View Full Version : to tie or not to tie!

02-17-2009, 09:02 AM
I only get to trout fish a few weeks a year. I do get to bluegill and bass fish all the time. SOOO is fly tying a pursuit worth pursuing? Does it save any money in the long run? Or is it more of an artistic approach to a hobby? (Not to say something I shouldn't) but I checked on LRO's catalog and didn't see a fly tying kit. So can ya'll suggest a good starter kit?

ps. when I was a kid my dad and I made all kinds of baits. I tied little streamers for creek chubs!

02-17-2009, 09:28 AM
I am in the same boat. I usually just buy my trout stuff but I tie up my bluegill and bass stuff. Alot of your material can be used in several different applications. I will say once you get started it is addicting. There are people in our fly fishing club and area who had rather tie than fish. But when a popper cost anywhere from 2.50 up and you can tie for less than 1.00 it does begin to add up. Check around and call LRO and ask daniel about some starter kits and get their opinion. I started this about a year ago and already have more flies in different patterns than I will use in three seasons. Start with clousers, wolly bugger and foam terestrials. You tube is a good place to watch free tying demos. Good Luck

02-17-2009, 12:15 PM
It's kind of like flyfishing. With $100 outfit you can catch fish. With $1000 worth of Gore-Tex you can look like you catch fish. Flytying is no diferent. A set of simple tools and cheap materials and you can tie up nymphs, midge, leeches. High floating match the hatch hackles and swirling vises will cost you as much as a vest full of production flies. It is great fun. Monk

02-17-2009, 12:24 PM
Without getting too Shakespearean, I'll give you my two cents. If you are going to tie flies to save money...forget it. I have a pretty basic setup of tools and a few small bins of materials. If I had to guess (and hopefully my wife isn't reading this...), I think I probably have $700 involved in everything. So at $1.75 per fly I would have to tie 400 of them just to break even. I usually fish about 30x per year and lose 2 flies per trip on average (which is actually on the high side, I usually do everything possible to snag them out of the trees after putting so much effort into tying them, but I digress). I had a pretty well stocked set of fly boxes before I started, so I'm usually only tying things that I have to replace. So at that rate, I'm going through 60 flies per year and it will take approximately 7 years to breakeven!

The fact is, you may settle on a handful of patterns and can limit the amount you spend to just the materials you need. Even still, the materials may cost you upwards of $0.50 per fly that you tie (hooks and hackle primarily), so you are only saving $1.25 per dry trout fly (obviously other types have different costs associated with them).

So if you are going to tie flies to save money. Forget it!!!

Now that all being said, I'm one of those people that almost enjoys tying as much as I do fishing. I'm not sure why, but its true. (And trust me, I enjoy fishing...). I can't describe it and won't even try. I have boxes of flies I will never fish with. I have tied well over the 400 to breakeven, so my production has matched my investment, if I stopped right now I doubt I will use all of the flies I tied in 10 years or more (and I keep tying....). I have been giving away flies to try and rationalize the need to keep tying (I'm tying about 4 dozen per month, right now...). Can you say addiction?

Tying is not for everyone, and it will take some time to start tying decent looking flies (which of course is quite subjective) or at a speed that seems worth the effort (2-3 flies per hour in the beginning, is about the best you can expect - much fewer I would think if you want to tie poppers). But as you gain skills, it becomes a lot more enjoyable. Taking a class and watching other tiers is VERY helpful, as well. Plus you can do it on a moments notice and for as little as 10-15 minutes (assuming you have a place to tie at). So its easy to do it when you want...fishing is not quite as simple...

Net-net: If you want a new hobby (a potentially addictive one) it can be very rewarding. If you want to save money, forget it...(have I emphasized that enough?)


btw, If you use the search feature on the forum and type in "tying kit" or "beginner tying" it should bring up some useful posts about start-up kits and tips to get started.

02-17-2009, 03:45 PM
My input is much the same as Petecz's

It may make you feel better to tell your wife / significant other that you save money tying flies, I'm sure we'll all support you in that effort. :biggrin:

The reality is you will not save money.

However, since you mentioned warm water fish (bluegill and bass) tying your own will allow you to have a ready supply of a lot of different types of flies that are hard to find commercially if at all. A lot of the foam body "gurgle pop" type of flies are not readily available commercially but are deadly on the warm water fish.

The same with some of the streamers / woolie bugger type flies. You can customize them for your specific water (color combinations, size and weight) to match your conditions where most commercially tied flies are specific patterns (Adams) or a generic fly (woolie bugger) vs. something you can create for your specific waters.

Also, tying your own means that you won't get caught short handed. If you wake up one morning and decide to go fishing just to realize your last yellow popper was hung in a tree two days ago, no big deal, tie up a couple new ones and hit the lake / stream. No trip to the store or no waiding on the UPS truck to deliver it to you.

Those are the practical reasons.

Now for the more poetic reasons.

There is just something about catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself that is very rewarding. Additionally, catching a fish on a fly you more or less created (usually by making alterations to existing patterns) is even more rewarding.

Also, there is the creative output. There is something of a creative release from taking a bunch of hair, feathers and fuzz & a hook and turning it into something that looks like a bug the fish will eat.

Stress relief is also another benefit. I find it quite relaxing to get my stuff out and tie up a dozen or so flies. I may end up giving them to friends and I usually end up giving them to local trees, rocks and snags. However, one can quickly have a lifetime supply of flies. That does not mean one stops tying. I've found as I have gained skill, I will toss old flies that were effective but not tied well with newer versions that are better dressed.

As for what to get, I would recommend calling LRO and discussing with them. Better yet, take one of their beginner fly tying classes. If you can't get there for the class, check with a local fly fishing club and see if they are offering any beginner classes.

A class is going to get you going a lot faster than trial and error.

I took the advanced class at LRO this month and it was a hoot. Walter is an excellent teacher and the atmosphere in the class was light and fun. We all had a great time. No, I do not consider myself an advanced fly tier, the class had some flies that I really wanted to learn how to tie and I have been at this for a couple years therefore I'm not a beginner either.

However, I'm sure the beginner class would get you well along the way to tying flies that will catch fish. Also, you'll be able to see what tools, gizmos and gadgets you really need.

Hope this helps.


Carolina Boy
02-17-2009, 05:15 PM
There isn't, in my opinion, anything cooler than fooling a fish of any type to eat a bit of fur and feather that you created! Not to mention how excited you get tying up flies for your next trip. For me there is such a sense of satisfaction in going to some far off place and catching fish on your creations. I personally have several ricker boxes in my office that display flies that are important to me that I have tied and used succefully in places as far as away as Ireland to the first flies I tied and caught trout on in the park. Right now I have tied over 100 bonefish flies for an upcoming trip, can't wait, and tying just gets me more excited about the next adventure! Try it out, you will love it.

02-17-2009, 10:10 PM
I agree with the comments so far. It is addictive and there is no way you will save money. There will always be a fly you want to try so you have to buy some obscure piece of material that you will never use again. But there is nothing more satisfying than catching a fish on a fly you tied yourself. Like Carolina Boy, I have tied over 100 flies for a redfish trip I am taking in two weeks. If that was not enough, I built my own eight wt rod for the trip. Jump in and enjoy!

milligan trout degree
02-18-2009, 01:48 AM
Just another step in fly-fishing maturation.

02-18-2009, 09:36 AM
What if you only bought the tools and materials to tie midges?

Seems like at $1.50-2 a pop, you could save money on those. Maybe not.

02-18-2009, 09:38 AM
read the book small flies by John Gierach and the introduction alone will answer your questions. And he is best friends with one of the best A.K. Best.

02-18-2009, 10:56 AM
What if you only bought the tools and materials to tie midges?

Seems like at $1.50-2 a pop, you could save money on those. Maybe not.

It depends on how many you want to tie and how much your time is worth. If you are only trying to save money tying just midges, I'll break it down for you. I'll assume bead head zebra midges for cost comparison. Amounts are approximate.

Tools (minimum):
Vise $160-190 (you could get a cheaper one, but you'd regret it, especially tying smaller flies - I'll use $160 for comparison)
Scissors $15 (for $20 you could get some nicer ones)
Whip Finisher $12
Bobbin $7 (for a few bucks more you could get a better one, as well)

semi fixed costs
Thread $2 per spool x number of colors (we'll say 3 for comparison)
Wire $2 per spool x number of colors (we'll say 2)
variable costs
Hooks $5 per package of 25 ($0.20 per hook)
Beads $4 per package of 16 ($0.25 per bead)

So to get started (not including variable cost) you would need $204 to purchase the tools and fixed cost materials (which aren't really fixed, but are low cost enough and ties enough flies that I'll treat them as such). Then for every fly that you would tie it would also cost you $0.45 in hooks and beads.

With a $160 vise:
To tie 100 flies would cost you $249 (minimum) - $2.49 per fly
To tie 200 flies would cost you $294 - $1.47 per fly
To tie 300 flies would cost you $339 - $1.13 per fly

With a $190 vise:
To tie 100 flies would cost you $279 (minimum) - $2.79 per fly
To tie 200 flies would cost you $324 - $1.62 per fly
To tie 300 flies would cost you $369 - $1.23 per fly

Obviously the more you tie the lower the per fly cost will be. And if you can find a good used vise on the inexpensive side you could make it even fewer flies to the break-even point.

If you are only in it to save money, then you have to ask yourself the more important question: How much is my time worth? Assuming you can quickly get to the point where you tie a zebra midge in 5 minutes, it will take you about 17 hours to complete 200 of them. The reality is that once you break-even on your tools, you could be saving about $1 per fly (or about $10-$12/hr). It can be pretty tedious work if you don't enjoy it, is it worth it financially?

If you do it, don't do it to save money. It will seem too much like work and won't be worth the investment. If you want to do it for many of the other reasons everyone is jumping in and espousing, then by all means take the plunge and join the fun!

Byron Begley
02-18-2009, 12:15 PM
I would agree with everything that has been said. I tie bass, bluegill and saltwater flies now. I used to tie trout flies but I started buying them a few years ago. I give away more flies than I use.

But here is an interesting statistic and it has held true for years. I can run a report anytime from our customer database and it always comes out the same. One third of our customers buy fly tying materials and two thirds don't.

I think you have to enjoy preparing to go, creating your own fly that works and enjoy sitting and doing something with your hands. I like doing all three. Also, I tie and use some flies that can't be bought. I didn't invent them, they were shown to me.


02-18-2009, 12:24 PM
I agree totally with Byron. I like saltwater fishing and striper fishing. That is why I started tying. The companies quit making the flies we used and we had to start tying to have them. One local guy started tying for a small shop we have hear and they are selling those flies for around 5.50 apiece. I can tie them up for around $2.00 apiece. Truthfully I like his better but I tie mine to stay in practice so if he stops I will still have flies. I also tie up my own clousers for the reason I have a color pattern that I like that can not be purchased anywhere, in that case I can say it is very valuable for me to tie. But once again it is what you are looking for. I love to tie and think about the trip coming and just where I will be using each fly and if it works out that way then there is no price tag that can hold the amount of value of the accomplishment. All the time, cost and anticipation was well worth it. :smile:

milligan trout degree
02-18-2009, 03:37 PM
I admit I don't save any money tying my own, but thats because I've bought a lot of stuff I dont really need. Petecz seems to by the higher quality materials than I do. Here's my breakdown.

I've used a hand-me-down thompson vice which serves me well tying zebra midges. Keep in mind I dont tie below a sz 22. The vice if bought new is about $20. add tax $22. A lot of times someone will offer an old one they aren't using anymore if you post around some. I buy daicki or diariki hooks in the fifty pack for 6.30. Black thread cost 1.50 something os we'll say two dollars. Copper wire or silver wire is about the same, we'll say a little more and go $3. Beads I buy the 25 pack for 2.99 so we'll just bump that to three dollars.you'll need two packs for fifty hooks. I'll use the same standards for bobbins, hooks, whip finish (optional), and scissors.

scissors 15
bobbin 7
whip finish 12
hooks 7
beads 7
thread 2
wire 3
total 53 for first fifty flies. A little over a dollar a fly. The next fifty will only need new hooks and beads which means you're paying 14 for fifty flies for a long time because the thread and wire will last a really long time. This means you're paying 28 cents for each fly.

This is a very simple example however. Given you're only tying one type of fly, but you can use the model for each additional fly you tie. For another three dollars you can silver wire, another two you can add new thread. And you're only tying in one size right now. Keep in mind you can buy 100 pk mustads for about $8 as well.

Just a thought. Chances are you'll end up wanting to tie all sorts of flies and before long you will have to tie up a lot of flie to break even, but its worth it to me, just part of it. Plus having a lot of materials opens the doors to creative ideas.

02-18-2009, 03:59 PM
milligan you're speaking my language now. Once Pete mention a triple digit price, I was outta that conversation! I'm so cheap I tied some streamers for bass one year using vice grips and a bench top vise!

fly fisherman DK
02-18-2009, 06:57 PM
A few years ago my uncle got me the fly tying kit for trout that is sold at Bass Pro Shops and it was the greatest thing ever! It has enough stuff to get you started and even a little bit more. Also, it comes with a dvd showing you how to tie some very popular flies. If you decide to get this kit it is called the White River fly shop fly tying kit for trout. I hope this information is helpful.

fly fisherman DK

02-18-2009, 10:40 PM
The book that I suggested earlier in the thread is actually called good flies not small flies by John Gierach. Sorry for the confussion. Since this thread has started I have been back tying flies. I have more flies than I will use in the next 3 years unless I start fishing different flies. And I will.:biggrin:

02-18-2009, 11:30 PM
The two "small flies" books are by Ed Engle, another of Gierach's buddies.


02-18-2009, 11:44 PM
I have an $89 "Spider Vice" that works pretty well. Of course, I am a novice tier, but it seems to be fairly sturdy. Orvis has a new vice for about that much that looks good. If you can get a list of flies together that you want to tie before you buy materials, you can save a lot of trips and extra money on wasted material. If I could start over, I would pick 4 dries and 4 wets that I wanted to tie and ask the outfitter for the materials for those in 2 different sizes. You would have everything to tie those and probably a few others that you don't know about yet. I do tie to save a bit of cash, but I also realize that it will take years to make up the difference and you have to enjoy it. I finally got my tie right on "Doc's Cork" the other night and man was it satisfying. One good thing; This board has a lot of nice people with a LOT of knowledge that they are willing to share. Another good thing; LRO doesn't charge shipping! :biggrin: I don't even have to leave my couch, which is right next to my tying station AKA the coffee table. ;)

02-19-2009, 06:41 PM

I have been fly fishing for about five years and have come down the fishing learning curve in that time. I just started tying this past fall via a four week lesson by a local veteran tyer.

I have found the tying hobby addictive as well as the next logical extension of the sport of fly fishing for me. I have been given, purchased and collected a small four drawer chest of stuff in six months. I first started with a very cheap vise to learn what I like wanted in a better vise. I now have a HMH Spartan rotary vise that I really like.

I live in MI most of the year so fly tying connects me to my sport and lets me dream of the fish I am going to catch with this fly and that fly. Tying also makes one a better student of what fish will eat or are attracted to, I believe.

There is probably no way to justify tying as a financial investment. If you are trying to do this, you had better first start with the cost per pound of all the fish you have caught and ate. For me that is infinity since I am a catch and release fisher.

In summary, fly tying is the next logical extension of fly flishing. And if your wife is a crafter like mine, you now will share something in common. My advice, try fly tying and you will probably enjoy it beyond your wildest dreams!

02-21-2009, 01:54 PM
As far as tying to save money...It is definitely a long-term investment. When I first got into tying I was spending money every week buying some new material or tool. Now I'm at a point where I've got most of the stuff I need and I only find myself buying hooks, beads and other random things every once in a while. So it may take many years until I 'break even' and start saving money by not having to buy flies, but I plan on fishing until I can't physically do it anymore...which I hope is another 40 or 50 years. So in the really long run, I'm sure I'll save plenty of money.

But I don't tie to save money when I'm 80...I tie because I like to create realistic looking flies and use them to catch fish. The tying is a relaxing hobby that allows me to be artistic and creative and it's the closest thing to fishing I can do while sitting on my couch.

Saving money in the long run is just an added bonus. If you are artistic or like being hands-on, I would recommend picking up tying. But like others have mentioned...watch out, it is very addictive!