Tying faster flies

Discussion in 'Patterns' started by Tylerflies, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. Tylerflies New Member

    Posts: 116
    Bellingham, WA
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    I am doing a little bit of comercial fly tying for a fly shop, just a few patterns, but I find that I am still awfully slow even though i have tied over a hundred dozen of these flies. I am averaging about 4 minutes per fly, little more for some patterns, little less for others. I would love to bring these averages down to 2.5 to 3 minutes per fly. I would really appreciate some advice or tips as to speeding up my tying. I use the scissors on the finger tecnique but this is step number 1. I would love some tips from the pro's. Many Thanks.
  2. cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Posts: 1,713
    Olympia, WA
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    See if you can find a copy of Production Fly Tying by AK Best. He had a number of great ideas that minimize wasted motion and actions. He's supported himself as a tyer for many years.

    Steve
  3. Philster New Member

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    The book Production flytying isn't that helpful for commercial tyers in my opinion. Solid basic outline of one person's preferences, a few helpful tips, but nothing that's really going to cut significant time out of your orders. Is adding weight to your dubbing spinner going to make you a faster tyer:confused:? Bodkin glued to your scissors:confused:? Possibly, but it's a matter of style preferences.

    First question is, in order to give you specific tips we have to know what are you tying. But basically, the secrets are Material selection, material use, economy of motion, and getting into the zone.

    Use only the best materials. If when I say ONLY buy prime bucktail and marabou, and you respond "how do I tell if it's a prime bucktail?" You need to learn about your commodities. Go to the shows and spend all day with the demo tyers. Every day of the show. You can easily tell the production boys and girls from the "show fly" and "custom fly" boys and girls. Watch the production ones, and when they grab a material ask "what do you look for in that material?" If they don't answer or give you a brand name move along to another. You may get one that actually takes you under their wing if they can tell you are serious, and maybe even throw you work if you progress enough and are serious enough. Hard to become a fixture in the local industry without serving an apprenticeship. Get those underground material sources... You'll never get anywhere buying from fly shops. When you need 200 bucktails NOW, you can't count on Umpqua. Understanding your materials is key to speed.

    Presort when appropriate. You should when it's appropriate set out your materials already matched. I can't tell you how many THOUSANDS of dozens of whistlers I've tied in my life. I came from the SF bay area...:beathead: For flies like those and deceivers and dry fly hackle wing tips, you match up a bunch first. in some cases you may need to pretreat ( I had one BIG customer who was VERY serious about the butt section of hackle tails being treated with flexament) materials, and that should be done in bulk. Pretreated turkey wings save alot of time for hares ear backs. matched materials can be held in place by double sided, or simply folded over tape on the table. Dry Fly Hackle should also be sorted by size for dries. The trick here is to store them in a way that doesn't bugger them up.

    By material use I mean DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME TRYING TO MAKE SOMETHING WORK! If only one side of your bucktail or cape is worth using, use that and toss the rest aside! You may be able to make the rejected stuff work in your personal tying, but if you can't grab the material, just cut or pluck what you need without probbing the entire neck/tail, it isn't appropriate for serious production tying. This is probably the biggest time waster I see with good but not professional tyers.

    Economy of motion is simply that. You need a workspace that supports you, not delay you. stuff you need for the stage you are tying right there, not stacked on top of each other. If you're having to move the bucktail AND the fish hair to grab the flashabou... That adds up like you wouldn't believe. Abort when necessary! if a fly isn't working, don't try to fix it. Toss it aside and later see if anything is worth salvaging for your personal fishing.

    The rest you have to figure out for yourself. For instance if you're tying deceivers do you take the flies out of the vise when the white body is done and do the toppings later, or tie straight through? I personally tie up as many bodies as I need, and then do the toppings as it keeps my tying area cleaner and more ogranized, but I know guys who are faster than me who don't swap out. I think the swapers tend to prefer regal type vises, and you can often tell their style before they start tying if that's what they use:rofl: The point is beyond the basics it comes down to what's faster FOR YOU. But you can't get past Material selection and use, and Economy of motion. Get those down, and then find your style.

    But we do need to know what you are tying...
  4. cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Posts: 1,713
    Olympia, WA
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    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.... I just tie for my own use, with the occasional gifts of successful patterns to family and friends.

    I'm not sure how far you are into professional flytying. Al and Gretchen Beatty provided an interesting perspective on the economics of commercial fly tying in the Spring 2007 issue of Fly Tyer. In particular, I was not aware fully of the IRS implications of this sort of self-employment and the strong seasonality of demand.

    I recommend it if you are still in the nascent stages of this profession.

    Steve
  5. Philster New Member

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    The tax stuff can get interesting, especially if you end up taking goods in payment instead of cash, which will happen to you at some point. A shop, or a lodge in trouble offers you that, or, well, nothing! Heck for awhile Umpqua was trying to pay their royalties in product. If you are going to really make a business out of it, you do need to be on top of things tax wise. Quarterly estimates are a little tricky your first couple years. As to the seasonality, I'm going to assume the beattys specialize in trout stuff considering their location. Saltwater tiers don't necessarily have a down season, but there are certainly slower times depending on where you live. I was out of the San Francisco area. There was no down time... Year round fishing, and a population with deep pockets who went everywhere you could imagine...
  6. Tylerflies New Member

    Posts: 116
    Bellingham, WA
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    Thank you for all the information. I am tying reverse spyders with both wood duck dyed mallard flank and amherst as hackles. Also I tie an olive willy for trout in lakes and a topwater gurgler for cuts with a white foam hump and a dubbed underbody. Unfortunatly fly shops only want a couple patterns tied for them. I guess the chinese flies are really cheap. I am becoming more serious about tying though and would like to get more work somehow. Those conventions you were talking about, is there one coming to the seattle area? That sounds really interesting, and an apprenticeship would be golden. I am obviously quite green when it comes to the fishing industry and knowing whos who, which at the moment seems daunting but I am going to figure this out. It sounds like a convention is the place to do that. Thank you greatly for all the information and tips, this is all really helpful stuff.
  7. cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Posts: 1,713
    Olympia, WA
    Ratings: +237 / 0
    It is in your best interest as a professional tyer to just specialize in a few patterns; now you just need to find more shops who want your specialty. You will have much less inventory on hand and you can really hone in on those labor / time saving tricks that place your hourly wage above the poverty line. For example, the Beattys' specialize in hair wing dry flies (hence Philster's on the mark comment about seasonality). One resource that the Beatty's mentioned in their Fly Tyer article is Black's Sporting Directories: Fly Fishing. They indicated that it cost about $25 and can be ordered at 1-800-766-0039. It is an annual directory with contact information of just about all the major and minor wholesalers of fly tying materials.

    It is a challenge to compete with offshore tyers on price. However, you may be able to develop a niche that they do not fill, such as regional patterns or cutting edge flies like saltwater tube patterns. The patterns that you're tying now seem to fill the bill there. I would contact the shops in your area (hell, try the whole state) and ask what flies (especially high dollar flies, such as steelhead and saltwater patterns) do they have a hard timing acquiring; they don't want to have disappointed customers who are coming into purchase a few specific patterns. You may also make contacts with shops and lodges at the annual Flyfishing show in Bellevue or the Sportsmans show in Puyallup in the spring.

    Steve
  8. Philster New Member

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    February for the show. http://www.flyfishingshowwest.com/Seattle.html

    Do you have a rotary vise? All those patterns would be sped up with a rotary. I actually wore out dynaking professional before "real" rotary vises came out, by laying the vise flat and spinning it... Talk to the folks at "all about the fly" about making your own dubbing brushes. Other shops might be able to help you too on that, I just know for a fact that all about the fly is big on that "technology" Not suggesting you do that for your gurgler, but if you like that approach, it can make your life easier. On the patterns you're tying there isn't much room for innovative approaches, other than brushes and rotary vises. I realize we aren't a big "streamer" area, but if you really decide to make this a side job, you need a web site, period. Saltwater streamers can be lucrative, because take for example an Umpqua tied seahabit, and one tied by Jay Murakoshi, who's style I learned. Not even in the same ballpark! about 20 percent of the umpqua ones you can pull bucktail out of with your fingertips. They are bulky and opaque. No livelyness to them. For awhile Jay was tying Trey's personal flies for him. If you can learn to tie great saltwater patterns quickly you can make more money. But the product has to be better than off the shelf. Asia and Africa own "classic" trout patterns. Between Ebay, and a web site, you could make a stable, small second income if you are able, and meant to do this.
  9. Tylerflies New Member

    Posts: 116
    Bellingham, WA
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    You guys are awsome. Thanks for the tips and the reading material. Looks like I got my work cut out for me. Thanks again. Tyler.