Whiskey Creek Fly Fishing

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Tying Flies to Save Money

April 2nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

I am well beyond the point of saving money by tying flies, but have a few ideas for those of you who do want to save a few bucks by tying your own.

#1 – Relax, don’t worry about it
You will end up spending more money by tying flies than you are likely to spend if you bought all your flies. However, for me, tying adds a huge dimension to our sport. When I loose a fly, its only a 10 cent hook and some feathers. I am generous with flies for friends and family – much more than if I were buying them for 2 bucks apiece. Filling the fly box over the winter is a way to vicariously fish. And, reading the magazines articles on the latest fly pattern and the author’s success is a good distraction.

#2 – Tie a few patterns, buy the complicated ones.
Flies in the flyshop pretty much cost the same. The fly shop charges the same for a San Juan worm as a Rubber-legged Stimulator. Buy the complicated patterns and tie the simple ones. This saves money and saves time.

#3 – Tie with a buddy, exchange the results
If you have a friend that also ties, split your tying duty. You tie the same few patterns, but double the number of flies you would normally tie for yourself, then swap with your friend. This way, both of you maximize your use of materials, and by tying many of the same pattern, you get better which reduces waste and you get faster. For example, instead of buying hare’s mask and pheasant tails, you can buy just one and your buddy the other.

#4 – Participate in fly swaps
Likewise, participate in fly swaps that are organized by various internet communities (see Favorite Links for several that have swaps). A fly swap is where a group of people ties flies (say a dozen) and sends them to an organizer. Then each swapper receives one of each fly in the swap. The swaps are typically themed (Mother’s Day caddis, BWO, etc.). You tie a dozen of the same fly, you get 11 other different patterns.

#5 – Host a fly swap
Fly swaps are fun. Hosting a fly swap is a little bit of work, but its a good way to get a swap going. Plus (here is where the saving money part comes in), many of the participants will include an extra fly or two to thank the swap host. I wouldn’t host a swap just for the extras. But, its fun and a good way to get swaps going.

#6 – Use the internet instead of purchasing instructional materials
Books and videos are a huge cost for tying flies. If you were to use true accounting practices, you would include the cost of instruction in the “cost per fly”. How many flies do you need to tie to make up for a $39 DVD? Now, there are many sites that show step by step instruction and videos of tying flies. Besides the sites listed in Favorite Sites, also look at Troutflies.com and Fly Fish Northern California. For videos, check out HatchesTV and YouTube.

#7 – Buy just what you need, when you need it
I spend a lot of money on materials that I never use. Avoid the temptation to buy a bunch of stuff thinking that sometime you may use it on some pattern. As example, lately I’ve been tying soft hackles. I already have a ton of floss in various colors, threads, and uni-stretch. I was in the fly-shop and saw spools of the Pearsall’s silk – so I bought 6 spools of various colors. I bet I use 1 color and tie less than a dozen, with a color that I could have substituted. Don’t be me.

#8 – Hooks and Hackles
Generally, hooks and hackles are the most expensive materials for any single fly you tie. However, put quality ahead of false economies. If you tie a lot of dries, and in “medium” sizes (12, 14, 16) consider purchasing a good quality genetic saddle. I purchased 1 half saddle of each in brown and grizzly – which covers 75% of my needs – and I think its nearly a lifetime supply. Each feather ties 8-10 flies. If you tie a varity of sizes, think about a good quality neck. The necks will tie down into the 20’s and have feathers for size 8.

Don’t skimp on hackles.

I find that hooks are the most expensive part of a fly. I buy the main hooks that I use in bulk to save some money, and also I’ll stock up when I find a sale.

#9 – Buy in bulk – sell or trade what you don’t need
This takes a bit of work, but you can save a bit if you purchase in bulk. To actually save money, you should either use all the material or sell what you don’t use. For example, I just looked up a hook at a retail price: its 11 cents if you purchase 1000, but 14 cents if you purchase 50. You can save a bit of money if you can use or unload 1000 hooks. OK, nevermind – this tip is goofy for most of us.

Hopefully, you find a tip or two here that is useful. Tip #1 is key for me, tying is an enjoyment in itself, but saving money is never a bad thing.

Tags: Fly Tying

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John LeJeune // Nov 12, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I took on the challenge of analyzing the cost per fly when I took up tying. After over a thousand flies, I’m at around $2.50 per fly. In addition to all those flies I still have enough material to tie up another three thousand id not more.(excluding hooks). I never included books so now you got me worried. But the costing includes all tools and materials. Including the vice and the bench. New materials are very seductive. So is the bargain bin at the fly shop. I never got into tying to save money. As you said it adds another dimention to the sport. The enjoyment has been worth every penny.

  • 2 WhiskeyCreek // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Hi John,

    I’ll get home from work, after a terrible commute, and sit at the vise – 2 flies later the day is gone and I’m thinking of the trout that I’ll hook. Totally worth it.

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