To tie, or not to tie ...

SilverFly

Active Member
#16
Wow, thanks all. This really surprises me, seriously.

OK, it sounds like I'll be giving this a shot once I iron out more details and come up with some pricing that doesn't sell myself short (something I have a history with) but is still fair and market comparable.

I've already done some rough estimates on material costs, and I'm coming up with about $3 per fly - just to break even. Top quality saltwater hooks alone run a dollar or more each retail. So to answer Yard Sale, yeah wholesale would be a good idea.
 
Last edited:

cabezon

Sculpin Enterprises
#17
First, your saltwater flies are distinctive and in-demand. That is good; there is a market.
Second, you already work a full-time job. You've discussed tying in those hours on your nights off. O.K., but the real tying efficiency comes from repetition. Hours and hours of repetition. Do you expect to have blocks of time like that? In 1989, AK Best published a book, Production Fly Tying, that outlined some of his strategies for improving efficiency. That includes tying parts of flies in batch mode. It also includes preping materials in advance - laying out everything in an organized, systematic way, precutting some materials, etc.
Third, can you leave your tying space ready to go or do you have to put everything away (and pull everything back out) when you aren't tying? If you can only tie for an hour or three and it takes you twenty minutes to pull everything out and put everything away, your efficiency goes way down, perhaps to the point where your pay per hour is laughable.
Fourth, you can probably find enough folks on this site or the others that you frequent to sell direct, charging the full market value of those types of flies. If you work with a shop, they will only pay you half of the retail rate; they have their own expenses to pay. If you only have time/interest to tie a few dozens a month, you could probably just sell them on WFF. If you looking at hundreds to thousands a month, you need the larger market of a shop.
Best of luck however you decide to go.
Steve
 
Last edited:
#19
Log on to the IRS website and do a search for "hobby income". It will explain the difference between hobby income and a business income. I would start off as hobby income to see if you really want to take the leap to starting a business. Tom
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#20
First, your saltwater flies are distinctive and in-demand. That is good; there is a market.
Second, you already work a full-time job. You've discussed tying in those hours on your nights off. O.K., but the real tying efficiency comes from repetition. Hours and hours of repetition. Do you expect to have blocks of time like that? In 1989, AK Best published a book, Production Fly Tying, that outlined some of his strategies for improving efficiency. That includes tying parts of flies in batch mode. It also includes preping materials in advance - laying out everything in an organized, systematic way, precutting some materials, etc.
Third, can you leave your tying space ready to go or do you have to put everything away (and pull everything back out) when you aren't tying? If you can only tie for an hour or three and it takes you twenty minutes to pull everything out and put everything away, your efficiency goes way down, perhaps to the point where your pay per hour is laughable.
Fourth, you can probably find enough folks on this site or the others that you frequent to sell direct, charging the full market value of those types of flies. If you work with a shop, they will only pay you half of the retail rate; they have their own expenses to pay. If you only have time/interest to tie a few dozens a month, you could probably just sell them on WFF. If you looking at hundreds to thousands a month, you need the larger market of a shop.
Best of luck however you decide to go.
Steve
Thanks Steve, those are great points. I've already considered some of this but I'll see if I can find a copy of that book. I'm sure it will help, even though there's no way I want to do hundreds, let alone thousands of flies a month. A dozen or two a week is probably all I'd have time for.

Even with the low-volume there's no way this would work if I had to set-up and break-down every time. Fortunately I have a dedicated but small tying room. It will need a serious clean-up and re-organizing but it will work fine for short, intermittent tying sessions.

Material prep is a big part with these flies. Total material prep time per fly might even exceed tying time per fly. Starting with the custom blend of fibers I use that takes time to mix uniformly. I haven't factored that into my flies per hour rate but need to account for it. Could be a significant hit on my estimated FPH, but don't think it will be a deal killer if I'm doing large batches of fiber ahead of time.

One surprise when doing my test runs yesterday was how much time it took to get the eye placement correct, and matched on both sides of the head. I never considered time before when tying for myself but this was/is a big productivity hit. I'm super OCD about this and can't stand the look of an eye being offset more than a millimeter or two from where it should be (according to the template I use as a profile guide). So this is a fiddly PITA, even when using my trick of sticking the eyes to a strip of Lateral Scale as a "handle". Knowing that before the Saltwater Show I did some prep by pre-cutting the strips with the eyes already stuck on. That helped but still have some bugs to work out since doing 8 sets took me about 30 minutes.

1551273071034.png

The last, and biggest challenge will be figuring out a system to do the resin heads in batches, and still get consistent, good-looking results. I have some ideas, but there are some big, nasty bugs to work out here.

The bottom line is I have a lot of work and research to do before I can even consider officially opening shop. Even with my first order waiting, thanks to @DenWor54. :)

And again, thanks everyone for the supportive comments and great advice.

Guy
 
Last edited:

Red64

New Member
#21
Having tied flies commercially way back when, 80's., I can tell you my 2 cents. I registered my business as a DBA, obtained state business license and was able to establish wholesale accounts with a number of suppliers and got some very nice "dealer discounts". I followed a lot of the methods A.K. Best laid out in "Production Fly Tying". I was in business for about 5 years and realized what a PIA commercial tying was. Some customers, new to fly fishing, did not realize that trout can sometimes chew the hell out of a fly and they think your tie was sub standard. And on and on.
Now most flies are tied in Kenya, Sri Lanka or Cambodia and, for the most part, you can not compete price wise against a very low wage country. I still tie flies and will give them to my fly fishing club for raffle prizes, trade flies for material as I am not a hunter or just give flies to friends to have them try an new pattern that I am working on. A few select people I will tie flies for but that group is small.
Unless you have the next "got to have it fly", commercial tying is a tough business.
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#23
Thanks for sharing your experiences @Red64 and @Kilgore. All this perspective helps, and is giving me a much better idea of how to approach this little project. The business license is likely a good idea just to be legit, and for the wholesale access - which may end up being the only real benefit.

Thankfully, I am not tying trout patterns because the competition is just too tough. I wouldn't stand a chance between the cheap overseas labor, and the simple fact there are so many talented trout tiers. Not that there aren't a ton of great saltwater tiers as well, but at least that's been my focus having logged plenty of R&D both at the vise, and on the ocean over the last 10 years.

As far as durability complaints are concerned, I would hope most saltwater fishermen realize ocean predators are not easy on flies. My patterns may be a bit more durable than most bait fish flies tied with fine synthetic fibers due to the resin heads - but they do look worse for wear after a fish or two. Although, having caught up to 3 tuna on the same fly - I'm OK with that as a durability standard. Of course, most fly fishermen look a bit worse for wear after 3 tuna. ;)

While it's questionable whether I have the next "got to have it fly" I think my patterns are reasonably distinct, and they definitely catch fish. Market worth remains to be seen though. Fortunately, there appears to be a lot of leeway in the saltwater market with regards to pricing. Possibly due to the inherently higher expense of saltwater fishing in general, which almost makes fly cost an afterthought.

On that note I've started researching the saltwater bait fish fly market. It's been a real eye-opener. I've bought flies a total of one time in the last 30 years, when I picked up 6 trout flies on a trip to central OR. So my perception about fly prices has been skewed to say the least. As was the idea that I couldn't charge enough for my saltwater patterns to be worthwhile. To my cheapskate mind, paying more than $5 for any fly was hi-way robbery. I was also relieved to find that while there are somewhat similar patterns on the market, there really isn't anything that's equivalent to mine in terms of the species accurate profile and head design.

The downside to not having a close match to what I'm tying makes it difficult to generate relevant price comparisons. So I'm having to do a broad-spectrum sample of what's on the saltwater market. I went into this figuring tying difficulty would've been the main pricing consideration, but this does not appear to be the case from what I can tell. As @Red64 stated regarding the "got to have it" factor, this seems to be especially true with saltwater patterns.

I found a massive pricing variance across the board with saltwater bait fish flies. In the realm of outlandish pricing were a few tandem-hook patterns at a whopping $35 each (these were not factored into my price comparisons!). At the low end were traditional, and proven, patterns like Deceivers and Sea Habits, which can be found for a fraction of the cost of newer "hot" flies such as the "Cruiser", "Super Mushy", "Major Bunker", or "FPF Sardina". I've checked 8 fly shops in WA, OR, CA, FL, and MA, along with Cabela's and Orvis. At the low end you can get a 2/0 Deceiver at Cabela's for $2.99 (that would barely cover materials for one of my flies). At the high end was a 3/0 Cruiser at a Massachusetts shop for $19.99, although a CA shop had the same fly for a paltry $13.95. Various EP bait fish patterns were in the middle, consistently in the $8 range on both coasts. After adding up all the patterns even remotely similar to mine (16 total) the average came out to $8.77 each.



The point being with all this is I'm trying to be as thorough as possible before sticking a price tag on my flies. I'm not there yet, and I need to poke around more online shops, and more importantly, solve some batch processing challenges with the resin heads. Doing them one at a time like I do now ain't gonna "fly".

Once I work all that out, I'll feel better about asking a price per fly that will be worth my time without defying fair market value (and hopefully not insulting anyone). Not to mention I need to consider the "KWH" factor (Keep Wifey Happy) ;) . Like I said, we've got more than a few irons in the fire. As patient and accommodating as my wife is, I need her to be OK with this. She won't be for long if I'm tracking flash materials all over the house for minimum wage hours not spent on home improvements.

Anyway, we'll see how this all shakes out. I never would have considered this without the feedback from the Saltwater show, and especially the supportive comments here. Hopefully it's clear that tying is something I do because it's a passion, not as some scheme to make money. Not that that's a bad thing if I can make a few bucks without killing my enjoyment. Which is all the more reason to keep this as low-volume and low-stress as possible. Limiting sales (if any) to WFF members should keep that from being a problem. With the added benefits of getting direct customer feedback (product improvement), and hopefully hearing some success stories using my flies (one of my favorite things). That alone would go a long way to preventing burnout.
 
#24
Guy, you know how I feel about your flies and the potential to sell them. I've seen several of these in person and they are absolutely fantastic! I strongly believe there is a market for these flies in the saltwater world.

It's my opinion that the type of folks to buy and use these types of flies aren't going to have durability concerns. A. they understand that this is a world that is brutal on gear... And B. If they land a fish or two and the fly is done for then they won't complain because no doubt they just landed some bad ass fly caught fish! It's not like a fly getting destroyed after catching a couple stocker trout.

Production tying is a whole new world and the little bit I've done I found a bit stressful, so I would definitely be wary of getting too inundated with orders and demand... That said I would of course have to tell all kinds of people about your bad ass flies which could boost your business and demand ;)

Oh, and definitely get a business license. It's good to be legit and there are many benefits.
 

FinLuver

Active Member
#25
Thanks SilverFly for starting this topic of discussion.
Like I mentioned, I have had the same internal discussion and thoughts my self.
You took the leg work out of it for me.
And Thanks to all who have shared your experiences. :)
 

dfl

Active Member
#26
Consider all the excellent comments above and then ask yourself,"How much is my time worth?" Will you settle for $10/hr, $25/hr? How much do you have to make to make it worth your while? Even if it is a time filler, more or less for fun activity, you are turning a hobby into a business. For instance, there is a lady in my town who makes and sells pickles. She says she prices them so she makes $25/hr. You are selling your time and talent. What is it worth to you? If you can't make , don't start.
 

DenWor54

Active Member
#27
Any word Silverfly,
With stilly stalker bringing up bluefin and I my family set up two days offshore albacore fishing my trip would not be complete without your silverfly albacore flies?
 

SilverFly

Active Member
#28
Any word Silverfly,
With stilly stalker bringing up bluefin and I my family set up two days offshore albacore fishing my trip would not be complete without your silverfly albacore flies?
Thanks for the reminder. Unfortunately we've been busy with seemingly endless family obligations, a kitchen renovation, car repairs, sick kids, etc.... etc... One thing on the plus side is my 27yo daughter who was living here part time has moved out. I will FINALLY have my man-cave, and a proper tying space as soon as her stuff is moved this coming weekend.

I also need to get busy tying for my Baja trip in June so once I'm set up it wont take long to bang out a dozen or two. Lemme know what the expected imitations should be and I'll get you some "hatch matchers".
 

Latest posts