Guest Blogger: Jeremy Anderson is an amateur fly tyer and professional Creative Director at an advertising agency in Nashville, Tennessee. He lives with his wife and two boys in a log cabin by the Harpeth River. You can find Jeremy @hacklejob

Achieving perfect thread tension can be a Zen-like moment when all is balanced in your fly-tying world. Ok, maybe not, but the alternative is pretty darn frustrating. Too much tension, and you break off or cut through your materials. Too little and you unravel. J. Stockard blogger and lifelong angler Mary S. Kuss has written a very helpful post on thread control that every tyer should read. But I’d like to add one more suggestion that has helped me: invest in a great bobbin. My personal favorite is the Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin, and here’s why.

I have tied dozens of flies using the original (red) model, tying everything from size 24 midges with 14/0 thread to size 1/0 deer hair poppers using 200 GSP, and the ability to dial in the perfect amount of tension mid-fly by simply turning the drag knob instead of taking out the spool and bending the arms is very helpful. The feel of the bobbin is top notch and it has a nice amount of weight to it to keep your thread wraps in place while hanging as you reach for your next material.

Are there any cons? Yes, but they are miniscule. First, it takes a little more time to change spools than a standard wire bobbin. Second, the numbers on the drag dial are pretty meaningless since spools can be ever so slightly different, so it’s better just to adjust it by feel.

Bottom line: the Stonfo Elite Disc Drag Bobbin has saved me some frustration and more than a few choice words when things go wrong at the vise. It’s worth trying it out to see if it’s as much of a game-changer for you.

In my office, we have a rule: if you swear, you pay the kitty. You can avoid this with a disc drag bobbin.


  1. Interesting review, Jeremy. Have you used the Rite bobbin carrier? It’s also a disc drag. If you have, how would you compare the two?

  2. Hi Bob, thank you. I was torn between the two and ultimately only bought the Stonfo. But I can say that after holding the two, the Stonfo is much heavier and feels more solid (to me), while I know there is a lot of merited reverence in the tying community for Rite bobbins. If a ceramic tube is more your preference, I’d go with the standard Rite bobbin. But I’ve had zero issues with thread catching on the stainless tube of the Stonfo.

    1. I have a number of Rite bobbin carriers. I did buy a Stonfo bobbin carrier from J. Stockard out of curiosity. The thread slipped a couple of times from where I had adjusted it. But I would like to use it more for a better opinion. The stainless steel tube seems highly polished without any burrs that would cut thread. Stonfo does have another project I like very much. The Stonfo feather plier is a winner. I bought both sizes. .

      1. Thanks, Bob. When you say it slipped from where you adjusted the thread, do you mean the tension changed? Did you have the thread keeper on the spool of thread? I only ask because I like to leave those on when using UTC thread, but I noticed I can’t do that with my Veevus spools or it causes the tension dial not to fully engage and stay where I set it. Would be interested in your comparison after you use the Stonfo a bit more!

  3. Thanks for the article Jeremy. I have several Rite standard bobbins, but not the Stonfo. I bought my first Rite before the Stonfo seemed to be available (or maybe just before I’d heard of it), but I’d have gone with the Rite anyway because it looks less bulky. I bought it back when it was the price the Stonfo is today, so I’m not sure which I’d choose if I were making my decision now, because the Stonfo is the one that seems priced right.

    Essentially they’re the same concept. I do love how this type of bobbin works–I use one (Rite standard) for my main black-thread bobbin, another (Rite Shorty, although to me it’s about the same to work with as the Rite standard) for dark purple thread that signals to me that a wetfly or nymph is weighted, and a third (Rite standard) as a spare in case one should ever break…since I like them so much. I never tried the Rite “Mag” or “Half Hitch” as I saw no need for their differences.

    I find that I take an initial guess on tension, then re-adjust after a fly or two, then just leave it there. The Rite is very reliable and I’d guess the Stonfo would be too. When I need a thread color that’s not queued up, I stick that spool on an old-style spring-tension bobbin. I’m always amazed at how little I like that type now. I think “spoiled” is the right word….

    Again, nice review; thanks.

    – Mike

  4. Jeremy,

    Yes, the tension had slipped. I’ll check the thread keeper on my Stonfo bobbin carrier. But I noticed J. Stockard has a sale on all Stonfo tools right now, including another adjustable tension bobbin carrier. I threw several Stonfo tools in my wishlist that I had not seen earlier. One, the hair packer, appears to be more substantial than the old brass packer I have. The brass hair packer will bend under a lot of pressure on the packed hair.

    1. Bob, I’m willing to bet that’s what it was or maybe an inadvertent finger brush (which I do occasionally too). I saw the sale and will be picking up one of the Stonfo Elite bobbins in the midge size to give it a whirl. Let me know how you like the other Stonfo tools!

      Happy tying, Bob!

      1. Jeremy,

        I’ll let you know how the other Stonfo tools fare. The regular bobbin carriers work just fine for me on midges down to #26. However, I wish either Stonfo or Rite would produce a bobbin carrier that could accommodate the small Pearsall silk bobbins. I tie a lot of wet or soft hackle flies in silk.

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