Monday, September 6, 2010

Bobbin Holders

Fly tying has come a long way since its crude beginnings in the middle of the 19th century. Tiers had very few tools and materials to utilize whereas today we have more choices than we know what to do with. As a general rule, quality tools and materials usually allow fly tiers to learn faster and tie better flies. Therefore, you should always strive to obtain the best tools and materials that your budget will allow. The best place to obtain these is your local fly shop. Local fly shops are "going by the wayside" and they need all the help and support each of you can provide. 

The primary tools needed to tie flies are a vise, scissors, bobbin, bobbin threader and whip finisher (or half hitch tool).  Additional tools like a bodkin, hair stacker, hackle pliers, hackle gauge, cautery, dubbing loop tool, etc. all have specific uses, and will become important to as each tier refines their skills, and they make the decision to attempt different methods and techniques.

The concept of bobbins has been the same for the last 140 years- an important tool meant to hold a fly tiers thread, floss, and/or wire spools, and one to assist with wrapping thread around the hook. When choosing a bobbin one must consider the length of the tube, it's diameter, the tension it provides, and whether it has a stainless tube or not. In time, thread friction will wear grooves in the ends of stainless tubes, which will ultimately create thread fraying and cutting burrs; a ceramic, titanium, or ruby tip will help prevent this. Tube length and diameter also has importance in certain applications. For instance, a longer tube is advantageous because it allows more leverage when wrapping the thread and provides more control in the placement of the thread. At the same time, bobbins with a larger diameter tube are used for floss and other heavy or thick materials.  Again, these are some of the considerations that must be made when choosing a bobbin(s).

Even though the intentions are the same, bobbins and their design have changed dramatically throughout history. They began as a crude, cumbersome instrument and today they are more refined and some can perform multiple functions, like the Petitjean Thread Through Bobbin. 

I can find out anything I need about bomb making and basket weaving on the internet but I have had a difficult time finding out much about the time-line and history of fly tying and the tools used.  The Perry Bobbin from the 1940's and DH Thompson Bobbin Needle from the 1960's are 2 that you can find a little information about. 

Morris Perry was a well known Classic Salmon Fly Tying and Fishing expert from England. He moved to West Haven, Connecticut and opened a fishing shop. During World War II he invented the Perry Bobbin. It was designed of mostly wood because steel was scarce as a result of the war. In the early 1960's, he moved back to England where he fished and tied his Featherwing Salmon Flies. His partner in Long Island Sound continued to market the Perry Bobbin but the market shrunk with the lifting of  steel rationing and the flood of Asian imports. The DH Thompson Bobbin Needle is an almost identical version but is made almost entirely of steel. Boy is it heavy. I have one in the shop and it doubles as a barbell.

As mentioned beforehand, we have more options than we can shake a stick at. Listed below are some of my favorites. They are listed in accordance to their price and not necessarily in the order in which I prefer them.

Ekich Ultimate Bobbin. The $100 Bobbin. No cost was spared in sourcing the best materials possible (stainless steel, brass & anodized aircraft aluminum), nor was effort spared in achieving the highest tolerances and finishes on CNC machine centers. The result is a highly functional, durable and reliable product that will give you years of pure tying joy. This bobbin is not for everyone, although, it might just be for you.

Marc Petitjean's MP Thread Through Bobbin. The bobbin of all bobbins. You can change thread spools and thread it without even looking; plus, you can adjust the thread tension to your liking with the thread tension spring. The MP Bobbin also incorporates a wire loop for thread dubbing loops and spins on axis. Made with love by the Swiss, for the world. Bobbin not designed for light threads, like 10/0, 14/0, etc..

C&F Bobbin. Optimum bobbin weight (17g) helps provide tension. Teflon coated bobbin arms and clever Micro Slit Foam design in bobbin nose retains constant thread tension.

Wasatch Mitch's Bobbin Whirler. A standard-sized ceramic tip bobbin with dubbing hook allows tier construct loop-dubbed bodies without employing separate tools or cutting the thread. Beautiful wood workmanship. Comes with an instructional DVD included.

Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin. This machined bobbin has a hardened steel tip insert and countersunk feed that will allow thread to glide through the tube for threading and tying. The drag control has a large adjustment zone for fine tuning thread tension to your personal liking.

Renzetti Ruby Tipped Midge Bobbin. Renzetti bobbins are in a class by themselves. The ruby tip provides for ultra smooth thread delivery and excellent wear resistance. Plus, the smooth spool knobs are perfect for fine detail and lighter denier threads. The standard length tube is 2-inches long and is 3/32-inch in diameter. Also available in an extended length version (saltwater) upon request; the tube is 2 3/4-inches long and 1/8-inch in diameter.

Rite Bobbins. AMAZING VERSATILITY FOUND IN NO OTHER BOBBIN! Any standard thread spool works with all "RITE"TM Bobbins.

• 1" shorter than the "Rite" Standard Bobbin.
• Designed for tiny flies or smaller hands, but many tiers with large hands swear by this bobbin.
• Ceramic Thread Tube.
• Small Diameter Barrel.
• Removable Vinyl Grip.
• Solid Brass Arm.
• "Click" Drag Adjustment.
• 1-9 ounces of thread tension.
• The most versatile of all fly tying bobbins.

• Ceramic Thread Tube.
• Small Diameter Barrel.
• Removable Vinyl Grip.
• Solid Brass Arm.
• "Click" Drag Adjustment.
• 1-9 ounces of thread tension.
• The most versatile of all fly tying bobbins.

• Originally designed for salt water fly tying applications.
• Extra long, 3" surgical stainless steel tube.
• Large diameter thread tube, accommodates threads as large as yarn.
• Becoming popular as a rod-winding tool. Accommodates Gudebrod and Dynacord rod wrapping thread.
• Heavy duty click drag system, 2-16 ounces of thread tension.

• Longer reach with 2 ½" Ceramic insert.
• All surgical quality stainless steel components.
• Very high pressure click drag system.
• Heavy duty thread tension, 2-16 ounces thread tension.
• Perfect for longer hooks such as streamers.
• Excellent for spinning deer hair.

Tiemco Ceramic Bobbins. The Tiemco bobbins have ceramic tubes to ensure smooth winding of fly tying thread for years to come. They last many times more than conventional steel bobbins. I have personally tied with one for more than 15 years. Available in straight or curved.  

Griffin Ceramic PeeWee Bobbin. This small bobbin is only 3" long. It will hold a standard spool of thread while it fits perfectly in your palm. Flared on the in-feed end it also carries the ceramic insert. Griffin is one of the leaders in the creation of fine fly tying tools.

Montana Fly River Camo Ceramic Bobbin. This bobbin is the coolest tool since the introduction of hand axes. Ceramic lined stainless tube is made to last. These bobbins come in a brown or rainbow trout pattern. Great gift for the "hard to shop for" fly tyer.

These aren't the only bobbins on the market that tiers prefer; it all comes down to personal preference. Share your favorite bobbin with us.


  1. Thanks for showing me the Ekich bobbin! Not like I need it, but damn it would be nice to have. :)

  2. They are pretty sweet. Thats 10 bottles of good beer though :-)

  3. It was interesting to read what you had to say about the Perry Bobbin and the Thompson Bobbin Needle. I have both.
    When I was MUCH younger, I used to go into Perry's shop quite often. If I had a few dimes, I would buy a fly or two. They usually turned out to be Mickey Finns. A while ago I had a chance to buy a Perry Bobbin, so I could not pass it up. It brings me back about 60 years.

    A friend of mine gave me a Thompson Bobbin Needle in very nice condition in the original box, also in good condition. I doubt if I will ever use it though.

    He also gave me a Thompson Wing Former, in the original, very good condition box, with the original instructions, and three original blades in the original paper envelope. I know I'll never use that.
    I am now starting my 9 year old grandson in tying his own flies, so hopefully, the magic continues.

  4. Teach that grandson well, KG. There are no better activities for the youngsters than tying and fishing. They are both refreshing for the mind, body and soul.