950s.

Not surprisingly, Worth of Steven's Point, Wisconsin offered a large kit -- they were manufacturers of much of the tackle hardware used in the industry.

H.J. Noll was a world-class supplier of fly tying materials out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from the 1920s onward. It offered numerous kits over the years, including these two.

Perhaps the most commonly found fly tying kit are those of Tack-L-Tyers of Evanston, Illinois. From the 1930s onward, this was among the best selling kits for the next four decades. This particular model, with the pictorial box, was used for 20 or more years.

Hank Roberts was a fly tier who started a company in Boulder, Colorado. By the 1950s, he was known for his modestly priced tied flies; he offered fly tying kits as well. Eventually Arbogast purchased Hank Roberts.

The Wapsi Fly Company was founded in Mountain Home, Arkansas, by Lacey Gee in 1945. Named after the Wapsipinicon River near his home in Iowa, and it grew into the largest wholesaler of fly-tying materials in the world. They offered innumerable kits such as this.

Ned Grey founded Sierra Tackle in Montrose, California after World War II. It grew into a large distributor of fly tying materials. The Ned Grey kits were popular in the 1960s.

Kits are still being sold today, such as this Raymond Rumpf fly tying kit.

This Regal kits (I believe) was manufactured overseas.

Even big trade houses, like Abercrombie & Fitch and L.L. Bean, offered fly tying kits.

One of the largest kit sellers was Herter's of Waseca, Minnesota. It was from Herter's that I got all my fly tying materials as a kid, and as I've written about before, ended up with so much of their excess stock after they went out of business I still have massive cases of it in my basement.

It's a great gift for kids of any age, and I hope some of you will consider tracking one day and gifting it to a child in your life!

-- Dr. Todd


Highsierrabob said...

Ah yes, I remember the tackle shop in Montrose. If I remember correctly, it was named, Sierra Hackle and Tackle. Went there back in the 1970's. I was a young lad back then, but now I understand that all the good stuff was kept in the back room.

Highsierrabob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Redman said...

Wapsi fly was started in or around 1945 in reality in 1946. It was founded in Independence,Iowa. It was moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas after Lacey Gee sold the business. I knew Lacey and he was a true gentleman. I was one of the last small jig tiers to buy from Wapsi. That was back in the late 1970's.

8iowa said...

Back around 1953 I received a Boy Scout fly tying kit. It was probably a purchase from an ad in "Boys Life".

The kit had a crappy vise with a lever closer that wouldn't grip hooks. Fortunately I found Herter's with all their 'model perfect' stuff. Quality was not always there but the model B vise was a winner. After all these years I still have it. Incredibly, I was able to tie the Grey Ghost and the Fan Wing Royal Coachman.

Today we fly tyers have it much easier, but the memories linger on.