This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is…tyer’s wax!

Tyer's Wax |

I know it isn’t a fly, but I want to honor the history of fly tying and this is one way I can do that.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful friendship with Gretchen and Al Beatty. I met them a few years ago during my first year as a demonstration fly tyer at the Western Idaho Fly Fishing Expo in Boise, ID. Little did I know then how genuine and helpful these two people were.

Al pushed me to improve my photography skills, which directly impacted the quality of photos you see here at RiverKeeper Flies.

But I’m getting off track…I could go on and on about these two wonderful people.

Why did I mention them? It turns out Gretchen’s father was “Dub” Evans who taught her to tie flies on a treadle sewing machine converted into a fly tying vise. It was a true rotary vise.

Treadle Fly Tying Vise |

He patterned his treadle fly tying vise after the one Gretchen’s Aunt Lois Coon tied on. She tied flies for the Glen L. Evans Company (no relation) in Caldwell, ID from 1935 to around 1940.

“Dub” was a plumber who created these machines from plumbing parts. He hired his sister-in-law and another women to help tie his commercial flies. I guess his plumbing business took off and commercial fly tying went by the wayside. He continued to use his “vise” to tie flies for his own use.

I was fortunate when I made my trip in January because I went a day early. We talked about my website, especially the Throw Back Thursday segment. All of a sudden, out came old flies, hooks, stories, and this piece of tyer’s wax.

Tyer's Wax Close-up |

I don’t know how many flies were tied using this wax, but take a moment and look at the individual lines. Those were made by pulling off a long piece of thread and drawing it through the wax to coat the thread before beginning to tie the fly. He didn’t use a bobbin holder.

How many times was a piece of thread drawn to create this deep cut?

Tyer's Wax Indentation |

I don’t know the answer, but I’m intrigued by it.

Hopefully, you are as well. This is our history.

Just remember how many fly tyers (or fly dresser’s as they were called in England in the old days) came before us. And the first ones didn’t use vises!

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. Hi John,
    I always enjoy reviewing your posts. I must admit I sometimes just “review the pictures” then read the text to get the back story. Today, I opened your post and said to myself, “That picture sure looks familiar!” Of course it was. Thank you for sharing a piece of our family’s history and fly tying history as well with your readers. Take care & …
    Tight Lines – Al Beatty

  2. Lovely article. Thanks!
    I don’t suppose you have the recipe for the wax do you? if not I’m sure I can find it, it involves beeswax, rosin and castor oil, although I’m sure olive oil would be an adequate substitute.

    1. Donald

      Thanks for your comment. No, I don’t have the recipe. I too have seen them in older fly tying books. Be sure to check out the page Links to Free Old Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Books. There are several recipes in them.


    2. you can find several recipes for tying wax on… this site is a huge resource for tying soft hackles and wet flies. there are links there for suppliers of tying wax also…

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