Fly Tying: Tie or Buy?

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Tie flies or buy them? Only you can decide that.

It seems like every few months, I have the debate with a fellow fly fishing geek about tying vs. buying flies. I have heard most all of the pros and cons, and I really don’t think there is a wrong decision to be made. I believe it simply comes down to what is right for you.

If you are thinking of tying your own flies, here a few things to consider before making that jump.

I spent the first 4 years of my fly fishing adventures purchasing flies, not tying them. Being new to the sport, I was focused on learning how to fly fish, not tie flies for fly fishing. I knew at some point though that I would eventually tie my own flies.

Tying flies is fun, relaxing and rewarding. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is for everyone. Some of you simply want to hit the water and fish, which is totally understandable. Others, like myself, want to fish every chance we get, or tie flies if we can’t go fishing.

Catching fish is awesome, catching fish on flies you tied yourself, is even better. At the end of the day, the idea is to catch fish, and whether you choose to purchase flies or tie your own really just comes down to preference.

If you are thinking of tying your own flies, here a few things to consider before making that jump:

The learning curve

There is quite a learning curve when you start to tie your own flies. It’s not nearly as easy as those YouTube videos make it look.

You’ll spend a lot of time learning, experimenting and sitting in front of your vice. Some people have that kind of time, others don’t. Once you get the hang of it, you can whip up some flies 20-30 minutes at a time, but still, the learning curve and time investment is something worth considering.

Time is valuable

Often, it’s hard enough just to find time to actually go fishing. If you’re like me, you’re always doing 100 things on top of work, family and priorities. It’s hard to find time to sit down at the vice most days.

When life gets hectic, but you still need to make some quick fishing trips, it pays to purchase some flies rather than spend the time to tie your own.

You won’t save money

Tying flies, instead of buying them, doesn’t save you money. It might if you tie 10,000 of them, but for the most part, no.

First, take into account the upfront costs of a vice, basic tools and materials. Then, once the addiction begins (and it will happen), there are always more materials, better tools and something that you always need. From a pure economics standpoint, buying flies wins out I believe.

Support other fly tyers

There are some truly talented fly tyers out there and if you purchase, instead of tying your own, be sure to support local and small fly tyers. You can buy from a major retailer, who gets flies from a factory in India somewhere, but I believe that supporting the small guys is always better.

I still purchase quite a bit of flies from other people, even though I also tie my own. Some patterns I just suck at, so I buy them instead. It’s also a great way to try out patterns before you spend the money to tie them yourself.

So there ya go, just a few things to think about if you’re trying to decide whether you should tie your own flies or just buy them. There is no right or wrong decision, as both keep you fly fishing, which is the most important thing. Whichever you decide, just have fun doing it and keep slinging those bugs.

Cory Perry
I'm a husband, father and fly fishing geek living in Greenville, SC. I'm down with slinging flies, tying flies and spending every minute I can enjoying the vast outdoors with my family and friends.

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