Fly-Tying teen

Teen masters the art of fly-tying

Posted by Jim Mize on April 26, 2016

At just 13 years old, Tradd Little is a master at fly-tying, artistically creating his own fishing ties and offering tutorials to adults and kids alike.

About a year ago, I met a fly tyer at the local Trout Unlimited meeting on fly-tying night. We had all brought our gear and were sharing tricks of the trade making these artificial bugs. Tradd Little was already making bugs that appeared alive and a lot of us stopped tying to watch him.

Fly-Tie-spitting-spider-400.jpg Fly-Tie-mccaddis-400.jpg
Tradd's spitting spider fly tie, some of which he colored by hand.  

Sometimes you meet someone with the skill and passion for an art that transcends their years. That’s Tradd. Today, at age 13, he’s attending conventions to demonstrate fly-tying, offering tips, and encouraging others. A couple manufacturers have added him to their Pro-Teams in the field of tying.

I stopped at his stand at the Fly Fishing Show in Winston-Salem, N.C. While I watched, Tradd tied an ant to details my eyes could barely see.


Tradd, who started making fly ties at age 11, had an assembly of tools that he used to shape bodies, legs and antennae. I watched him crimp fine wire legs with tweezers, and then squeeze the ends with grooved pliers. When I asked him why he did this, his response was “to pinch the ends to look like feet.”

If an ant flipped on its back feet first in the air and I looked closely, I doubt I could see texture in an ant’s foot. But this is what fly tyers do because it doesn’t matter if you can see the texture in an ant’s foot; it only matters if a fish can see the texture in an ant’s foot. If ants had toes, Tradd would have added them.

To finish the fly, Tradd painted the thread body with a Sharpie to make it a hot red color, dotted the eyes, and used a UV-cured material to make bulbs on the ends of the antennae.

Tradd came up with his own design to make this realistic housefly tie.


When I asked him about his favorite fly to tie, he thought a minute and responded, “Classic dressed salmon fly.” He showed me one. The detail was incredible. (See top left of top photo).

Subscribe to Rethink:Rural's monthly e-newsletter“How long did it take to tie that one?” I asked.

“About six hours,” was his reply.

His dad, Rusty, explained that Tradd’s fly fishing skills extend to the stream. “He fishes circles around me,” said Rusty.  

So I asked Tradd, “What’s your biggest fish on a fly you tied?”

“A thirty-inch brown trout I caught on a sow bug I tied.”

Tradd shows off a large brown trout he caught using one of his own handmade fly ties.

He fishes circles around me, too.

Tradd is already coaching and encouraging others to pick up this endeavor. When someone young or old watches him finish a pattern at a show or demonstration, he simply pokes the hook of the finished fly through one of his business cards and hands it to them. Their reaction is always one of wonder.

Just before I walked away from his booth, a woman who had been watching for some time remarked, “Young man, you keep doing what you’re doing. You have a gift.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tradd has a website demonstrating tying technique, showing patterns he has tied, and posting his schedule of fly-tying demonstrations. To see more of Tradd’s work online go to

This video is one of many fly tying tutorials featured on the website.

Fly tie closeup and fishing photos courtesy of Rusty Little, fishing show photos courtesy of Jim Mize.

Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at

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