Cheap Flies

Where do you buy flies?

  • Cheapest place you can find

    Votes: 6 11.5%
  • Local fly shop

    Votes: 43 82.7%
  • EBay

    Votes: 2 3.8%
  • Local Commercial Tier

    Votes: 6 11.5%
  • A Friend who likes to tie

    Votes: 6 11.5%

  • Total voters

Big E

Active Member
FT brought up a comment in another thread that sparked some curiousity...he said when speaking about commerical fly tiers, "a virtually non-existent profession these days due to imported flies that are much cheaper than a US tyer can tie for and make a decent amount of money per dozen flies."

Given that there have been several comments about supporting your local fly shop, ad nauseam, does the same hold true when you buy flies? Do you buy them locally or from known US commercial tiers or do you go to a psuedo cheapafricanflies website?
I'll venture a guess that most fly shops stock both domestic (specialty flies for local needs) and imported flies (common patterns for trout). Unless you ask, you may never know, since shops rarely indicate where they get their flies.
I do Custom orders as a sideline business.. I do Only Saltwater Flies for Clients. I use to be a Commercial Tyer but stopped 15 years ago. I only started back to tying for Individuals 1 year ago as a supplement to my regular work. I choose Saltwater Flies as they are better money makers for me and it's a waste of time to tye standard Trout flies for people with all the Mass production flies out there.
I'd say a Tyer who thinks they can make good money at Standard Trout flies is fooling themselves these days, as Most Shops buy from the big Fly Companies for the majority of their Stock nowadays (Thought His & Her Fly Shop, in Costa Mesa, CA. tyes nearly all their inventory in shop and from hired Tyers locally).
But if that Tyer specializes in certain areas of Tying (Steamers, Steelhead, Salmon, Bass, Saltwater) and deals with Private Clientele they can make some good Money, thought never make a living doing it...

DEAN ~~~

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
I almost always buy some flies from the local shop. Probably more than I need. I tie some of my own too. I also get some from friends/swaps. I have bought low priced flies but have found many of them to not hold up well or last long.

Rob Ast

Active Member
"He doesn't always buy flies, but when he does it's from the local fly shop. He is the most interesting man in the world"

(But seriously, where's the "I don't buy flies" choice)
I do both. Standard trout nymphs and dries I buy from online fly dealers. More localized patterns I buy from shops. I've had good luck ordering flies online, both in price and quality.


Steve Call

Active Member
I don't tie, so I buy all my flies. I mostly buy from local shops, but in the last year have bought more trout flies on-line at less than half the cost of retail at the shops. To be honest, I've found virtually no difference in quality and in fact, many of the flies I've purchased via the internet have been better quality than those carried by some local shops. Plus, usually a better selection of colors, sizes, etc.

I'm a big proponent of supporting local fly shops, and don't hesitate to pay 10 or even 20% more for a lot of items. But, for flies the price differential is usually 100-150% higher.


Active Member
While I was working in shops, and tying commercially, if Orvis, or Umpqua sent us a notice about a clearance, I'd buy the crap out of them for personal use and not bat an eye about where they came from. I even bought size 4 sardine Sea Habits once, and they were, and still are my speciality. I still have boxes and boxes of brown birds nests and green lafontaine bead emergers, Flies I tied quite literally every day at the time, because I got grosses for $2 wholesale. :rofl::rofl::rofl:


Active Member
Once I started tying I usually don't buy fly except on certain occasions. If I buy flies it is now from a shop. When I buy it is usually for one of the following reasons, I am going to tie the fly and want an example to look at, I am going on a guide trip and it is the fly/flies the guide recommends, lastly, I am headed to the river and it is the "hot" fly of the moment and I don't have any.
I tie just about every fly I fish. That being said, if I am fishing an out of town destination, I will go to the local shop to get information regarding the local waters. I always purchase a hand full of flies from said shop as a way of supporting the shop for being there to answer my questions. It is the least I can do.


Active Member
If I buy flies it is now from a shop. When I buy it is usually for one of the following reasons, I am going to tie the fly and want an example to look at,
Yeah. When I went down to Anil's and bought 2 of each color of small shock and awes. I needed one for a model, but kind of felt it was the right thing to do. I really do think it's the most significant development in "guides flies" since the clouser. So simple. So elegant.


Active Member
Many folks have the mistaken idea that if they buy their flies from the local fly shop, they are buying flies that were tied by local or other US or Canadian tyers. Unfortunately, that is very rarely the case. Virtually all fly shops in the US are buying their flies from one of the large, overseass tied, import fly distributors. Regardless what the local shop is selling the flies for, rare is the shop who buys only locally tied flies. There are two main reasons for this: 1) a local shop can call up, or order via the internet, many dozen flies from one of the import fly companies and have the flies overnighted to them (a local tyer is not able to do this, he or she requires lead time in order to tie the flies and order materials or hooks he might need to fill the order); and 2) price. Local tyers simply cannot tie flies for same price/dozen the import fly companies can sell them for. The import fly companies have the flies tied in very large factory buildings and pay their tyers the huge sum of $1.50-$2.00 for the whole 10 hour day they sit and tie. I don't know of anyone in the US who can afford to spend 10 hours a day tying many dozens of flies for only $2.00 total gross profit before taxes.

Another myth is that trout flies that sell for $2.00 or more each, or steelhead flies that sell for $2.75 or more, or for that matter atlantic salmon flies that sell for $4.00 are locally tied. Quite the contrary, they are almost always tied overseas. Like I said earlier, the only way to know if the flies the local shop sells are tied in the US by local tyers or other US tyers is by asking to see the invoice for the flies (you don't need to see the prices on the invoice which the shop should not show you, what you need to see is the name of the company on the invoice to whom the shop will send its check for the flies. The invoices won't lie, but I highly doubt you will have the owner or his employees show you the invoice. The other way to know if they are tied locally is shops don't mind telling you who the tyer is (don't expect to get the tyers contact info, nor expect to have the tyer sell you flies at the discounted price he sells to the fly shop) because having local tyers tying their flies becomes a marketing and sales point.

If you know for sure your local shop has all its flies tied by local tyers, buy everyone you can from them if you don't tie your own. Otherwise, you are helping to support overseas tying operations that are paying their tyers virtually nothing. And if you ask the average local shop employees or owners were they get their flies from, they are not very likely to tell you they get them from one of the import fly companies. Heck, even Dan Bailey's Flies in Livingston, MT who made its business in the beginning by Dan tying the flies and then teaching and hiring local folks to tie in the tying room in the shop, no longer uses local tyers except for special orders. The rest of their flies are bought from one of the overseas tied flies import companies. Kaufmann's did the same. Orvis does the same. Mariott's does the same. And the local fly shop does the same, if they even offer a custom fly service (many don't because they don't want to bother).

Because of the above facts about were the flies are tied which are found in virtually all local shops around the country, the only sure way to know if you are buying flies from a local or other US tyer is through contacting him or her directly and buying from him provided you give him or her sufficient lead time. In other words, don't expect to get 5 dozen 1/0 GP's, spey flies, or dee flies in a week because local tyers, unless retired, have jobs to support their families and that means they have only a couple of hours any given day to tie. Likewise, don't expect to get 30-50- dozen trout flies for your dream trip of 2 weeks in Montana in a week or even in two weeks.

Big E

Active Member
Excellent post FT. Very well said.

One thing I would add about fly shops selling locally tied flies is that I know Orvis in Bellevue does sell some locally tied flies (Miyawaki popper being one) but I would think that Leland makes this specific Orvis store unique and special in this area. I'm sure there are other shops here in WA that do the same...tie a few local patterns in-house or with local tiers and supplement with overseas ties.