To tie, or not to tie ...

SilverFly

Active Member
#1
... commercially, that is the question. Or alternate title: "Please talk me out of this".

Well, "commercially" might be stretching things a bit, but based on surprising feedback at the Saltwater Sportsman's Show, I'm thinking I might actually try selling a few of my baitfish flies. Strictly saltwater stuff, and primarily for targeting offshore species. To be clear, this would be a very limited "hobby" business since I work full time and have plenty of other things to keep me busy. We have several home-improvement projects in the works, yard work, family obligations, and somewhere near the bottom is occasionally some fishing.

Basically it would be a way for me to make a few bucks when I can't sleep at 2AM on my nights off. Which happens a lot (hence my long-winded posts in the wee hours). I'm also getting to the point where a small side business would integrate well with my loosely defined retirement strategy, which is looming in about 10 years (hopefully). Unfortunately there are a lot of unanswered questions, and I could use some honest advice, perspective, shared experiences, etc...

First off, I'm not even sure this would even be profitable since I'd be working for about 35 cents an hour at my current fly-per-hour rate. And that's assuming there's actually a market for my flies. If there is, I'm sure I could speed things up considerably by doing things mass production style, but that in itself might completely kill my enjoyment of fly tying. If there was some demand, it also wouldn't take much for me to over-commit and get myself buried. Given my limited free time, and low output rate, that could happen pretty quickly. Not a good way to make or keep customers.

Anyway, not looking to horn in on anyone's business, just kicking the idea around and could use some honest feedback.

Thanks
 
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FinLuver

Active Member
#2
I think you have just about covered all the bases...not much else to discuss.
btw...I have had the very same [as yourself] conversations recently with myself. ;):D
 
#3
So, since I’ve done this for about thirty years . . .

You won’t get rich but it will help pay for a few things besides fishing gear.

Decide on what flies you are willing to tie, unless you do it full time it’s not worth having a large catalog of potential flies to tie. I know several folks that only tie one or two patterns. That keeps your investment in materials to a minimum and if you have a steady customer or customers you can build up a small inventory ready for delivery. Pick flies you enjoy tying, otherwise you won’t enjoy it.

Being able to tie enough flies per hour to “make” money will depend on what you tie. Basic trout flies, if you can’t tie a dozen an hour, it’s not worth it. If you tie the saltwater patterns you have shared with us that number would be less but the price you charge will be higher.

Lastly, many folks tying a “few” flies aren’t aware they are liable for paying a 10% federal excise tax on the first sale of sporting goods, fishing flies are included in that. In the past several commercial fly tyers got caught not paying the tax and now work in a different field.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#4
I think you have just about covered all the bases...not much else to discuss.
btw...I have had the very same [as yourself] conversations recently with myself. ;):D
Good to know I'm not the only one talking to myself. ;)

So, since I’ve done this for about thirty years . . .

You won’t get rich but it will help pay for a few things besides fishing gear.

Decide on what flies you are willing to tie, unless you do it full time it’s not worth having a large catalog of potential flies to tie. I know several folks that only tie one or two patterns. That keeps your investment in materials to a minimum and if you have a steady customer or customers you can build up a small inventory ready for delivery. Pick flies you enjoy tying, otherwise you won’t enjoy it.

Being able to tie enough flies per hour to “make” money will depend on what you tie. Basic trout flies, if you can’t tie a dozen an hour, it’s not worth it. If you tie the saltwater patterns you have shared with us that number would be less but the price you charge will be higher.

Lastly, many folks tying a “few” flies aren’t aware they are liable for paying a 10% federal excise tax on the first sale of sporting goods, fishing flies are included in that. In the past several commercial fly tyers got caught not paying the tax and now work in a different field.

Thanks for the experienced feedback. Sticking to a limited selection of similar patterns fits with what I was thinking. Maybe 2-3 baitfish variants in limited size ranges. I timed some practice runs today and I'm definitely not there yet productivity wise, but was able to shave a few minutes off after only 3 flies. With more practice and better organization I'm sure I can turn these flies out at a reasonable, if not high-output rate. The real challenge will be applying resin to the heads and getting clean, consistent results in multi-fly batches.

No way I could do trout flies. Actually, I should say there's no way I could commercially tie trout flies again. When I was a Sophomore in High School I tied up a few batches of EHC for Poulsen Flies. That got old really quick and I stopped after a month or so. Anyone who bought #14 EHC's from Poulsen in the 70's might have fished my flies.

Also forgot about taxes. Being a Washington resident I'm sure I'll have to account for sales tax as well. One more thing to bump up the cost. I'm pretty sure I can sell these flies, what it will come down to whether I can charge enough to be worth my time. A retired fly fishing guide I talked to at the Saltwater Show didn't seem to think that would be a problem, and is actually who got me thinking about this. I never shop for flies so I was surprised, and a bit shocked after looking up prices for some offshore patterns. Simpler flies selling at prices higher than what I would need to charge. At least based on the rough math I've done so far.
 
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jasmillo

Active Member
#5
I personally do not think you should do it. Since you’ll be tying for $$, I imagine you’ll post fewer patterns here, which in turn will limit my ability to poorly replicate your ideas for my own use.

I’ll be forced to buy some of your flies to steal your patterns. How incredibly selfish of you....:)
 
#6
I have a few people that I tie for. I stick all the money I make in my desk. I paid for a trip to Belize and a new rod with what I made.

It’s not paying the bills, but it’s a great way to sharpen your skills and make a little bit of money doing something you would otherwise do for your own enjoyment
 

Old Man

Just an Old Man
#7
When I lived in Washington I tied up a bunch of Flies for River Run Anglers. I was getting a buck a fly and I was putting that towards a Nor-vise. I got tired of it and quit after about a 100 flies. I said to hell with it and used my $100 bucks toward supplies in his shop. I was tying up the woven flies.. He told me that that pattern was doing very good on trout. I have now forgot how to tie it up.
 
#8
You can tie for two markets. Retail - selling to guys who will buy your flies to fish them; and wholesale - selling to a shop who will make money off your flies. Selling retail is better but you may not have too many customers. Wholesale you will sell more flies but that means you will have to tie more.

The best option might be to arrange something with a store where you tie a few of your patterns for them, and they pay you cash and give you a discount on your materials and hooks. They should do that because after all, you need to buy materials and hooks from them so you can tie for them. Through that sort of arrangement you will also get to be recognized and get a few extra orders, outside the shop that you will get full price for.

Finally, stick to the principle that your skills are worth paying for. Don't give people any breaks. Your patterns can't be found elsewhere and you know they work and that means they are worth paying for. It burns my behind when I get asked to tie for somebody and I tell them those 6 flies will be $3 each and he complains that Cabellas has them for half that. Stick to that principle that you are worth more because you are.
 

HBB

Active Member
#9
Being able to tie enough flies per hour to “make” money will depend on what you tie. Basic trout flies, if you can’t tie a dozen an hour, it’s not worth it.
I could only make it as a commercial tier if folks were willing to pay something like $50 a fly for poorly executed soft hackles. I can't imagine being efficient enough to be profitable on trout flies.
 

FinLuver

Active Member
#10
I'm pretty sure I can sell these flies, what it will come down to whether I can charge enough to be worth my time.
I had seen a $16 fly (Rainy's Dead Duck) in Feather Craft Fly Fishing's recent catalog. They also had some $10 flies (Gen-X Bunny) that were pretty much rabbit strip, flash strips, a collar hackle, a fish skull and eyes....definitely NOT a $10 fly.
 
#11
That’s a tough call. Many yrs ago I did some commercial tying. Both for a couple local fly shops and for one online retailer.
I think if I had just done the couple fly shops tying a few different patterns it might have been ok.
After 6 months of tying a zillion flies I was over it. It probably took me two yrs before I touched my vice again. And although I have found some avenues of tying different flies that I have come to enjoy it’s not the same for me. I can’t tie more then 3-4 of the same pattern at one time anymore lol

Basically it burned me out pretty quick. I think the only way I would ever do it again was tying certain specialty flies and selling them direct online or something. Well, actually I just wouldn’t do it again

Maybe I’m just not built for it
 

Hem

Active Member
#12
I had seen a $16 fly (Rainy's Dead Duck) in Feather Craft Fly Fishing's recent catalog. They also had some $10 flies (Gen-X Bunny) that were pretty much rabbit strip, flash strips, a collar hackle, a fish skull and eyes....definitely NOT a $10 fly.
Ha...saw those same flies..wondering why I would fish with a $16 Dead Duck.
 
#13
Hey silverfly,
I would like to place an order for a dozen albacore flies, maybe two dozen in appropriate sizes for a summer trip my family set up. Also I have tied flies commercially before and your flies are worth the time you spend on them. Don’t sell yourself short, my experience is salt flies are worth tying commercially. Back in the late 80’s I tied sailfish poppers and Canadian tandem pb salmon flies and did alright. But I would take central Oregonians advice don’t burn your self out it takes the fun out of tying.
Tight lines
 

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