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fly tying vs. fly buying

2784 Views 27 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  spinner11
what is the opinion of all you seasoned and grizzled fly fishermen regarding tying vs. buying. does it improve your success to tie? is it required? is one not quite a legitimate flyfisher if they don't tie? can you find success with store bought flys? if you buy, where and do you ever buy any place of quality on-line?

just looking for insights - not judgements.

reason i ask is that i do not tie. i have only been fly fishing for almost a year. the tying part does not interest me and i really don't have the time. however, finding the flys i want, when/where i shop is at time difficult. the cost is also outrageous if you ask me, paying well over a buck and a half to near two bucks. the $99 cent flys just don't seem to be that good. it gets costly to stock up - maybe tying a few patterns makes sense, those used as old standbys.

thanks in advance
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Tying will save you money if you fish a lot, thats no lie...especially if you like to fish for bass, pike, or saltwater species. most of those type patterns go for almost 4 dollars a piece in your average flyshop. Spending almost 2 dollars for a regular trout fly (like for something so simple as a "string thing" or "san juan worm") is ridiculous too, expecially when you see how easy they are to tie. i would say if you plan on fishing for more than a few times a month investing the time and effort to learn to fly tie would be well worth your money. i do it not only as a source of fly patterns, but also as a kind of "arts and crafts" deal....i enjoy putting together usuable (hell..and some unusable) fly fishing patterns, it gives me something to do when i am not out fishing, and know i wont be fishing for some time to come. ive taken my fly tying stuff all over the world, and used it to help keep myself busy during any "down time" when i was in the military overseas on deployment or otherwise. ive got so many flyboxes now that ive lost count, but what kind of fisherman would ever complain about having too much gear....

the bottom line is if you like to fish, and enjoy working with your hands, tying flies can provide you with entertainment (and flies) much like actual fishing can. plus it will save you a whole pot of money later on down the road. i would say, yes, its worth your time.
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I am also a fly tyier. All i have to say about this topic is this. Until you've created a fly from your vise and than head to the river and it works you won't understand the true joy in tying. There aer flies i hate tying and have gone the 99 cent route but theres something about sitting at a picnic table a half hour before you are heading out on the lake tying with your buddies that makes tying half the fun of fishing. I couldn't imagine losing 4 bucks in flies everytime i snapped off. I'd suggest buying a cheap vise and just tying like Rottal said San Juan's, midge patterns, and even caddis are quick and easy. Hope that helps......

If you like making things by hand, you'll probably like tying flies -- eventually. And you'll also save money -- eventually.

Seems like whether you're self-taught or go through lessons at a shop, you're still going to have plenty of trial and error. Hopefully, with a shop the process is quicker, but I'm self-taught and sometimes you (or at least, I) learn faster making a pig's breakfast of things on your (my) own.

Trout fishing in Colo. streams often means lots of nymphing with small stuff. And to be effective, they've got to be right on the bottom. If you fish tandem nymphs, it's not too hard to lose a dozen nymphs or so in a day, depending on the water. So 12 x $.20 for flies you tie or 12 x $1.75 for those you buy adds up quickly. I would try to stop buying and start tying those patterns ASAP.

San Juan worms, thread midges (black beauties, miracle midges, etc.), small emergers (RS2's, WD-40's, Barr's, etc.), p-tails and many others are all very easy patterns. You could start with a pretty modest amount of equipment and materials and have a few gross of things along those lines in no time. When you get your chops together and start to be happy with your dry flies (and when you gulp and plunk down the cash for a couple of good necks) you can stop buying those too.
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Oh, and perhaps the most important thing to consider about whether to tie or not. If you tie your own flies, you only have to tie them well enough to catch trout, not flyfishing shoppers.

There IS a difference.
I used to tie all my own flys. Now I only tie a couple patterns that I "invented" myself and I buy the rest from They are so inexpensive that I can't justify the time on the bench now that I have young kids. The quality is fine and I have had no issues so far. I can't remember the owners name off hand but the two times I have had to call I got a call back within 2 hours.

Once the kids get older I'll probably get back into it again, but more for the relaxing of it more than the budget.
The nice thing about tying your own stuff is you then have the right to rename it. Get alot of puzzling looks when people ask you what your fishing and everything you use ends in bomber.
Unless you only fish a few times a year, I would definatly suggest taking up tieing. It can be a lot of fun and I can tie most flies for little more than the cost of the hook. The fun part comes in when you figure out a slight variation in a standard pattern that can add to a lot more fish.
I went thru a stage where I would only use flies that I tied. I am past that now and don't have nearly the time to tie flies like I did.

I really enjoy tieing streamer patterns!
I have had some experience tying flies, but only one or two seasons. I'd have to say that, in my opinion, losing a fly that took a fair amount of work to tie is at least as bad as losing the $1.25-$2.00 on a store bought fly -- especially if it was a new pattern that took you a while to master :'(

These days, I just tie some of the patterns that I like to and buy the rest. I also don't bother tying the very tiny ones as I have lost the patience for that. I remember that when I was very into tying I would look at all sort of fur and dust laying around and think about what I might make out of it -- including at the time the family pet's fur! ;D

Either way, I'd say give it a try. You may really enjoy it and will definitely gain an appreciation for good quality flies and the folks that tie them...
okay - i give in and am going to pursue buying some tying equipment, take a tying class and see what i can do.

thanks for all the encouragement.

i am alos going to keep track of all the stuff i buy and in one year - measure what a fly costs me vs. buying. i know, it is the principle, fun, creation etc. - yadda, yadda, yadda. but i still want to see the cost comparision.

i will post a picture of my first few flys :p they should end up looking like aliens i predict.

If you skimp on anything make sure it's not the vise.
Have fun, even though I don't tie as much as I used to I still love the feeling of hooking up on a fish with my own fly.
OK wmmcree,

I was intrigued by your constant pumping of to go over there and check them out. I loved their website and the ability to order in quantities of one! The prices were outstanding and the free shipping on orders over $30 was an unexpected bonus. The hemos, zingers and floatant prices were very good too.

Now let's see if the flies are sparse enough for the South Platte.

A friend of mine said the same thing about me always talking about them. I swear I have no personal interest in them. I am just very excited about finally finding a site like that. To me, the flies were just as durable as anywhere else. So far they've held up at 11 mile canyon, Spinney, Taylor and Gunnison rivers. You won't be disappointed ;D

And when I called them and a real person answered that was the icing on the cake for me. Sites like this are few and far between and I just wanted to share it with all you guys.
I just got a tying kit for my birthday on tuesday. Although the kit I have doesn't have a few raw materials that I need for the flies I use most it has quite a bit. I tried for the first time last night and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Now I just have to figure out where I'm going to use a size 10 elk hair caddis.
Nate said:
Now I just have to figure out where I'm going to use a size 10 elk hair caddis.
Size 10, eh? That might be a difficult problem. I wonder if you could use it at some place like Flaming Gorge where all the trout are huge! ;D ;D

As you can see from my post above, I also have a hard time with the smaller flies -- I was talking 20 and higher, though!
Happy Belated Birthday Nate!

You are going about tying correctly: perfect your technique on a large hook, then take it down in size. I'd suggest tying some small easy nymphs to begin with: Black Beauties, Miracles, zebra midges, maybe even RS-2's. They're mostly thread flies so you'll have an opportunity to master the tools before you jump into parachute adams, trudes, etc....

Hey, make that size 10 elk hair caddis with yellow dubbing and youve got yourself a stonefly imitator that is just the right size.

blueflycafe came through in two days. The flies look good to my visual inspection though the parachute adams are a little chubby - everything else looks great. Given the prices, the service and the quality I'll bookmark the website and will be using them to fill in the gaps with the patterns that I don't enjoy tying.

Thanks for the tip!

You're welcome! If you don't like the parachute adams give him a call. He'll get you new ones.

I ordered some also and mine came in fine. Tell him you don't want that tier next time. :mad:
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