Tying Flies: Tying to save $, or as a practiced hobby?


Active Member
Dude, that's a beadhead Kauffmann Stonefly nymph with rubber legs--not a regular Rubber Legs. The regular Rubber Legs is no more than lots of lead wrapped on the shank, rubber legs tied in, and a black chennille body. Beadhead is optional for extra weight. I haven't yet tried tying the Kauffmann version yet, as the regular R/L is obviously simpler to tie.
It's a creative outlet for me. I tie with my kids and they make the coolest creations, I make my own creations - it is rewarding.

One point is that you can factor $ saved by staying AWAY from the flyshop except to buy materials a few times a year. "I'll get 12 of these...and WOW, look at that new Chest Pack,...and OH and I really need this (fill in blank)" It's like hitting Safeway at dinner time.

Vice: $150
Materials: $150
That satisfied feeling of catching a fish on a fly you tied: Priceless.



Banned or Parked
I think the only way you can justifiably save money is if you don't place any monetary value on the time spent tying and just look at it as therapy or whatever.
i dont think anyone could ever reclaim the amount they spent on tools and materials, but like surf candy said staying out of the shops, because you are tying your own, saves. i think my my own flies( while not always as pretty) are many times more durable than commercial flies. but if you loose them it really doesnt matter. jer

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Depends on how you tie

You can recoup your costs, but the key is to tie for others. I started out by being given a cheap vise and buying only the materials I needed for flies I wanted to tie. Then once I became good family members wanted me to tie for them. I only did it on one condition, they bought materials, and I kept what was left. After about 2 years I had quite the arsenal and hardly any expense. Then, started selling my flies to friends, and made all my money back and then some. Now with commercial tier's discount it really cuts costs big time. I feel the best way to start out and recoup losses is to buy what you need ONLY. You can get by with a cheap thompson knockoff (I did) and supplies you need. It's when you go buckwild that costs you.
For me it is not about money or time. I own almost every steelhead flyfishing book on the shelf and I love those glossy fly plates. When I start drooling over certain flies I get in a "must have it kind of mood."

In my many years of flyfishing I have never found alot of these fly plate flies in the fly shops it is always the same-old, same-old patterns. So fly tying has been my avenue to make those specialty patterns that are not in the fly shop. Do the book patterns out produce the ones in the shops? I doubt it. However, for me it allows me to fill my boxes with flies that I have confidence in. Also, when I do get a hook-up it makes me feel oh so much better knowing that fly came from my vise and creativity.

Note: One good source of materials for me has been x-mas and birthdays. Instead of getting gifts that I will never use, I let my family and freinds know that fly tying materials are a good gift. A few years ago, my wife ended up going to the shop and buying me a whole assortment of stuff and I am still mixing and matching the materials to create new flies.

o mykiss

Active Member
I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by previous posters. If you have figured out the handful flies that produce for you, you could definitely tie to save money because you wouldn't have to buy a lot of different materials. As many previous posters indicated, though, once you start tying it is hard to limit the flies you tie to just a handful of different patterns because you'll always see flies in the pattern books that you just got to try. So it is somewhat inevitable that you start investing a lot of money in materials. You can keep the price down by resisting the temptation to have the exact materials called for in a particular pattern. There are lots of ways to substitute and end up with a pretty fair facsimile of what you see in the pattern book. Another way to save money (this is a must, though I admit I don't do this enough) is to stay the hell away from fly shops as much as possible when buying materials. Feather, fur, hair and hooks you kind of have to buy at a fly shop or online (unless you hunt or have other means of getting animal materials for free), but it's insane to buy things like yarn, chenille and similar man-made stuff that can be found at craft shops for a tiny fraction of the cost of what fly shops sell them for.

I could not reasonably claim that my motivation for tying is to save money because I've got mucho bucks invested in materials I've purchased over the years. Although I tell my wife that I'm going to save money when she gives me the evil eye every time I walk in the door with another bag of tying materials, here are some of the real reasons I do it:

1) There is a lot of variety in the flies available at fly shops, but there are some flies I can't ever remember seeing in a fly shop. For example, I've never seen a Roderick Haig-Brown Steelhead Bee, Bill McMillan Steelhead Caddis, Winter's Hope or Paint Brush, or Harry Lemire Greased Liner in a fly shop (maybe I haven't looked hard enough, but I seriously have never seen these flies in the shops I frequent). The list goes on and on. For me, if I want certain flies, I feel like I have to tie them myself.

2) If I don't have time to be on the water, tying flies for a couple of hours is a way to connect to the sport that is more tangible than reading a fly fishing book (or cleaning the garage, or whatever).

3) There really is some great satisfaction that comes with catching fish on flies you've tied. Granted, I'd fish a purchased fly all the time if I knew it would catch fish, but that is not the case so I like to try my luck with my own flies as much as possible.

4) Like you, I lose a fair number of flies. I don't feel as bad losing a fly I tied that represents $.10 or $.25 or $.50 worth of materials as I do one that cost me $2 or $3.

5) On principle, I don't like getting overcharged for flies that fundamentally aren't that hard to tie. I just don't see the justification for being charged $2 for a woolly bugger, chironomid, clouser minnow or most steelhead hairwing patterns, for example. So unless I'm desperate (or unless I see a fly in a shop that I want to buy just to have a model for tying something up at home), there are some things I just can't bring myself to buy in a fly shop.

6) Tying flies gives me an opportunity to be creative. One thing I've learned about steelhead hairwing patterns for example, is that there's nothing necessarily magic about a green butt skunk or a purple peril. Why not devise your own pattern - it's got at least as good a chance and maybe better of catching a fish than the same ol' patterns you see in all the fly shops. When you catch something on a pattern you devised, it makes you feel like a creative genius (until you get skunked fishing it the next 10 times out).
I started flyfishing while in college in Montana. I took one years tax refund (like $400 and bought a cheap fly rod, reel and some camping stuff). The first day on the water, I lost around 6 flies (note that I only bought around 10 flies for starters...) and i said to myself, "Self....geez, this is gonna make me dip into my Student Loans to keep going!"

I went to jackass..i mean the guy that owned the flyshop (I soon found more friendly folks at a different flyshop) and bought a $40 starter fly tying kit. (Some of you might have met the New Yorker at the Missoulian )

My first pattern to tie was an elk hair caddis size 12, tan. The next trip I went to fish creek near Missoula and fished a 10 mile or so stretch, drive a bit, fish, drive a bit, fish and caught 80+ 10-14" bows. By the end of the day, I was on my last (yes of 4) elk hair caddis. It was a hook with some thread wrapped around it with around 3 strands of elk hair left.

Next purchase at the fly shop...HEAD CEMENT!!

In college I tied for economics (my Econ teacher probably wished I hadn't skipped Econ 101 to tie flies and fish but I figured the supply of trout was greater than my demand for grades so i fished).

Now, I tie around 80% of my flies. I buy the size 20 dry's, I figure some foreigner's family will get fed...I definately save $$$ tieing salmon/steelhead patterns at 50cents a pop vs $2.

The only bummer is that I enjoy to tie but have a bad back and it's tough to sit and tie a bunch...oh well.

Oh...BTW I still tie on my crappy Thompson model A. One of these days i'll pick up a new vise :DUNNO

Oh, and BTW...you need 3 flies to catch fish anywhere.
Elk hair caddis size 14
Pheasant tail nymph size 14 or 16
Olive and Black bugger

My suggestion for helping out a buddy get into flyfishing???
Go buy him a fly tying kit!
I must say, everyone has expressed a great opinion on this thread. Nice work!

Now for my 2 cents,

I tie flies because it is part of the game. It enables me to be creative, economic, scientific, and artistic without ever stepping foot in the water. It is a hobby within it's self. People have taken fly tying to all different levels yet it still remains a simple process of manufacturing something to represent food for fish.

Will you save money? If it is your objective to save money, yes you will save money. The problem arises when you learn techniques that enable to tie anything in anyone's pattern index. The ability to fashion feathers and fur (and plastic) on to a hook to angle anything swimming in local or exotic waters.

The other nice thing about fly tying is that you don't have to go to the flyshop before every trip. It seems like now a days I only go there to stock up on hooks and tippet spools once or twice a year. Also when I am on the road for longer than a week fishing different rivers of to west, I can tie flies that represent specific insects found in each reigon. Although I have most of the aquatic bugs scattered within my flyboxes, I usually need to beef up one particular pattern depending on location. A good example would be the Green Drake mayfly. Here on the Yakima they do come off sporatically and sometimes you can catch a good hatch but when you head out to the Henry's Fork, this is a main course for those trout. It is not common to have a box with drake emergers, cripples, nymphs and adults. On the Yakima, I carry just the adults just in case.

As far as loosing flies, you will only be even more careful not to lose flies you have tied yourself. It isn't just $2.00 anymore, it could be a 30 minute creation and 15 years of blood, sweat and tears all coming together at the vise. At the same time, you don't have to think twice about loosing a brown hackle peacock for the fifth time today. They only cost about $.10 eack in materials and took about 3 minutes to tie.

What fly tying really boils down to is if you have the time to sit down and spend time learning something new. Are your kids lacking time with their dad? Is the roof leaking? Does the car need an oil change? Did you get to see the Seahawks lose again?


Both. Tying flies during the winter months is great, it keeps your head in the game so to speak. With 1-4' of snow on the ground it really cheers me up to sit at the vise and tie things that I know will work on certain streams and lakes in the following season. Each winter I discard a lot of flies that I don't feel are productive or that I tied well enough and replace them with better ties. Over the years the number of patterns in my boxes has dropped significantly as a result of this culling process. The flies that survive are well tied, durable and catch fish. My buddies and I share our best patterns and usually fish a fly that has a track record of catching fish. That is the hobby part of it. I even built my own rotary vise before retiring using aerospace grade bearings and the cnc equipment I had at my disposal at the time.

The saving money part of the deal is very important to me since I live on a fixed income now. It is a 200 mile round trip to the nearest fly shop so running down for package of dubbing or some holographic tinsel is out of the question. At some point in my travels I will go by a Michaels craft store and stop in to load up. The bead selection is vast and other good tying materials can be found there at a fraction of the price a fly shop charges. Beyond that I keep a running list of fly tying needs and when the time comes I order through the Cabelas Club where I earn points (kind of like airline miles) which can be applied as discounts on subsequent purchases. The materials arrive via UPS right at my door and save me the cost ant time of going after them. Once or twice a year I will stop by a fly shop and pick up some of the latest and greatest or attend a Sportsman show where materials can often be purchased at a lower price.

It's a real pain to pay good money for a fly and have it unravel on the first fish. You can tie with durability in mind by putting a drop of glue on between some of the steps with the tip of a sharp bodkin. It doesnt take much to lock things in and an extra half hitch here and there won't hurt either. So yeah, you can save money if you tie your own and if you amortize the cost of getting started over your fly fishing career, you probably can't afford not to tie your own .

Good luck getting started man, and since you asked for advice try this: When you first start tying tie up at least 5 each in the same size and color as the first fly and then compare the first fly to the fifth fly. Looks a heck of a lot better doesn't it? Ive
Sooo true man. Buy 100 hooks and a few packs of bead heads and bunny strips and you're on! I think that's really the way the costs start getting way down, mass producing 1 fly or slight variations on a theme.
Tying is good for all of the reasons you mentioned. Not taking into account the time you spend, I estimate that each fly ends up costing you about 15-20 cents. Also, flies that you tie yourself will last about 100 times longer. I have never had a fly I made go to garbage! They last longer than machine-made flies.

It is a great hobby. I like to think of it as Legos, but for adults. Definitely consider buying a kit if you like to build things/do mechanical activities.

Big money saver and a good time!
dano - I HATE the Missoulain Angler, its like he just wants to make you feel crappy all the time, that guy sucks. :REALLYMAD

Ok sorry, about tying, I do it because, for one, I love it. Two, it makes you so much more versitile, because certain products can tie numerous flies, and you can "match the hatch." Especially when you are in a remote location, and only one thing is working, just go to the bank and go at it. Tying does save money, and I think of the materials as sunk costs. Because if I buy a few things for one fly, make a dozen or two of them, and then still have stuff left over, its all "free" because everything else is a bonus. And there is nothing better than coming up with your own variation of a pattern or just making your own, and catchin a fish on it. Tie flies, there's noting better.
-crump :THUMBSUP
Hey anyone tie the Beadhead Rubber Legged Black Stonefly Nymph pattern? Needing 2 dozen or so in a #10 size. Will pay 13.00 bucks a dozen! 2 dozen 25$? Thanks! Peter

"Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men"
Matthew 4:19

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