An Easy Profile Plate for Fly Tying

Fly Tying Back Plate

Putting a back plate behind your vise will help your tying and ease the strain on your eyes.

Years ago I wanted a profile plate. Having a uniform color behind your fly makes it easy on the eyes to see errant barbules and fibers. And it hides the clutter of your tying desk.

I didn’t really like the commercial ones I saw. I’m just not a fan of having more things hanging on my vise. Plus they aren’t as flexible. So I scrounged through my scrap wood and found a piece of Cherry. It had served nicely as a sanding block and clamp pad. It was 6″ X 1 1/2″ X 3/4″. A well used piece, it had a few dings and dents and saw marks. But this was just for a test run. I made a single saw cut about an inch from the end at around 60 degrees. I touched it up with a little sand paper and stain.

To use it, just drop in a piece of mat board in your favorite color and it is set to go. I picked up a variety pack of colored papers. In front of the mat board, you can slip a sheet of colored paper to change your background. I use a neutral gray to photography my flies and step by step tutorials for this site. Many people like blue and green. I find white is too harsh and fatiguing for your eyes. You can see here how I tested a bunch of colors when I started this blog. It only takes a couple seconds if you have a pack of papers cut to the size you like.

My test piece worked so well that I’ve never gotten around to making the final model. After ten or more years, I am used to the nicks and marks. Just like it’s user, it isn’t perfect or beautiful.

Back Plate for Fly Tying

Tying Desk

Back Plate with Color Choises

Back Plate with Color Choises

Back Plate with Gray Card

Back Plate with Gray Card

Back Plate Side View

Back Plate Side View

Left Side View

left side view

Back Plate side view

Right Side View

Copper Wire for Fly Tying

Well used Christmas lights

A source for a lifetime of copper wire


You are thinking that these look like Christmas lights, right? You are correct. If you are like me, every couple years a strand or two get tossed out. Doesn’t work, wrong colors, Wife’s tastes have moved on- – whatever the reason. Well, I love this wire for copper ribbing. It is free, easier to use than a spool, nice and small for ribbing those tiny nymphs, and copper is a great color on flies. You can use it instead of gold wire on Hare’s Ears or other patterns.

So this is what I do. When I need copper wire, I dig out this jumble of lights that I have stashed in a bottom drawer of my tying boxes. Then I trim off about 6 pieces of wire around 6 inches long. I grab a pair of electrical pliers and strip both ends. I throw one on top of my bench and the others in a drawer. I’m good for a few months. Couldn’t be easier. And I love the wire. Fine diameter that wraps super. Below you can see the trimmed and stripped sections. Try this next Christmas!


Trimmed Wire

A length of wire trimmed from the string of lights


Stripped wire

Wire ready to use

Hair Stacker Pad

Hair Packer Stand

Click to Enlarge

I tie flies for fun. I rarely fish flies that I haven’t tied, but that is not an obsession or rigid tenet of my fly fishing creed. It just works out that way. If I find a fly in a tree or if a friend shares his latest and greatest pattern, I am happy to use it. If the fly is a winner I’ll tie up a batch of them.
Because of my approach to tying, I want the time at the bench to be enjoyable. So if my bobbin snags the thread, I’ll try to fix it, but if it doesn’t work out, I’ll toss it. Life is too short…. Likewise if I see a need for a new tool, I am not above tinkering around to make it myself. If so, great. If not, I’ll buy one. But given a choice, I prefer pleasing looks.

Packer Stand

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That’s how my bobbin holder came to be. And that is how this stacker pad appeared. I found that when I was stacking hair, the tapping bugged me. So I put an old mouse pad on the tying table. That worked but took up too much of a foot print. So I looked in the scrap wood bin. This piece of cherry was the trim end on a board from some long forgotten project. The width seemed just right, so I did a quick sanding job, drilled a couple of holes at an angle toward the end. I finished it with some Watco Danish oil. When dry, I cut a square out of that old mouse pad, and glued it on with contact cement. Four small felt circles on the bottom and it’s been working great for years. A big plus is that I can always find my bodkin now!

Bobbin Holder

Fly tiers come in three flavors:

Everyone else

Sorry to say, I lean toward the slob category. I would like to be neater, truly I would, but it will never happen. But I do like things that help me stay organized. A few years ago, I had a chunk of firewood from a pie cherry tree my folks had taken out. Knowing that it should have an interesting grain, I squared up the bottom and one side. Then with a band saw, I cut an arc across the top surface. A few minutes on a drill press; a little sand paper; a little danish oil; and a bobbin holder appeared. I spiffed it up with four small, felt dots on the bottom so it would slide nicely.

Now my bench is a tiny bit neater, and much prettier. I enjoy the look of natural wood. I even like the splits that showed up as the wood dried. You could use any old piece of scrap wood you have around. All tools are optional.

Keep your spools neat and at hand. Wooden bobbin holder
(Click Image to Enlarge)