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Flies are Expensive.. Part 2

Guest Blog by: Alan Peak 12/10/2013
So in PART 1 I talked about the virtues of buying from local shops and the benefits it has.  But in the same respect, those are expensive flies!  Not everyone can afford to purchase such a specialized fly.  Many non-specific flies can be found all over the internet for as low as 50 cents a piece.  Pheasant tails, brassies, San Juan worms, black beauties and so on are fairly generic and have a fairly standardized tie formula.

I buy about 50% of my guide dry flies online.  Why?  Well, the quality is nearly the same as you can find in a fly shop IF you find the right online dealer.  BUT this is buyer beware.  You may find some very distinct differences in quality online.  I would suggest The Fly Stop if you need to buy an exorbitant amount of flies because either you do not have the time to buy OR you flat cannot foot the bill for fly shop prices.  You will never find a signature fly online quite like you will in a fly shop. 

Fly tying is, by the numbers cheaper.  A lot cheaper...
Here is what I came up with.  I tied 127 flies until I gave up tonight.  I bought the following: Umpqua hooks (U201 #12, 16, 18 and U101 #22 and 20), Thread (UTC red, olive and black), Pearl Tinsel, Silver brass bead heads, black tungsen beadheads, small silver wire, black and rainbow dubbing, assorted worm chenile and midge ribbing.  And, for all of you who say you do not have a vise..  I added a vise and tool kit into my total.  So, by the numbers, all the material above and beginner basic kit of vise and tools totals $103.25.  Seems like a lot, but that produced 127 flies that would normally cost on average $2.00 each, which turns into $254 dollars quickly.  Overall, I can save $151 by tying my own flies.  AND, I have a ton more of the material above to tie even more!  Which only scews the numbers in a way that turns that $151 dollars into a higher amount in time.  You can buy all that material at The Peak, just like I did the other day to crank out some flies. 

Online, by the numbers, The Fly Stop would have cost me $82.55 for the same amount of flies online.  But, again, when you factor in the diminishing cost of material and the tool kit, tying your own flies will nearly work out to be about the same amount per fly over time.  Additionally, as your flies get better, the quality of materials and your tying will surpass that of any online retailer. 

The added advantage to tying your own flies are enormous in my opinion.  You are learning a new skill which is always neat.  You have found yet another pass time.  Catching fish on your own flies is always better.  And most importantly, you can look around the river, look at materials you can find and really adjust popular patterns to your own liking.  If you are realizing you have a distinct lack of zebra midges you can tie some up the night before.

But, with everything, it can become quite expensive.  Especially if you really do like tying and end up buying more material than you need at the moment.  Something that is easy to do.  And, once you out grow your vise, you may as well be shopping for a car.  Vises range in prices from a Toyota all the way up to a Porsche.  You mostly get what you pay for and it will increase the quality and options in techniques for your tying.  I own a Peak Vise and I love it.  It is sturdy, utilitarian and has nice rotary action once you break it in a little bit.  It is a workhorse. 

Like I mentioned earlier, you are going to need to buy most of your materials in the fly shop.  I would be weary of online deals and such.  I have heard some horror stories about hooks online.. You have been warned.

So, all in all, this is what I do for my guiding and personal use.  I tie a ton of nymphs, midges, worms, eggs, and other very general flies.  I tie 25% of all my dry flies and buy the other 75% online and in a fly shop.  But, each time I go for a day on the water myself, I buy most of my flies at the fly shop and normally a leader.  I buy my flies at the shop based on what I have, what I don't have and what I want to copy if it works.  I never walk into a fly shop unless I am just saying hello to someone or unless "I am not from around these parts" and just want to know what is going on and kindly purchase some flies for the info.

Good fishing to you all, and if you buy your flies at Walmart or any other big box store I wouldn't read their reports.  I walked into one today that had some pretty terrible information on it's board.  I would be willing to bet that their flies match the quality of the report.

Alan Peak is addicted to fishing. By day he is a fly fishing guide and by night he dreams of his next day on the water. You can find him guiding and fishing primarily on the South Platte nearly every day of the week. If Alan is not with his family he is guiding, fishing or tying flies. If you see Alan on the water, say hello! Normally, he ties a half dozen flies of the day for each day for people he meets on the river.
The Math....I never ended up using these hooks.  I had some leftover from another pack.Worms are REALLY easy to learn!
Some of the fliesTying is fun! 
Blog content © Alan Peak
Member comments
tbblom, CO   12/10/2013 6:39:43 AM
127 in a night! dude, you are fast... even if a bunch were San Juans.
Alan Peak (moosegoose), CO   12/10/2013 6:50:23 AM
Not quite 127 in a day, but close. I had been tying intermittently all day though. Got in a bit of a grove.
puurfectdrift, CO   12/10/2013 6:58:24 AM
I would go crazy if I thought I needed every pattern out there to catch fish. Cool thing is, you don't. Focus more on presentation and you'll realize that the 20 different midge pupa patterns is just plain silly. I've seen the ugliest tied flies catch big fish compared to the shop flies.
Flyrodn, CO   12/10/2013 7:33:42 AM
The reason I tie has nothing to do with money or savings. Simply, you can not buy what I tie. I modify my patterns to fit my presentation techniques and personal whims. Are they better fish catchers? Doubt it, but I have more confidence in them then other's work, so they get tied on first and as a result catch fish. I agree that too many folks worry too much about what they tie on, when they should be worrying about how to fish/present the fly.
PikeD, CO   12/10/2013 8:28:22 AM
the reason I tie flies is so I actually know the names of the flies on the river. People who buy flies often just open their box and point. OK, the real reason is because I love fishing lures. He who dies with the most wins.
alanlf5280, CO   12/10/2013 8:30:11 AM
Great blog Alan! A couple things I would like to add that I have found is 1) Don't try to tie your flys using the minimal amount of material. It will only take you longer to tie and even with the scrap material, you are saving money. 2) DON'T try to be cheap by using material from hobby stores or big box stores (some might work though). I purchased marabou feathers from Hobby Lobby since they were 1/4 the price as the fly shop. The marabou was crap. It's meant for a 2 year to glue to a piece of construction paper. Has no other purpose. The other item I cheaped out on and learned a lesson from was buying beads from Walmart. $1 for a pack of 100 was a great deal, except the beads were all different sizes, many deformed and some of them were more of a horse shoe than a bead.
Anteroman, CO   12/10/2013 10:30:17 AM
Allan, Thank you for the GREAT information. I am a "Buyer" not a tier, of flies. I envy those of you who are talented enough and have the time and eye sight to make bugs!! I too ALWAYS try to buy a dozen flies at a shop close to the fishing spot, the information I gather is priceless. I too share things I've found that work with the shops, they recognize when your helping them and are more forthcoming with information that is reliable. One online site I've had very good results with is BIGY.Com out in Oregon, the flies are well tied well priced and delivery is FAST. I use these guys for my saltwater stuff and they are about 75% less expensive. Bill
skiman, CO   12/10/2013 1:03:16 PM
Alan, Yeah, I can remember it well. I used to tie too until age, eyesight and arthritis caught up with me. I agree with relay don't need 20 different varieties of the same bug AND presentation has a great deal to do with it. I also agree with Anteroman...seems like we're in the same float tube when it comes to why we are "buyers" and not "tiers"! Good Fishing! Ski
Alan Peak (moosegoose), CO   12/10/2013 2:35:15 PM
I agree with the need for a select number of patterns. I should have included the photo of my list on my white board. All-in-all, I think I have 25 flies that I plan on tying in bulk for next year. Then there are some other ones that I tie as needed.
Ajax5240, CO   12/10/2013 9:52:25 PM
You are a tying machine! Great write up. What is your trick to get the nice end shape to your worms? They look quite real!
Alan Peak (moosegoose), CO   12/11/2013 1:05:15 AM
Just burn and roll with your fingers Ajax!
Vanish, CO   12/11/2013 10:19:20 AM
Big lesson to learn: Tying flies is REALLY expensive, much more than buying, if you don't stick to a set of patterns. Its when you tie a single pattern in bulk that the cost savings really kick in. You also get 100x better at tying that pattern when you've made 10 dozen! Mentally can be tough to get through.
Flyrodn, CO   12/11/2013 10:55:26 AM
If you set up to tie a specific pattern, and do a good job on lay out, it's doable to tie 2-3 dozen an hour. The keys are organization, minimizing wraps, and keeping as much stuff in your hands as possible so you're not putting things down and picking them up
Alan Peak (moosegoose), CO   12/11/2013 3:10:50 PM
And a great easy trick to not waste as much material and time is to cut larger portions material. I cut my wire, for example in 6" sections. I pre cut about 20-30 worm sections at once. Great for consistency.
Alan Peak
Guest Blogger