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Can You Save Money Tying Flies? – Our Thoughts

Tying flies is a great hobby that I have enjoyed for years. It allows you to customize your flies, and make them exactly how you want. It definitely takes lots of time and practice to get good at tying, but that’s part of the fun.

If you are looking to save some money, fly tying isn’t the best hobby. There is a large upfront investment for a vise and all the materials you’ll need. We never have enough materials, because we are always tying new flies. This is a rabbit hole that can be fun, but also expensive.

So can you save money by tying flies? The answer is YES, but not right away. It can take a long time before you break even or save money.

However, there are some easy ways that you can start to save money by tying. We will go over these in this article.

If you couldn’t save money tying flies, then how are professional fly tyers making money? Think about it! The small margin allows for savings, and even a profit if you sell your flies. Don’t get sucked into thinking that you have to buy all your flies, this is false. I save money tying, and I have even made a bit of money along the way.

Initial Investment – Can Be Expensive

This is the biggest hurdle for most folks. There is a fair amount of cash you’ll need to spend before you can start tying. Below is a list of the essentials:

  • Vise
  • Desk/ Tying Bench
  • Lamp
  • Bobbins
  • Whip Finisher
  • Scissors
  • Hooks
  • Beads
  • Thread
  • Wire
  • Feathers, Hackles, Chenilles, Hairs, Dubbing, etc, etc.

These are just the basic items you’ll need. Prices vary quite a bit, but it can easily cost $500 or more to really get setup. You’ll need to tie a lot of flies before you start breaking even. However, this is part of the fun – You can customize your tying bench just the way you like it. You can also buy the materials you need for your favorite flies. You don’t have to buy any materials that you won’t use.

Tying Simpler Patterns Can Save You Money

Simple patterns such as midges, eggs and worms can be pretty cheap to tie. The list of materials you’ll need is pretty small, and you can definitely save money tying these patterns.

Let’s take a Zebra Midge for example. You’ll need hooks, beads, thread, and ultra wire. These materials are relatively cheap. The average Zebra Midge costs about $3, and you can tie them for $1 or even less.

The same goes for worm and egg patterns. All you’ll need is hooks and chenille for worms, and hooks and egg yarn for tying eggs. When tying these patterns, you can easily tie them for 75 cents or less. Thread spools last a long time, so I really don’t factor thread into the equation.

Production Fly Tying Saves Money

Production fly tying is when you sit down to tie a lot of one single pattern. These can either be for personal use, or you can sell them! Companies like Tiemco make 100 packs of hooks, which brings the cost per hook down. If you do production fly tying, I recommend getting hooks in bulk this way.

Then, you’ll prep all of your materials you’ll need for the batch of flies. If it’s San Juan worms, cut all of the chenille you’ll need beforehand. If it’s dry flies, get your hackle and hairs ready beforehand – you get the idea. If you’re tying bead head nymphs, put the beads on all of your hooks first.

By doing larger production runs of flies, you can get the “cost per fly” down to a lower amount. This can save you money over time, especially if you end up selling them to friends or a fly shop. It will also give you an idea of how much material you’re actually using for each fly.

Avoid Expensive Hackles and Feathers

Although we all love tying a good dry fly, they can be more expensive in the long run. Quality hackle capes and feathers can be very costly. If you include these in your initial fly tying investment, they can really rack up the total cost. If you end up tying lots of dries, this can be ok. However, if you don’t use the hackles and feathers – it can be a huge waste.

A quality cape from Whiting Farms or Metz can easily be $100 or more. If you do end up buying them, be sure to make use of them by tying large batches of dry flies. However, I have seen many tyers buy hackles left and right, without ever using them all. It is nice to have a hackle collection, but you certainly aren’t saving money.

Do The Math – Find Out If You’re Saving Money

This can be one of the best ways to see if you’re saving money. Buy a dozen of the same pattern from your local fly shop, and record the price. Then, tie a dozen of the same fly at home. Break down your material cost and your hook cost, and you’ll have the cost per fly. Then compare the two! Did you save money, or did you end up spending more? This is a fun experiment that can give you a good idea of your savings.

I have listed an example below. Taxes are not included.

Fly Shop

  • 12 Pats Rubber Legs at the fly shop : $2.50 x 12 = $30 total

Tying At Home

  • 25 pack of 200r Tiemco Hooks : $8.50/25 hooks = 34 cents a hook
  • Variegated Chenille : $4.99 per pack (will tie a dozen flies easily)
  • Lead Wire : $3.99 a spool (will tie a dozen flies easily)
  • Rubber Legs : $4.99 per pack (will tie a dozen flies easily)
  • Thread – You should have this already

So, per fly, this comes out to $1.50 per Pats.

To tie a dozen Pats Rubber Legs, it will cost $18.05.

Also, you’ll have plenty of material left over. As you can see, tying flies can save you money. For a dozen Pats Rubber Legs, you will save almost $12 versus buying them at the fly shop. You will still have hooks left, as well as rubber legs, chenille, and lead wire.

If you choose to sell these flies, you can actually make a profit!

The problem is that we haven’t taken into account your vise, tying desk, tools, etc. This can be a slippery slope, and it’s hard to perfectly calculate your savings. However, over the years, you will definitely come out on top, especially if you tie a lot of flies.

The example above was of one particular fly, the Pats Rubber Legs. Although we came out on top, this is not true for every fly. Sometimes, you will do the calculations and realize that it is cheaper to buy them at the shop. It really just depends on the fly pattern and the materials.

Conclusion

Although you can save money by tying flies, this shouldn’t be the reason you start! Fly tying is an awesome pastime where you can customize your flies. If you enjoy doing it, then it is worth it. Worrying about saving money can take the fun out of it. Whether i’m saving money or spending more, I will always love tying flies.