Pro Tiers, how long does it take you?

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Thom Collins, Jan 25, 2014.

  1. Thom Collins Active Member

    Posts: 203
    Kirkland, WA
    Ratings: +65 / 0
    I have no desire to try and become a professional tier, just curious as to the work rate of those that are. I know it's not really important but I always wanted to know.

    Maybe in flies/hr? Dozen in X minutes? Single fly? Doesn't matter.

    I'll throw out a few patterns for a reference point:

    Prince nymph
  2. Thomas Williams Habitual Line Stepper

    Posts: 1,380
    Ansbach, Germany
    Ratings: +387 / 16
    Define professional. I have only been tying for about a year and a half. I believe that my skills are better than many others that I see. I'm not trying to brag in any way but I think that the quality is far more important than the quantity and rate in which you can tie. I also believe that proportions are key. If you can tie consistently and each of the pattern you tie is identical you are on the right track. Don't worry about speed. Tie flies that are well balance and strong. If you can tie a fly that will fish over and over rather than one that falls apart then that's great as well.
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  3. McNasty Canyon Lurker

    Posts: 1,028
    Somewhere Near Selah, WA
    Ratings: +383 / 1
    im a world champion professional fly tyer. i tie nymphs and dries simultaneously on two different vices with both hands batching out about 200 dozen per hour. sculpzillas are kinda hard, though the 300 i tied last night are lookin better.

    haha just playin, good question ive often wondered the same thing.
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  4. Thom Collins Active Member

    Posts: 203
    Kirkland, WA
    Ratings: +65 / 0
    Oh I agree! I have nearly as much fun tying as I do fishing with them. Been tying for some time. My first vise came with an instructional VHS tape. Have just often wondered how long it takes pros. That's all

    See you're in Ansbach. I was at Bismarck Kaserne 88-89 with 1-37 AR, 1st AD.
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  5. David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Posts: 1,904
    Walla Walla, WA
    Ratings: +737 / 0
    a LOT faster than me.

    I've read some tiers tie in stages to speed things up. For example, tying the tails on a batch of ESL. Kind of assembly line production that keeps you from wasting time during a production session swapping materials and tools. I've see some who tie in small groups (one does one part, the next tier does something else, etc.). I would guess the assembly method is how the production facilities work.

    Hear tales of sorting materials out during the evening to prep for the next day, to avoid wasting time chasing down the right hack, proper length of chenille/wire/tinsel, etc.

    I've gone to tying EHC with a foam body (cut a thin strip and wrap), no hackle and a deer hair wing (DHC?). Cheap, and I can tie it in a blink. I use all the colors of the rainbow...both orange and green. Never sinks, no hackle to get in the way of a fish finding the hook and rides a bit lower in the water.
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  6. tkww Member

    Posts: 463
    Ratings: +66 / 2
    I think this book is out of print so hopefully I'm not stepping on any toes. From Kaufmann's Tying Dry Flies, chapter 40, "Tying with speed and efficiency."

    Kaufmann-chptr-40-p1.jpg Kaufmann-chptr-40-p2.jpg Kaufmann-chptr-40-p3.jpg
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  7. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,610
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +1,033 / 1
    I've always been a bit curious myself. I "showed" a pattern to a guy who worked for Madison River Outfitters in West Yellowstone. He was out fishing the same area of Hebgen that I was fishing and after my buddy and I landed our 20th or so large bow/brown he asked to see our mids, I happily gave him a few with no idea that he was a pro-tier for the shop. This was back when the idea of mid fishing in Montana/Wyoming was really not well known and the shop only had one maybe two un-weighted patterns. The next year when I walked into the shop I happened to notice a few more patterns in the bins that looked awfully familiar to me. I ran into the guy in the shop and he immediately recognized me. I mentioned the patterns in the bins and he sheepishly admitted that he was the one who tied them for the shop. I wasn't at all bugged, the opposite in fact, I felt a bit honored. I couldn't help asking him how many he had tied over the winter and when he told me and I did the math I was stunned. He was cranking out one of my mids about every 90 seconds and they were taking me at least double that.
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  8. Longs for Cutts Member

    Posts: 337
    Gardiner, MT (formerly Bellingham)
    Ratings: +15 / 0
    One thing to bear in mind is that I doubt many pros tie any of the patterns you mention for sale, just because they are all easily commercially available from every major fly company (or ripoffs, in the case of the Sculpzilla). Everything I tie commercially is either my own design, substantially tweaked from what my shop can buy commercially, or needed in such small quantities that I can just whip them out when I'm sick of tying some vast number of something in the first two categories.

    I expect to tie around 7500 flies for sale this tying season (October through September, aka a winter preseason order and fill-ins), along with another couple thousand for my own use and client use. The single fly I'm tying the most of is my pink Bob Hopper. I'm tying 40dz for the shop and they take me just under two minutes to tie apiece, not counting punching the foam bodies which adds quite a lot. I won't commercially tie anything that takes me over about six minutes to tie. Most of my commercial ties take me 2-4 minutes, not counting getting out the materials, storing the flies, etc. etc. etc. I love San Juan Worm day...
  9. Thomas Williams Habitual Line Stepper

    Posts: 1,380
    Ansbach, Germany
    Ratings: +387 / 16
    7500 is a lot! Man I think I tie maybe 1000 a year. All for personal use. I actually have a goal, I have a MFC boat box with the extra swing leaf inside that I am attempting to fill entirely before I move back to the U.S.
  10. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
    Ratings: +215 / 0
    I used to do the commercial thing, to finance my fishing hobby about 40 years ago. I tried to do at least a dozen an hour to make it worthwhile. Now I just do it for myself and am more particular about the ones I use myself. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on some of them but, hey it is a hobby and I enjoy it! The flies are to please me not necessarily the fish, (particularly steelhead flies). Take your time and make it right. A lot of ties take only a couple of minutes but others are a lot longer, there is no standard amount of time required....
  11. FT Active Member

    Posts: 1,242
    Burlington, WA
    Ratings: +102 / 0

    7500 flies in six months is not much at all, especially when the person doing so has time to do it while working at the fly shop. Back when I was tying commercially, I was tying 1,000 dozen steelhead flies (hairwings wets, spey flies, dees, GP's Bombers, Grease Liners, Woolley Buggers and ESL's.Waller Wakers, low-water featherwings) and since I had a full-time job and was also teaching a couple of courses at a local community college at the same time, I tied a dozen or so in the very late evening just before going to bed and tied most of them on Saturday and Sunday if I wasn't going fishing with a friend.

    Like Jim, I did it to make money to buy high end rods and expensive classic salmon fly materials. I haven't tied commercially in 13 years and I have no desire to do so again. Despite that, I really like to tie flies and tie several thousand each year for family and friends.


    As Jim pointed out, there is no standard length of time to tie a dozen flies. It depends on the fly, the size being tied, whether you have been recently tying the fly, and whether you have the materials pre-sorted. On a good day after I've been tying them for a couple of days, I can tie a dozen spey flies in an hour; but with GP's the best I can do is 5 per hour and that is with the GP breast feathers already plucked from the skin, having strung saddle hackle already taken off the string, and having the GP tippet feathers already sorted for the size I'm tying. With spun hair flies like the Bomber, it takes 12-15 minutes to complete the flies, and that is doing them in steps by tying in the tails for several dozen, spinning all the bodies for them, trimming all the bodies, tying in and wrapping the saddle hackle for all of them, and last, tying in the wing and whip finishing. And after each of these steps I whip finish the thread and glue it to help with fly durability. In other words, it takes a good 2.5 to 3 hours to tie a dozen of good Bombers, even doing them in stages.

    This is why I don't tie commercially, the shops cannot charge the $6.00 a fly they would have to for a Bomber so they could pay me what would amount to about $11.00/hr after expenses. And for GP's, the shops would have to charge $5.00 per fly minimum for me to make $11.00/hr because the standard discount to a shop for a commercial tyer is 50% of retail (and that only if the tyer provides all the hooks and materials on his own dime). $11.00/hr is a rather low wage for the amount of skill it requires to tie these flies and I highly doubt that those who complain about the price of flies would do the skilled work for that wage.

    This is also why you don't find things like dee flies or Glasso spey flies, etc. in shops. If the shop carries some, they have to charge $5.00-$6.00 or more for a fly and then their customers complain about how high they are priced.
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  12. Thom Collins Active Member

    Posts: 203
    Kirkland, WA
    Ratings: +65 / 0
    Amazing. I buy flies mostly for use as models. I pop on the magnifiers and give them a pretty close look in an attempt to learn some of the subtleties of the tier's technique. Never thought that these things were flying on and off the vise at such a rate.
  13. Teenage Entomologist Gotta love the pteronarcys.

    Posts: 631
    Red Bluff, CA
    Ratings: +205 / 0
    I'm pretty good at fly tying, and this is coming from a 15 year old. I tie a fly in 10-25 minutes, ranging from easy small flies, to more meticulate larger flies. Why tie your flies quick and OK when you could take your time and make it perfect? I don't like commercial flies AT ALL. I tie my own flies that I use, no longer flies from shops unless it's a really good looking pattern. I can tie a Stimmy in about 20 minutes, and an Elk Hair Caddis in 15 minutes.
  14. plaegreid Saved by the buoyancy of citrus

    Posts: 552
    Renton, WA
    Ratings: +621 / 0
    The time it takes for me to tie a fly is directly related to how many cats are nearby.
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  15. Irafly Active Member

    Posts: 3,610
    Everett, Washington, USA.
    Ratings: +1,033 / 1
    When I first started to read this, I thought it was going to directly relate to how many beers/scotches/burbons/tequilas/Mad Dogs you'd had.
  16. plaegreid Saved by the buoyancy of citrus

    Posts: 552
    Renton, WA
    Ratings: +621 / 0

    That definitely affects quality, but might actually speed up the tying process. If I were hammered I could probably crank out a fly in half the time it normally takes me, it would just look really, really bad.
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  17. Norm Frechette Active Member

    Posts: 602
    Norwich, CT
    Ratings: +77 / 0

    (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

    34 years tying and I do not consider myself a professional
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  18. Keith Hixson Active Member

    Posts: 1,500
    College Place, Washington
    Ratings: +53 / 0
    I have a friend who has tied flies for various outlets in Eastern WA., and for a time tied for the ORVIS company. So from my observations, each fly is different depending on the complication of the pattern. With that in mind, a simple pattern he could do at least 10 - 12 in an hour. More complicated patterns could only be 5 or 6 in hour. If I get out four or five in an hour I am happy. Complicated patterns I may only get two or three.
  19. Beachmen Active Member

    Posts: 231
    Port Orchard
    Ratings: +72 / 0
    my rate for the most of the the flies that i sell to shops is about 1.5 dozen an hour. most of the stuff i do is salt flies for Puget Sound. mainly sea-runs
  20. Jim Darden Active Member

    Posts: 890
    Bellingham, Wa.
    Ratings: +215 / 0
    FT....when the fly shop was going out of business in Sumas, I bought GPs for $.35 each......I bought enough that I have never had to tie one again.....the cost doesn't even cover the cost of materials....and I like to tie steelhead flies....