The most used tool in fly tying.
So you sit down at your tying bench after coming up with the next big pattern that is hands down going to be the best fly you have ever tied. You know exactly what hook and what material it needs, so you slap the hook in the vice and reach for your first tool. Your most important tool, a tool that you will be using throughout the whole life of the fly. A tool that will be in your hand the majority of your time on your bench – the mighty bobbin. The importance of a good bobbin varies from person to person and the needs are more critical for some vs others. There are many things that separate bobbins in how they work and their functionality. Such as, different tension systems, adjust ability, what price class and how the design, size and weight affects comfort. The size and overall length normally determine their intended use.
Pricing, why the cost?
So let’s start off with one of the most important part of the of bobbins, and well with everything really, price. With bobbins ranging from $13.99 at the low end and $99.95 at the high end you might be wondering why is there such a difference between a tool that does the same job. The materials used and the research and development between the high-end and the low end will show substantial differences right away. The Features that are packed into some of these bobbins are unreal, the thought that went into them is quite incredible.
The Bobbins in the line up from the low to the top.
Umpqua Downstream $13.99
The new downstream tools just made their debut to the market in September 2019 Coming in as the cheapest, the widest, and the 2nd heaviest in weight. The tension system is 2 large balls that clip into the spool. The tension can be adjusted by bending the arms either in or out to add or lessen the tension. The weight of this bobbin can be a little tip heavy as most of the weight is in the metal studded grip toward the front. This grip is actually quite nice as it gives an incredible amount of surface for you to really grip and wench down on for tying bigger saltwater, and pike like streamers with say deer hair, without slipping.
Two big downsides to this bobbin is the squeaking when pulling out more thread to work with. Even though it can temporarily be fixed with a little dubbing wax it will drive some people crazy and to look for another bobbin. The second downside is not having enough tension on the arms to use that full grip to its full potential, even bending them far in it still almost feels as the spool will unclip before you can apply maximum pressure. The full steel tube with no inserts make for a smooth surface for the thread but the shorter tube length sometimes feels a little too short.
Dr slick Ceramic/titanium $17-$18 for Ceramic / $19-$20 Titanium
These bobbins have been around for the longest time and they are a staple in the fly tying world. Available in 2 sizes and 2 insert materials. Ceramic and Titanium with sizes 4” and 4” 3⁄4 $17 for the shorter and $18 for the longer ceramic model and $19-$20 for the short and longer titanium model. Both coming in as the lightest bobbins on the list, these are definitely the thinnest tube and grip diameter. The tension system is by retention of metal arms with plastic cone shaped spool holders that actually clip in and secure a spool quite nicely. Adjustments can be made by bending the arms either in or out to add or subtract tension. The specific inserts differ in their strengths and weaknesses. The ceramic inserts are incredibly smooth and provides extreme slick-ness but, for the drawback of the extreme durability that the titanium offers. With the ceramic bobbin, if you accidentally knick the hook point it will most likely scratch the insert rendering the bobbin useless. Due to every rotation around the hook it will cause it to cut the thread. You will not find that problem to be too relevant with the titanium bobbin, as it is tough and can most likely hold up to an accidental hit on the hook point. One serious issue to point out is, if you do drop this bobbin the insert has fallen out on a few occasions that we have heard about. To fix the problem a single drop of superglue on a toothpick ran around the front insert will make this an absolute rock solid bobbin. Another small downside to this bobbin is threading the spool at first, sometimes it will hang up on the insert even using the suction method being a pain if you do not use a bobbin threader.
Loon Ergo all Purpose Bobbin $19.00
Loon released the new, Ergo all purpose bobbin after having there Ergo bobbin around for a year or so. Designed for smaller flies or people that like having a smaller bobbins in the hand. Featuring the same “ergo” grips the Loon ergo tools have, new brass conned feet that are designed to hold the spool way better then the previous version of the round balls (and they do very very well), the shorter thinner barrel makes getting into smaller hooks, and flies very easy. The brass feet also do not squeak at all which is awesome. If you are someone that likes tying with scissors in their hand these might be a very strong competitor for you to look at. The arms are single stainless thin arms that allow you a to have tools in your hand while keeping the bobbin in the hand at the same time. The feel of this bobbin is just so form fitting in your hand and it feels almost as you are not holding a tool sometimes. For the $19 dollar price tag the features and the feel of this bobbin is really hard to beat.
Loon Ergo $20.00
let’s talk about this bobbin. So loon has just revamped this bobbin to the 2nd generation making this a really strong competitor for price, design and features. With it being the longest bobbin on this list and coming in as the heaviest you would think you would feel a little cumbersome and big but its the complete opposite. The loon “ergo” grip is exactly what it it entails ergonomics at its finest. The fit and feel of this bobbin in your hands feels to be just about the best on this list (beside the Loon ergo all purpose with the same ergo grip.) The first version of this bobbin had round balls to retain the spool that squeaked like hell but loon really fixed this problem big time by adding polished brass cone shaped spool retention feet that have solved this problem completely (thank you loon) and they hold the spool SO much better due to the cone shape vs round balls. I personally feel the longer tube of this bobbin helps so much with control and power to add on on thread wraps and placement, combined with the ergo grip, brass spool clips, this bobbin is awesome and for the price id urge you to give it a spin.
Rite Standard $27.99
As we come to the first bobbin that stands apart big time from the first 3 on the list, we have the Rite standard single arm bobbin. With this bobbin coming in the middle of the road in overall length, weight, and width it definitely is not middle of the road. This bobbin features a single arm from the spool system adjustment system. This bobbins spool adjustment system is quite nice and extremely smooth. How it works: it is a shaft that is a adjustable screw through the center of the spool that grabs both sides and squeezes the spool to desired tension. 4 vinely washers are included if spool size varies and making the spool that much more smooth. With the tension screw having 1/4 adjustment each stop you can dial your thread onto the exact pressure you want to tie with. If you need a quick bit of added tension you can simply squeeze with you palm to tighten the thread for a few wraps or so. Let’s talk about one thing though, some people may find it extremely weird at first when you pick up this bobbin. With the single arm you either have to grab the armed side with your fingers and not the thumb or your grip will end up directly on the thread with your fingers, not the most comfortable; with that said getting used to this factor is 100% worth it for the incredible adjust ability and thread control this bobbin offers. The neck is a very narrow ceramic tube that allows you to have a lot more thread control compared to a big hole. This ceramic tube paired with the tension adjust ability makes this one of the most smooth bobbins on the market.
Rite Cerman $39.99
As I mentioned above in the standard rite bobbin, this bobbin offers the same adjustment system as the rite standard bobbin but this ceramic magnum version is meant for bigger and more saltwater style flies that demand a little bit more grip, and torque. The barrel of this bobbin is a bit different from the standard, the ceramag is stainless at the back and ceramic half way through. The barrel of this bobbin is also a bit longer then the standard. You still run into the same problem with there being only one arm. But that is something that you can get use to. Beside that this bobbin is a very strong option to consider for ultra smooth thread control.
This Smhaen bobbin is probably your best bang for your buck as far as adjustment goes. An easily looked over brand, not quite as big as the others but man does this thing perform. Coming in at 2 different lengths and coming in pretty big on the features list. The first thing you will notice on this bobbin is a super stylish design, but beside the incredible look and finish the actual adjustment system is second to none. (beside the tiemco magnetic adjustable one) so second to one. How this adjustment system works is; A double ended female polished nut sitting in between the bobbin that tightens two screws on the arms, hence tightening/loosening the arms squeezing the spool. The big flanged/flared out arms really keep the spool smooth and controlled under pressure of wrapping. If added pressure is needed for a few wraps just simply squeeze just a little and it’s exactly what tension you want. The thin full ceramic tube also keeps the thread as smooth as can be and frey free.
Tiemco double arm $69.99
Coming in as the most narrow width overall this adjustable stem bobbin is more or less straightforward but the design and build quality it outdrages. The stem is adjustable via the front grip simply screw counter-clockwise to loosen pull the ceramic insert shaft to desired length and tighten. The full ceramic tube is incredible smooth for your thread to slide across. For people with smaller hands that want an incredibly well made bobbin this is one to highly consider due to being a bit smaller overall. The spool retention system is 2 polished flanges with big flat surfaces to create a super smooth surface for spools to glide on while pulling out more thread. The double polished
stainless arms make holding this bobbin super comfortable and ergonomic feeling in the hand.
Tiemco Adjustable magnetic $99.95
Okay Okay, I know what you’re thinking at $100 dollar price tag for a bobbin this is a little much dont you? But no, the features and development this thing has packed into it are just unreal..with the same adjustable ceramic shaft insert the double arm bobbin, it has a squared off base to stand upright, a rubber o ring to store extra thread when you are done without it hanging and un threading. Lets not forget the insane magnetic spool retention system. Unlike any other bobbin on this list the tiemco magnetic bobbin has features a totally unique design includes magnets and a knob that lessens and adds tension with the most buttery smoothness you can possibly get. No other bobbin comes close to this one with the smoothness and infinite adjust-ability. The designers at tiemco have really pinpointed what makes a good bobbin and just made a great one. How the adjustment system works is magnet that sits inside the spool with a tension knob moving the main magnetic hosing creating an endless amount of adjustment that is so smooth. The o ring located on the wheel is used to keep your thread after you are done with your bobbin. The squared off bottom allows you to stand the bobbin upright. Not to mention the build quality fit and finish and balance of this bobbin is top notch in the fly tying industry.
Thank for giving this a read, we hope this helps you make the choice on your most used fly tying tool!
All the bobbins above can be found at: https://olefloridaflyshop.com/category/tying-tools/bobbins/