Tying or Buying...And Other Considerations

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

Fellow Anglers...

Having now completely surrendered to the sport of flyfishing, I'm inclined to think the next step is to begin tying my own flies. It seems logical on the surface of it, but when I look at the potential start-up costs and consider how pleased I've been with the cost and quality of flies I've purchased from sources such as Hill's, etc., there's a part of me that wants to analyze this further.
I'm guessing, from the anglers I've met who tie their own flies, that there's way more than the dollar factor of cost vs. benefit. I'm guessing there's the satisfaction thing (I caught it on my own fly...I like the creativity...I enjoy this and find it relaxing...etc.) and also perhaps the appeal of being able to put one's own hunches and experiences into tweaking something common into something that's just a little unique and succeeding on one's personal waters.
So, for those of you who tie...what's the real motivator?
Convince me to take the plunge! All thoughts and suggestions welcome!

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
For me, tying flies is half the fun of fishing. I love the craft of fly tying, and I tie about 95% of what I fish. I also pride myself on tying good flies that are durable and well made.

I'm not sure that any tyer could say the hobby is truly cheaper except in the long run, as there always seems something to buy in the first several years, and I don't know any tyer than has stopped buying new materials. I just got a great partridge skin that knocked my eyes out yesterday. Good materials are just part of the sport.

And it still isn't as much about the price of the flies, its about the diversity of the flies. The best fly shop might have 1000 flies on display. And the book the best 1000 flies is only a 1/4 of an inch thick, and its just a good start. There are literally tens of thouslands of patterns out there, and millions of variants to tie. Then there is copying a commercial pattern that was sucessful. And developing new patterns for use in an expanding fishing arena like Puget Sound.

Fly tying is a very satisfying hobby. I highly recommend it.


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here


Wow...Great reply! I hadn't even considered some of the points you raised about the diversity of possibilities and the idea that flytying is enjoyable as a hobby as well.
Thanks for your input. I'm looking forward to hearing more, but this is helpful in a major way!



Everything 'loops said is right on the money plus: You can take it all with you when you head out! A travel kit is the best thing going since you can tie to the shape, size and color of what is hatching at the time. Just one example of the many that come to mind. I was fishing a stream in Idaho that is known for it's dry fly action but not much was actually happening on the surface. A net sample taken in a riffle revealed that the bottom was alive with #14-#16 cased caddis and the cases had a high content of pyrite or "Fools Gold" in them. In my tying kit I found some tannish colored chenille with a gold fleck in it. About 20 minutes later I was back on the water with a very close approximation of the actual caddis and began to catch fish immediately.
It doesn't take a fortune to get started either. Concentrate at first on the flies you are actually going to need for the fishing you do and get good at those and then just expand outward. Kinda like putting money in your 401K but in reverse! Lastly, I think that people that tie their own flies probably catch more fish. That is a generalization for sure but tying does tend to really get your head in the game. Ive

Matt Burke

Active Member

You are about to embark on the dark path of addiction...have fun. I have kept the receipts for all my transactions for fly tying material. My fly kit totaled over $1600. I have most stuff covered; Steelhead, Trout, Saltwater and Spey, anywhere in the water column. So think about it right now. Can you buy all the Flies you'll ever need.

For me, I agree with Tightloops. No regrets about dropping the cash. Just bring your inventory of what you have. That way you don't buy doubles.


"Everyday that you wake up and decide not to go fishing...is one less day you'll go fishing." Forrest Maxwell


Another Flyfisherman
Tying is a part of the sport. It is rather pleasing to know that you caught something on a fly that you tied. I started tying at the same time I started flyfishing. Bought a beginner kit and took some informal lessons from a buddy of mine. The cost up front can be insane, if you let it. You have the streams that you fish and the flies that you use most of the time. Buy the supplies to tie those most often used flies in your box. I was tying Cadds Larve, Hare's ears, pheasent tails, buggers, a couple dries. Needless to say, 9 years later - I still have the same pheasant tail, the same bag of peacock hearl, and alot of the initial supplies. They never go bad. If you go out and buy the arsenal for every fly on the planet - the cost would be phenominal, obviously. In the long run, I have gotten my money back 10 fold with trout flies. Just today I went out and bought the goods that I need for 2 steelhead flies that I have found that I enjoy fishing and that I am very confident will catch a steel when I actually get one infront of my fly. Granted I spent 100 bucks today, but I have spent at least a 100 bucks on flies since I got here and started chasing steelhead a month ago. Hooks and Beads will go fast. I look at it this way, if I can buy 25 flies for less than what 25 hooks of that size will buy and beads if applicable, then I will buy the flies. If I can tie cheaper, I tie. Needless to say, this equation has never worked for me to buy instead of tie. I love to tie, I get in that same mind frame as I do when fishing, There is nothing but me and the vise. I learned a while back that there is not too much tweaking you can do with trout flies used for matching a hatch. This steelhead thing is totally creative as there is no hatch to match. I can see a pattern that looks fishy and then think, if it only had this or that....well, today I have tying all day with a run of the mill pattern that I am tweaking to my liking. I cannot wait to get it out one the water and see how she does. Just my 2 cents. Cost is high at first, rest assured - you will get your money back in a couple years and you will be glad you did. good luck. J
Yes, it seems like the natural progression. What it comes down to for me is that I catch more fish on the flies that I have tied, and I get more satisfaction out of doing it. Best of all, it's never too rainy or too dark or too cold or too much of a drive or the wrong time of year to sit down with a glass of good scotch and tie a few flies.

Next in the progression is rod building. Anyone know what comes after that (except perhaps divorce)?

Eventually you will tie your own flies, and it will be a good thing....so dive in!

Rob Blomquist

Formerly Tight Loops
Net making
Boat building
Graphite Baking
Chicken or Exotic Fowl Raising
Thread making
Hook making

In that order.

And after that,

Fly tying (on your own hooks with your own birds)
Rod Building (with your own blanks)
Guiding (with your own rods, nets, and flies)
Fish raising.

Sorry guys, its just another form of the 3rd ring of hell. :)
I just started tying flies myself. Got a run of the mill vise along with the essential tools and some various materials for christmas from a buddy. It didnt take me very long to jump into it. I havent caught any fish with one of my flies yet(mostly because i havent been able to get to the water very much), but the few hits that ive gotten gave me a unique feeling. A new sense of accomplishment. I also feel quite proud of myself everytime i finish a fly. I would much rather put the money into supplies. The windows associated with tying are endless, and the rewards are truly great.


Fish On!!!

Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here


Re: "Just bring your inventory of what you have. That way you don't buy doubles."

I appreciated your post but wasn't sure what this part meant. Are you saying I need to be sure I don't buy something I don't need on account of already having it? And are you speaking about tools and materials for flytying?

Thanks for feedback!


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

Fellow Anglers...

Thanks for giving me just the remaining words of encouragement I'd needed - not to mention the healthy dose of humor.
I kind of figured this (flytying) would be the next in the progression but this cautious skepticism that is part of my nature seems to rear up when I'm looking over the edge.
It took me about fifteen years of fishing (mostly back east, mostly for smallmouth bass) to venture into flyfishing, and now that I've been at it for a year or so I can only wonder what took so long, except that I know it was the natural skeptic (or even the cheapskate) that held me back.
I've attended three consecutive Saturday lesson at a local flyshop, so that's helped me feel a little comfortable with the process, tools, materials, etc. And I appreciate the suggestion (from Luv2flyfish) to begin with what I'm already using a lot - a very similar list.
Seriously, I've gotten something from every post, and I'm grateful for your collective willingness to share your insights. Hopefully, as I get further into the sport and have some unique experiences or thoughts I'll start to make some contributions in return.
And I'd already been eyeballing the rodbuilding posts, too!


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