by Morgan Leigh Smith
How many times have you seen him? He’s been in the area for quite some time now. His features aren’t remarkable and his name is not important. For all I know, it could be you. The guys at the fly shop have seen him many times, although they can’t pin a name on him either. You know who I’m talking about. He’s the guy that has always wanted to tie flies, yet, for some reason, does not pursue the art. His frequent response when asked “So, why don’t you tie your own flies?” is usually “Oh, I don’t have the time.”, “It’s easier just to buy them.”, or “The materials and tools cost too much!”. Whatever the excuse, generally, the underlying reason is that he is, unjustifiably, intimidated by misperceived ideas of difficulty or discouraged by initial attempts that yielded unsatisfactory fur and feather application to a hook that costs less than fifteen cents. It is with this dilemma in mind that I will propose alternative thought approaches to beginning a rewarding and gratifying hobby…..fly tying. If you are already an accomplished tier, perhaps the following information could be useful to someone you know.
The easiest way to approach this is by addressing each “response” and finding appropriate solutions that will ease the transition from “buyer” to “tyer”.
As far as “I don’t have time”, well that is something that all tyers must deal with. “Finding”, or allocating time, is not a problem if your passion for becoming an adequate fly tier surpasses your time requirements. For many experienced tiers, the majority of time at the tying bench is spent during the winter months when time on the water is considered unfavorable. As with any hobby, time is a requirement, but even with a moderate investment of your time, your experience at the bench will greatly improve your tying skills. Before you know it, your vise creations will be responsible for many successful days on the water. By the way, in the amount of time it takes for me to go to the fly shop, purchase materials, talk to “the guys”, and drive back home, I could have easily tied two dozen flies and washed a load of laundry. Time should not be an issue.
Now for “It’s easier just to buy them.” While this statement has validity, I have found that hooking a fish on a fly that I have tied provides me with the highest level of angling satisfaction. I also attain great enjoyment when another angler hooks his quarry on one of my bench renderings. It may be easy to drop $18.00 on a dozen flies, but the reward of tying, angling, and hooking a fish on one’s own flies drastically out weighs the ease of purchasing pre-tied flies.
And now my favorite “The materials and tools cost too much!”. Ludicrous! Let’s think about this for a minute. A trout fly purchased from a shop or supply house will cost, on average, between $1.25 and $2.00. A tyer can tie an identical fly for less than the
$ .75 cents variation among retailers. This is quite significant when one considers the number of flies lost during a single day of angling, let alone in a season. Of course, if the new tyer purchases every material and tool he can possibly find, the initial cash outlay can move him into a lower tax bracket faster than an eighteen wheel moving truck, but this does not have to be the case.
Tools, for instance, do not need to be made of titanium or high-tech, space-age materials. What is required are tools that function and fit into the tyers budget. My recommendation is that the new tyer purchase the best tools he can afford. The main thing to keep in mind is that the purchase of tools should not deplete your bank account. Some of the world’s best tyers don’t use any tools at all!
When a beginning tyer enters his local fly shop and confronts the laden peg-board display of natural and synthetic materials, in various sizes, colors, and textures, that are available to today’s fly tiers, he can be intimidated to the point of executing a full speed dash right out the door of his local shop. With careful planning and assistance from a book, friend, or fly shop, the purchase of necessary materials can be relatively painless and fun. The focus of your first buying effort should be on a specific pattern or two. By limiting your purchase to materials needed for a couple of patterns, you will effectively eliminate the confusion that many new tiers experience. It is this confusion that is often the culprit responsible for so many failed tyers.
Perhaps the best advice that I can lend to the beginning tyer is for him to realize that every tier, great or otherwise, to grace a vise and yield a fly, at one time was also a beginner. Do not be intimidated by your first fly’s gaudy appearance, instead, take it to your favorite water and let the fish determine the quality of your offering. Without question, it is the fish, not your local bench master, that in the end determines the quality of your fly. With a minimal monetary investment and some time spent with a bobbin in your hand, you too can enjoy the greatest rewards that angling with a fly has to offer. Don’t be afraid to put a hook in your vise. If your attempt is unfavorable, well, you can always tell the guys on the river that your spouse tied it, the fish won’t care!