A simple tool caddy can help bring order to a fly tying bench.

by Scott Sadil

Every year about this time I quit. I can’t possibly tie another fly unless I do something about the mess that has accumulated from one end of the tying bench to the other. 

Dig down through the detritus and my refusal to perform even the most basic housekeeping is revealed yet again.  An entire season, it would seem, of random hooks, discarded feathers, tangles of thread and tinsel and fur and floss – an archeological history of the angling year as chaotic as life itself. 

Then one day, while searching for a simple tool, my old Dubbit dubbing spinner, say, or that favorite pair of hackle pliers, the one with the groovy universal joint below the head, and I feel myself beginning to come unglued.

I gotta get organizized, I think, recalling the scene from Taxi Driver, with De Niro at the coffee shop talking up Cybill Shepherd.

Organizized,” he explains, looking as sane as a malnourished coyote. “It’s a joke.”

I’d like to contend this unfettered clutter reflects a certain tying style, a form of improvisational jazz, when, in fact, I’m afraid it says more about other less-flattering aspects of my mind.  I recall, as I often do, the father of a reading-challenged student of mine who reported to me that, yes, he understood his son’s troubles.  After all, he explained, he, too, had a brother who was “dylexic.”

Faced with the incapacitating state of my tying bench, I finally attack the mess.  Inevitably, I end up resolving never to let things reach this point again, the way I would, when younger, after visiting, say, my dentist – or tax accountant.

This year I went one step further: I decided to fashion myself a tool caddy.

It’s so simple it’s almost silly.  I found a big chunk of white oak left over from the stem of a traditional dinghy I built some years back.  On one side of the block I drilled a bunch of holes, from three-eighths to three-quarters of an inch in diameter, deep enough to keep tools from toppling free.  Since I had just finished replacing the mizzen mast for the new boat, one I made too short the first time around, I was also into the varnish. I brushed on a couple of coats, giving the caddy more of a finished look than it needs.

But if you’re going to live with anything you make by hand for the rest of your life, I figure, you might as well give it a pretty face at the start.

And that was it. Even after my wholesale clean-up job, I still had to clear a space for the caddy. Once squeezed into position, however, and loaded with all the thisses and thats a tyer needs, especially in the heat of inspiration, I enjoyed a feeling of satisfaction that follows any genuine effort to restore order in even the smallest corner of our lives.  The coast, at last, was clear.

Now, I just have to remember to use it.


All evidence aside, Gray’s angling editor Scott Sadil maintains hope he’ll one day bring lasting order to his fly tying bench.