5 reasons you should tie your own flies

No More Excuses.

This Brown ate the Project Hopper that I have been working on for over a year.

Do you tie your own flies?  Uncle Ken does.  Talking to fly anglers and asking if they tie flies can warrant many different responses from "Yep, I tie everything I fish," to "I only buy the more difficult flies, and I tie the rest," to "Tie???  Man, I would rather spend my time fishing!"  I understand those answers except for the last one even though I seem to hear it a lot.  In my opinion, every fly fisher should tie at least some flies.  The guy that is too cool for school, and would rather spend time fishing truly doesn't understand that fly tying isn't something that has to take up much time at all.  I don't meticulously plan my time to go to the tying dungeon, or take time off work just to tie.  It just happens 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes hours on end...  It just depends.  Regardless of how busy you are, you can always find a few minutes here and there to tie some zebra midges (you should NEVER buy zebra midges, brassies, etc due to the fact that my 5 year old can tie them).  Basically, whenever someone tells me they are considering getting a vise and tools I give them a strong pitch to start tying their own.  Here are 5 reasons why

1- Customization / Creativity

This Hare's Ear got some new materials to spice it up.
Have you ever been out on the river fishing a hatch and you realize that your flies are either a few shades too light, or a few shades too dark?  If you tie flies you can remedy that problem for your next trip.  What's that?  You need an Elk Hair Caddis with a brown elk wing and an orange body with a bright green egg sac?  Coming right up... remember, there are no rules in fly tying. You might be able to find a fly in a bin that is a close match, but it's a better bet if you tie your own flies.  One summer I realized that I was getting denial after denial on hopper patterns...  I knew my flies were good, but the fish were just very skittish and they would turn away if they got too high in the water column.  I went on a mission to create a sunken hopper and came up with the Snorkel Hopper after several attempts.  Check it out HERE.  It was a summertime game changer for me, and I was able to go get revenge on those window shoppers.  Creativity is probably the biggest driving factor for me to tie flies.  The fact that I have an open canvas to put whatever I want on a hook draws me to the vise again and again.

2- Economics

This bugger cost me $0.20 to tie.
The biggest debate in the fly tying vs. fly buying debate is the cost of flies.  Is it really possible to save money by tying your own?  Absolutely - but there is a catch - you probably won't break even until you have tied several dozen flies.  The other issue is one that I face every time I walk into my local shop.  There is so much cool tying stuff that I end up buying way more than I need.  Let's put this into perspective though...  Suppose you have reached the "break even point" by tying enough flies to make up for the cost of your vise and tools,
or maybe suppose that your rich Uncle in Kenya left you a huge inheritance that included a Griffin Mongoose vise and tools (believe me, it could happen... they emailed me about it.)  Anyway... I digress.  50 hooks will cost roughly $7, Chenille costs $1.50, Hackle will cost you $60 for the initial purchase (enough for 1500+ flies), marabou costs $3.00, thread is $2.  So for enough stuff to tie 50 flies, plus enough hackle for 5 years worth of tying, the cost is $73.  Subtract the hackle for the next round of bugs, and your cost is $13.  To buy 50 Wooly Buggers at a shop at $2.25 each, you are looking at $112.50.  See where I'm going here?  Sure your time is worth money, I get it, but we aren't compensated every hour of the day.  There is some nerdy maximum utility economics junk that I learned in college that could apply, but I don't want the hate mail that would surely come If I went down that road.  Long story short - tying flies doesn't need to be expensive.  Just don't forward that last sentence to my wife.

3- Durability

The Chimera pattern is both creative and durable.  The fish love it!
Several years ago, Curtis and I were working on a small film project fishing small streams with big dry flies.  A certain fly manufacturer (not to be named) wanted us to use some of their flies in the shoot so they sent us a bunch of them.  I tied on a big bushy parachute fly that looked great and floated high until it got smacked by a HUGE 8" brookie.  I set the hook and battled this thing for what seemed like hours (4 seconds) and got it in to find out that the parachute hackle had come unraveled.  This happened to 4 of 5 of those flies that I used, and I was DONE with them.  I realize this is an extreme case, and not all store bought flies will fall apart, but you can seriously improve your chances of making your fly last longer if you tie it yourself.  You can ensure that every wrap is tight, and that bits of glue are added in all the right places.  I recently tied some home grown Unsinkabeetles for a buddy that was fishing a great cicada hatch.  He told me that he had a mixed bag of Unsinkas he bought at the store, and ones I tied for him.  He told me that the store bought ones did OK with durability, but the flies I had tied were holding on like champs.  If you tie your own flies, they will last longer.

4- Satisfaction of catching a fish on your own fly

This might not apply to all fly anglers because we all fish for different reasons, but there is something cool about being able to catch a fish on something that you made with your own two hands.  I really like the fact that I can go to the river and catch bugs, take them home, and then tie up some creation that looks like the bug that fish eat.  There is also major satisfaction when your bug works just a little bit better than the bugs that come from fly shop bins.

5- Instant gratification 

The Butthead.  Created on a whim before a fishing trip.
If you tie flies and you have a great idea for something that you think will work, you don't have to wait until somebody else comes up with it.  You can sit down at your vise and start throwing stuff on a hook immediately.  Projects like this might take some time to test, but you at least get to start working on it instead of just hoping that someone will create it.  Also, if you don't have a fly shop nearby, tying flies is a way to get the flies that you need without having to wait for shipping, or for your next trip into town.  There are times when I'm about to go to bed the night before a fishing trip, and I get a great idea for a fly.  Off I go to the vise at midnight.  Most fly shops don't appreciate midnight visits.

In all, if you must buy flies... do what you need to do to enjoy fly fishing.  BUT, if you are debating on whether or not to tie your own, hopefully these points will steer you toward the insane addiction, gentleman's hobby of tying flies.  If you want to learn how to tie, we have a great resource in our Fly Tying 101 section of the site HERE.

If you want to take the jump you can get all the stuff you need to get set up HERE.  If you want to keep buying flies we can help you with that too...

~ Cheech