Aside from your vise, the tool you will use most when tying flies is a good bobbin.
If you are using something a lot, then you want it to work. Nobody wants their home-tied flies unraveling mid-cast.
Choosing the right bobbin isn’t easy, but I’ve tried a few, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you.
In the list below, you’ll find some of the best fly tying bobbins on the market.
I’ll also go through some of the features you need to look for when buying.
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Ok, so these little guys are pretty basic. But if you are just starting out, you don’t need anything overly complicated.
Did I mention that they are great value?
The fact that you get two in a pack along with a threader should make life much easier when you are tying.
The handle on the bobbin is perfectly shaped to give an excellent grip. One great feature that I always look for is a ceramic lining on the bobbins ‘spout’. This ensures that your silk or thread is paid out evenly and smoothly.
The fact that you get two in a pack isn’t just great from a value point of view. It will improve your fly tying.
Often you need to incorporate more than one color in your patterns. Changing threads mid-fly can be fiddly. With two bobbins, you can have the two different color threads mounted and ready to go.
Excellent value, two in each pack (with a threader too!).
Ability to use two different color silks without changing spools.
The bobbin is pretty basic.
If it is value you are after, then this is the place to find it. These will both work well, and while they are budget, they will enable you to tie flies at a low cost.
Is the budget option not so appealing? Are you looking for something slightly more ‘classy’?
Here is where it is at.
This bobbin is really nice. The barrel of the bobbin is shorter than the standard. As a result, you can get your hand really close to your patterns. This ensures a higher degree of precision and accuracy when tying.
The barrel is really fine. This would be ideal when you are tying smaller patterns like midges. The tube is zirconia lined. Essentially this is like a slick ‘glass’ that will give a smooth payout of silk.
And there’s more.
The bobbin has a click-drag system. This means that you can apply the perfect amount of pressure to your thread without worrying about it breaking (which is always a disaster).
To top this bobbin off, it comes with a removable vinyl grip. This is great for keeping a firm hold on your bobbin.
Great grip and easy spooling.
I love the clickable drag.
The bobbin only fits large spools.
This is a classy bobbin and great for super fine work. The smaller tube and automatic drag make it absolutely ideal for using thinner silks and threads in the crafting of smaller flies.
If you’ve read my guide about the best fly tying kits, you’ll already know that I absolutely love Loon. They make tools that will suit beginners and intermediate fly tyers alike.
In a word…
They are great.
The Ergo bobbin is easy to hold, easy to see, and really easy to use. The yellow powder-coated handle sits really nicely between the thumb and fingers. It would be especially great for those tyers with larger hands.
It is easy to adjust the spool’s pressure, just give the feet a little bend, and you are good to go.
And here’s something really nice…
The tube is made of polished tungsten. This is just as smooth as ceramic linings but is much more durable. It won’t break when you drop it (which is likely if you are just starting out).
I love the yellow finish. It is easy to find amongst my other tools when I’ve got them all laid out on my bench. If you like the look of the bobbin, Loon also makes scissors. Check them out with some of my other suggestions here.
Highly visible and chunky grip.
Really smooth thread payout.
Another bobbin where it’s big spools only, I’m afraid!
I love good fly-tying bobbins, especially when they are reasonably priced. This is a prime example. I can’t really fault it.
My main gripe with bobbins is that you can only fit big or small spools into each.
This is different. By tightening and loosening the side-mounted screws, you can adjust the arm width for practically any spool! This also serves as a great way to perfectly set the drag to give you the most optimum tension.
The ceramic feet that hold your spool also give a really superb grip but ensure that the spool doesn’t ‘stick’ which can break your thread.
The only downside is the cost. It isn’t exactly budget-friendly.
This might be one of the best on my list for a great all-around fly-tying spool. I struggled to find fault with it. Ok, it costs more, but if you want the best and performance you can feel, this is worth it.
Speaking of performance vs cost in fly tying bobbins, here is something just a bit special. You could call it…
This bobbin looks more like a surgical instrument than a fly tying tool. And it performs with about the same precision.
It is light, minimalist, and utterly gorgeous to use.
This isn’t your average fly-tying bobbin. The problems I’ve mentioned above with spools aren’t applicable here. The bobbin comes with its own aluminum spools that you load with your choice of thread or silk. A spooling arbor is included to make this easy.
But what’s it like to tie with this bobbin?
Exquisite. If the other bobbins were a sharpie, this is a high-quality fountain pen. It’s light, delicate, and supremely precise.
Included arbor for easy spool loading.
Perfect drag with little need for adjustment.
Again the price won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Although it’s the most expensive on my list, you won’t ever need another, nor will you need to upgrade. This would be a lifelong investment that would only improve your fly-tying journey.
Rite Bobbin produces a whole range of fly tying bobbins. This version is a little different. If you struggle with grip or dexterity, it will make an ideal choice.
The tube is surrounded by a chunky multi-layered grip. This will prevent the bobbin from slipping when tying.
As with all Rite Bobbin products, you will find that you can perfectly adjust the spool’s tension with a brass drag disc. For bigger patterns with the chunky thread, you’ll be able to apply around 9 ounces of pressure, ensuring that your patterns stay nice, tight, and compact.
The interior of the tube is lined, offering a burr-free tying experience.
The most grippy fly tying bobbin on my list.
Great for bigger patterns.
Only aesthetic. I don’t like the way the tube sits in the body. It looks unfinished.
For fly tyers with big hands, you may need something more substantial. This bobbin could be it. It’s hard-wearing, rugged, and will let you tie a range of flies for a relatively low cost.
Buying Guide to Fly Tying Bobbins
As I said at the start, a bobbin, along with a really great vise, is one of your most important pieces of fly tying kit.
So you want to choose the right one for the task at hand. As you’ll have seen, there are lots of options out there.
Here are some of the things I think about when I’m buying a new fly tying bobbin.
Material and Construction
You will want to pick a fly-tying bobbin that will last a while. Look primarily for materials that won’t corrode.
A spot of rust might not sound like a big deal, but if it forms on the tube, this burr could fray and cut fine silk, which is not what you want.
Here are some more specifics that I look for when it comes to construction:
For me, a tube that isn’t lined is a deal-breaker. Ceramic linings are the most commonly used options.
They provide a frictionless action that stops the thread from catching. The only time I won’t go lined is if the entire tube is made from some super hard polished material.
If you check the Loom bobbin above, you’ll see the tube is made from polished tungsten. This will provide similar performance.
The arms of your bobbin will take a little punishment. They are often bent or stretched to accommodate the spool. If they fatigue or break, then it will be time to invest in a new bobbin.
How to avoid this?
Well, the only solution is to pick something that won’t break in the first place. Look for things such as all-metal construction.
The ‘feet’ are the two points of contact with the spool.
They do two things.
They ensure a firm grip on your spool, and they allow the spool to rotate in the bobbin as the thread is fed out. Make sure you pick a bobbin with foot material that will allow this. If the spool is not held tightly, you’ll have a bad experience.
If the spool sticks or can’t pay out silk, you may end up breaking the thread, which is always really frustrating.
Sometimes you may find that the spool is a little loose, and the thread is dispensed too loosely.
There are solutions to this too.
Automatic bobbins are a new addition to the line-up. They automatically retract thread when there is too much slack, making them ideal. You can view an example of the best automatic fly tying bobbin just here.
Tube Gauge and Length
Imagine using a spool with a tube the thickness of a large drinking straw.
Would your fly look neat?
No, of course not. Finer tubes are generally better, and you’ll be able to tie both big and small flies equally well.
There is a downside to a thin tube, however…
They can be really hard to thread. But there is a solution. You’ll notice in our premium models above that some have a wider tube on the spool side. This makes threading your bobbin an easy task.
The length of the tube is important too. As a general rule, I pick a bobbin that isn’t too long, nor is it too short.
Here’s a rule of thumb…
For bigger flies, use a longer tube for smaller flies, a shorter tube.
A good all-around option will allow you to tie both.
If you’ve read my fly tying bobbin review above, you’ll have seen that my main sticking point was the lack of flexibility in the size of spool that you can mount in your bobbin. Some only allow big spools, some only allow small spools.
The best bobbin for fly tying will allow you to fit both.
Failing this, there is a solution. Go for a bobbin that uses smaller spools. You can always wind silk or thread onto a smaller spool from a bigger spool. Working the other way around is too much hard work
The final thing I want to talk about is the grip. If you are like me and have sausage fingers, then holding fine and delicate tools like fly tying bobbins is a tricky task.
Make sure you get a bobbin with a substantial grip. I really like the Loon fly-tying bobbin as it fits really well in hand. It is even nice to use for those with finer fingers.
Other additions to help aid grip are silicone sleeves and chunky bodies on your bobbins. Both make tying that much easier!
As fly tying tools go, if you are allocating a budget, go as big as you can on both a vise and the best fly tying bobbins you can afford.
You won’t regret buying something of better quality. As you advance, you’ll find you are tying finer, more detailed patterns, and it’s good to have a tool that is advanced enough to allow you to progress.