When there are hundreds of thousands of immaculate and effective flies sitting in bins at your local fly shop, one might ask: why go through the tedious trouble of tying your own flies? A fly-buying transaction at the shop takes less than 3 minutes (if you know your way around the bins) and a fly tying session for the same flies could take hours. It brings up a valid question: Why tie your own flies?
We asked 4 long time tyers in our staff (shop and guide) the same question and got some helpful answers…
“On most Sundays, I will be twisting up flies with football on in the background and a cold one next to my tying bench. I started tying flies to fill up my boxes during the long winters. I soon realized that tying provided me a much better knowledge of the bugs in the river and the flies in the local shops.
I used to be in the culinary world and could follow and replicate any recipe that you could throw in front of me. When I was starting as a tyer, I found that my experience creating dishes in the kitchen translated extremely well in my fly tying. I would read a recipe to a fly and be able to produce it the exact way the instructions wanted me to. I loved cooking because I could always add my own unique twist to a dish; same thing in fly tying. I really enjoy adding or subtracting a material or two in an existing pattern to make it work the way I want it to work in the rivers and creeks that I fish.”
– Ray Kyle, Shop Supervisor and Fly Tying Course Instructor, Winner of 3 Iron Fly Competitions
Fly Tying for me began with the notion that I would save a few bucks and help keep my fly box stocked. Years have gone by of me turning a blind eye toward the growing mass of “shinny and furry things,” as my wife calls them, and occasional repair jobs clearing the power brush on the vacuum of tinsel, wire, thread, and feathers. It is now that I am confident that fly tying has saved me absolutely no money or time, and honestly, my fly boxes are not much better off inventory wise. What keeps me at the bench and my vacuum begging for mercy is the satisfaction I get when a fly I create a fly that solves a problem on the water.
From creating a fly that lasts all day without falling apart, to a fly that excels at a specialized type of fishing, nothing is better than turning an idea into a product and having a positive reaction from our finned friends. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that not all ideas and flies have resulted in days ending with high fives and boat ramp beers. The universe of fly fishing has prudeness to her that isn’t always willing to comply with what I think she wants. Some days end scratching your head or even worse, the “magic” fly that you spent all night whipping up, either gets snagged on the first cast out of the boat, you/your buddy ties a crappy knot, or you leave them on your bumper and drive off (all of which has happened to me sadly more than once).
Either way, I guess it’s the ebb and flow from “hero” to “zero,” to “can do no wrong” to “can do no right,” that will keep my tying desk in chaotic state and my vacuum crying for mercy.
– Andy Leister, Product Manager and Buyer
SAVE SOME CASH
I tie flies for three main reasons. Tying flies can be cost effective, it’s fun to create new patterns, and it’s relaxing. Although it can be frustrating at first, simple and effective patterns are always a great way to cut down on the cost of flies. Tying flies such as a zebra midge which consist of only 3 materials (bead, thread, and wire) are very cost effective. On top of that, fly tying is definitely art form. It’s very rewarding when you can create something, show it to fish, and catch a few.
My biggest advice for someone trying to create a fly pattern would be to look at other patterns and modify them to make them your own. YouTube is also a great platform where you can find just about any fly pattern you would want to tie and learn to tie them through video instruction. For me, tying is also a relaxing way to wind down my day and think about my next day of fishing.
– Craig Hatcher, Wade Guide
AVAILABILITY AND ACCURACY
My fly tying career started almost immediately after my obsession with fly fishing began. In the Northeast, I quickly found a lack of commercially available flies that even came close to the size of the main baitfish that my target species, striped bass (stripah), prefer to munch on. With river herring averaging 9-11 inches on my preferred fisheries, and Menhaden (bunkah) reaching up to 20 inches, it’s no wonder why commercial fly tiers struggle to put out affordable options. As a result, the first fly I ever tied was a “Sedotti Slammer” that was 10 inches long and imitated an alewife. It took me about two hours to tie, but is still to this day the greatest looking fly I ever tied.
The other thing that got me on the vice was that if you were to look in the surf bag of any good striper fisherman you will find yellow pencil poppers and swimmers. Yet, I couldn’t even find one yellow saltwater fly on the internet! I know, its mind blowing to imagine a world where fly fisherman overlook the tactics and knowledge of spin fisherman…
These days as a trout guide I keep it VERY basic with exceptions for chipmunk sized mouse flies and trophy chaser brown trout streamers. Flies with slim profiles are getting more prevalent for good reason. They imitate the actual bugs that trout eat better than old school attractors, and thus tend to catch more and bigger fish. As a result, I tend to just rip off my favorite of these fly patterns, but tied with the best hooks and tungsten beads that money can buy. Half the battle when nymphing with beginners is getting into the strike-zone quickly and keeping it in the zone despite tricky currents and sloppy mends. Spending your money on high quality tungsten beads helps to ensure this happens, and high quality hooks help with late hook sets and slack in the line during battle.
– JP, Ecommerce and Fulfillment, Float Guide