I had the good fortune to teach beginning fly tying for a few years. Here are a few observations from teaching and from learning from others myself……
Patience and focusing on self: in a group setting, which is the usual setting for beginning classes, you will become aware of those that seem better than you and those that are struggling. You may be quietly intimidated by the superior ‘beginning’ tier and, perhaps, feel the class is too disorganized because the poor tier seems to be struggling without much help. Often that better ‘beginning’ tier has tied before and fallen away and is taking the class as a refresher. So, yes, they do have a better grasp of proportions, tool management and pace. Don’t pay attention to them unless it is to see how you might improve your moves. Better to watch the instructor and focus on you. Slow, steady and patient. As for the poor tier, don’t fret about them. The instructor may be able to help them (in a smaller class or after class) or maybe not. Not everyone will go on to tie flies. Concentrate on you.
Distractions: That slower tier may slow the pace of the class. This can happen because the instructor feels obligated to bring them up to speed. This slows the pace for the better tiers, but this can happen. Also, the ‘know it all…wants to share it all’ beginning tier knows just enough to be verbally confident. This too slows the pace as the instructor takes time to engage the questions with self evident answers. It is up to the instructor to maintain a comfortable pace that satisfies the better tier while not leaving the struggling tier far behind. Don’t let these distractions detract from your enjoyment.
“Hmmm..really?”: ‘He had you do what? I am surprised by that.” Those that have been taught fly tying may take exception to how or what you are being taught. Don’t let this distract you. ‘There’s more than one way to skin….” holds true in fly tying. Techniques have variations. Part of the fun of fly tying is there are variations, hence a gazillion ways to tie flies. Learn what your instructor has to offer. A beginning class is just that, the beginning. A step toward years of learning and exploration. Take in what others offer, but seldom settle for there is only one way to do most things in fly tying. Keep your mind open to change and improvements in technique.
Perfection v. Impressionistic: I won’t advocate here re one style over the other. If you wander through this site you will note I am everything but exact. Often sloppy and inconsistent. My patterns catch fish. That is my yard stick. But, there is a degree of detail that a tier should strive for, if not perfection. I strive for consistency, even if less than perfect. I liken it to this. You have been asked to donate a dozen flies in a box for a raffle. Strive for those dozen flies to be almost identical in appearance.
Simplicity & Organized: Tying, like any hobby with lots of components, tests your ability to organize your tying tools and materials. May I say this..DO IT! Keep it simple. Tie basic patterns for awhile. Perfect techniques. Put away your materials after patterns are done and before you break out other materials for a different pattern. Remember, I warned you. Larger Ziplock freezer bags and clear, plastic bins with tight lids are helpful.
Where to tie? I have tied in garages, basements, on kitchen breadboards, dining room and kitchen tables, lap tables and TV trays. Be considerate of others if you don’t live alone. Keep it organized. Watch those hooks. If you drop one, actually find it before it ends up in someone’s foot. More than once, I have had an annoying itch in my sock and have come to find a hook embedded in my sock or skin. Tie in one place with the ability to roam. By that I mean, set up that nice tying station somewhere and then have the ability to throw together that road trip kit for camping/fishing trips. Keep a pleasant backdrop so your eyes don’t strain to focus and of course have an excellent light on the tying surface.
Ok, that is just a few things off the top of my head. Asides, as it were, of fly tying’s odds and ends. Enjoy, be patient with the learning process. And, of course, the sage advice that once the proper techniques are learned, practice makes perfect.