To tie or not to tie – that is the laborious question.
Laborious, yes, it can be, but the labor can also – and does – produce a sense of accomplishment few things in my life have provided.
Tying your own flies is utilitarian and, in its simplest form, a fun achievement.
When you open a fly box filled with flies you tied, you open myriad thoughts, moments of delight, and at times real emotion.
If you begin to tie your own flies, believe me, you will carry multiple fly boxes with you because you will fill them.
Tying your first fly can be daunting — maybe similar to the first time you cast a fly on a fly rod.
It’s something so new and different.
I’ve been tying my own flies with greater or lesser frequency for more than 30 years.
One reason you may want to tie your own is that it may appear much less expensive than buying a half-dozen or dozen assorted flies in a fly shop. With costs ranging from $1.50 to $3 per fly, when you break a store-bought fly on a bottom structure or bankside bush or tree, well, the frustration just pours out of you.
But back to the cost of tying your own flies . . .
You can probably tie a basic nymph — say, a hare’s ear, my go-to nymph pattern — for 15 to 20 cents per fly after you have purchased the hooks and all the materials for the bug(s).
It is mostly your time that is discounted.
Looking at fly tying from a purely economic perspective, yes, you can save money, but what really happens is you can’t help partaking when you go into a fly shop.
That bright new dubbing material that just came out . . . I gotta have it.
The new, sparkly ribbing material or floss, I gotta have it . . . and you just have to have that dyed bright lime-green deer hair along with the similar yellow to tie some streamers that you KNOW you will use in the spring when you finally take that long-sought-after and never fulfilled trip to catch a northern pike. (Oh, and don’t forget to buy bags full of the color-matched marabou feathers to make those streamers!)
I have all those colors, and even tied a few streamers for pike over the years, but I can tell you I have never been on that one trip specifically for northern pike; however, if I do take that trip, I have plenty of material to tie streamers!
The pike-fly story is just one example of where your creative fancy goes when you are in a fly shop – along with a lot of dollars (but this really is a fun part of fly tying!).
I will revisit the flytiers journey through this column, but my point now is you WILL buy, collect, trade and barter for more and more fly-tying materials as you progress as a flytier.
It’s fun; just make sure you have plenty of plastic bins to store the stuff, and try to concentrate on tying one pattern at a time.
Those northern pike of your dreams will always be there, but the trout in your local streams, ponds and lakes will almost always eat the hare’s ear or pheasant tail nymphs you tie.
Set a goal of tying, in one sitting, a half-dozen of, say, size 12 through 18 of your favorite nymphs or dry flies.
Filling your own fly boxes also creates a foundation of excitement for your next angling adventure.
And if you manage to fill your fly boxes for the coming season, you can always tie those big streamers . . . looking to the future with hope you will catch that big fish you have yet to tangle with — on a fly you tied yourself.
Maybe I will see you on the water.