dr. slick fly tying bobbin

Welcome, fellow fly tying enthusiasts! If you're new to the world of fly tying or looking to upgrade your tools, you've probably found yourself wondering, "What fly tying bobbin should I pick?" Fear not, as we dive into the intricacies of fly tying bobbins in this comprehensive guide. Matt Oโ€™Neal, expert tyer, fly tying history enthusiast, and frequent J. Stockard blog contributor provides an excellent video All About Bobbins. Check it out at the bottom of this post, and continue reading to unravel the mysteries of bobbins, explore the various types available, and discover which ones are the perfect fit to enhance your fly fishing and fly tying.

What's a Bobbin, Anyway?

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty details, let's start with the basics. A bobbin holder, frequently just called a bobbin in the world of fly tying, is a crucial tool in fly tying which holds the thread spool. But it's not just any spool holder; it's the secret to achieving smooth, even wraps of thread on your fly. The arms which hold the spool allow for control over thread tension by letting you vary how hard it is for the spool to turn. The tube through which the thread pays out makes it easy to see exactly where the thread is going so you can put it right where you want it. By helping you wrap accurately and maintain precise tension, it gives you a level of thread control that dramatically increases the quality your fly tying. In essence, a bobbin makes the tying process more manageable, ensuring your creations are not only visually appealing but also durable and effective.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bobbin for Fly Tying

Materials Matter

The critical element is the tube material. The choice here affects the feel, durability, and overall performance of the bobbin. Stainless steel is usually less expensive and is extremely durable. Ceramic tubes can be even more durable and creates minimal friction on the thread. Ceramic inserts are also least likely to have tiny imperfections that can fray or break fly tying thread. Some bobbins are made with other material, like titanium, glass, and tungsten, but most are either stainless steel or ceramic.

Length: Standard, Midge, or Longer?

Consider the length of the bobbin holder, especially the tube. There are standard, midge, and longer lengths. For general use, a standard length is suitable, but for intricate patterns or smaller flies, a midge length might be your preference. Some tyers may prefer an extra long tube, and there are brands that offer that, as well.

Tube Diameter: Standard or Wide?

The tube diameter, whether standard or wide, depends on the thickness of the fly tying thread you use. Most bobbins will fit most threads, but you may want to consider specific tube widths. If you are frequently fly fishing with either tiny midges or huge streamers, you'll probably be fly tying with particularly fine or heavy thread. You may also have occasion to use a bobbin for applying thicker material like yarn. In that case, consider tube diameter when you select which fly tying bobbins to have at your disposal.

Tension Adjustment: Find Your Comfort Zone

Tension adjustment methods vary. Some bobbins simply allow you to squeeze the arms together to add tension, while others have advanced disc drags or sliding bars for more consistent pressure. Finding a tensioning method, and level of precision, that suits your tying style is essential.

Price

Let's be honest - we all wish our budget was unlimited, but it isn't. There a plenty of fly fishing and fly tying supplies out there to spend our money on. Finding fly tying tools that meet your needs at a price that makes sense for you is important. That's why the most important thing to consider is...

The X-Factor: Personal Preference

Ultimately, the most critical factor in choosing a fly tying bobbin holder is personal preference. Fly fishing and fly tying are supposed to be fun (at least for most of us) so pick whatever will allow you to get the maximum enjoyment out of your experience. Some stick with the fly tying tools that came in a kit, finding comfort and satisfaction in their performance. On the other hand, if you are curious how more features and benefits could enhance your fly tying, there is a world of tools at your disposal here at J. Stockard Fly Fishing.

Exploring Different Styles of Fly Tying Bobbin Holders

Now that we've covered the essential factors let's explore different styles of bobbin holders, ranging from basic standard ones to mid-range options and those with adjustable drags.

Basic Standard Bobbins

Dr. Slick ECO Bobbin

  • A great value option without compromising quality.
  • Stainless steel pipe for durability.
  • Glass inserts prevent damage to thread.
  • Spring arms with brass feet accommodate most spools.

Dr. Slick Glass Bobbin

  • Dual funnel-shaped glass inserts.
  • Smoother thread payout and less breakage.
  • Delrin feet for smooth tension on the spool

J. Stockard Bobbin Thumb Grip

  • Another solid and super value option.
  • This bobbin comes with a thumb grip for enhanced control.

J. Stockard Bobbin Stainless

  • Durableย stainless steel construction.
  • Simple but effective design.

Ceramics for Refinement

Dr. Slick Ceramic Bobbin

  • Dual ceramic pipe inserts for durability and smooth thread flow.
  • 4" version arms fit even small thread spools.
  • Delrin feet allow for fine tension control by squeezing the arms.
  • Great value for a high-quality ceramic option.

JS Ceramic Bobbin

  • Great value option
  • Good for those who want to try ceramic for the first time

Mid-Range Marvels

Umpqua Dreamstream+ Bobbin

  • A workhorse bobbin with excellent tension control.
  • Silky thread-feed and a smooth steel tube to minimize thread breakage.
  • Handy for keeping favorite thread colors readily available.

Loon Outdoors Ergo All Purpose Bobbin

  • Comfortable design compatible with various fly shapes and sizes.
  • Versatile and suitable for a wide range of fly tying applications.
  • A reliable tool that disappears in your hand, letting you focus on the fly.

A complete set of gear includes a bobbin threader, so consider...

Loon Outdoors Ergo Bobbin Threader

  • Extra-long bobbin threader compatible with even the largest bobbins.
  • Bright Loon yellow, making it easy to find on your bench.
  • A useful tool for various fly tying tasks.

Advanced Options with Adjustable Drags

Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin

  • Features a disc drag system and a single arm for tension adjustment.
  • Functional but may require occasional readjustment during tying.
  • A solid choice for those seeking advanced tension control.

Rite Bobbin

  • Combines the features of an auto mechanic's torsion wrench with precise thread tensioning.
  • Solid brass arm with a click drag adjustment for regulation.
  • Offers consistent tension for intricate work on small to large hooks.

Stonfo Bobtech Bobbin Holder

  • Traditional appearance but with a unique sleeve for easy tension adjustment.
  • Standard diameter steel tube with a flared end for a secure grip.
  • A balance of classic style and modern functionality.

SMHAEN Bobbin

  • Super functional with micro-adjustable tension.
  • Unique design and high-quality workmanship.
  • Ergonomic frame shape for comfortable use.
  • Suitable for a range of spool sizes.
  • Perfect thread control with a ceramic tube.
  • Available in regular (red) and midge (blue) sizes.
smhaen fly tying bobbins

Fly Tying Bobbin FAQs

Now, let's address some common questions about fly tying bobbins.

What is the purpose of a bobbin in fly tying?

A bobbin in fly tying is a tool to hold the spool of thread used to tie a fly. It allows for tension control, ensuring smooth and even wraps of thread onto the hook, contributing to the visual appeal, durability, and effectiveness of the fly.

Why are there different lengths of bobbin holders?

Different lengths cater to varying tying needs. Standard-length bobbins are versatile, while midge-length bobbins are ideal for intricate patterns or smaller flies. Longer bobbins suit those working on larger patterns.

What fly tying tools do I need to get started?

A bobbin holder is certainly one of the most critical fly tying tools one needs to get started. Along with a vise and scissors, it's one of the few absolute necessities. Most fly tying tool kits include a bobbin and scissors. Many tyers also consider hackle pliers, a bodkin, whip finisher, and bobbin threader as fundamental tools to get started fly tying. That said, you could probably get started with just a vise, bobbin, and scissors.

What's a fly tying bobbin threader?

Fly tying bobbins have narrow tubes through which the thread pays out, which allows for precise control of where the thread goes. This is important to their functioning, but getting the thread through the tube in the first place can be a challenge for many fly tyers, even the most experienced. A bobbin threader is a fly tying tool designed to help with this. It's a loop of fine wire, with a pointed fold at the end, that you stick through the bobbin tube. You put the thread through the wire loop, which you then pull back out the tube, bringing the thread with it.

What materials are commonly used in bobbin construction?

Most fly tying bobbinholders are made of steel, but the crucial element is the tube material โ€” usually either stainless steel or ceramic. Ceramic bobbins are favored by many for their smoothness and durability.

How do I choose the right tension adjustment method?

Choosing the right tension adjustment method depends on personal preference and there are many tensioning options to choose from. Some tyers prefer basic arm movement, while others opt for advanced disc drags or sliding bars. Experiment with different methods to find what suits you best.

What's the most important factor in choosing a fly tying bobbin holder?

Fly tying and fly fishing should be enjoyable, so personal preference is a crucial factor in choosing a bobbin holder. Experimenting with different styles, materials, and tension adjustments will help you find the one that feels right and enhances your tying experience.


In fly tying, the bobbin holder plays a pivotal role. Whether you're a seasoned fly tier or just starting, choosing the right fly tying tools is essential for a smooth and enjoyable tying experience. At J. Stockard Fly Fishing, we offer a comprehensive selection of fly tying bobbins. Our range includes our own value-priced line of tools, as well as some of the best bobbins money can buy. We offer most brands, including Dr. Slick, Stonfo, Loon, Umpqua Dreamsteam, and Smhaen. Consider your preferences, explore different options, and remember, the perfect bobbin is the one that feels like an extension of your hand. Happy tying!

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Tim McCarthy

Tim McCarthy

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