If you have just started fly tying or have been fly tying for years, then you’ll already know that buying the right fly tying materials and tools is quite an investment. You might have thought you’d save some money tying your own flies, but when it comes down to it, the time it takes and the costs of fly tying supplies makes this a bit of a myth.
Finding Value In Fly Tying Materials
When you’re looking for your supplies for fly tying, whether it’s synthetic dubbing, hooks, beads, thread, or feathers, it’s not just about searching for and buying the cheapest material you can find. Often, like with most fly fishing gear, the cheapest fly tying materials are not the best quality, which will have you tying sub-par flies that don’t last as long as they should.
To find value in fly tying materials, you need good quality at the lowest price, which involves shopping around from fly shop to fly shop or website to website until you find this happy medium.
Buying Fly Tying Materials From The Right Places
An online shop has was fewer overheads than a fly shop on your local high street and therefore can afford to drop the pricing down a bit. But, fly shops are still useful when it comes to sourcing quality fly tying materials, so it’s best to mix and match in our opinion.
Here is a guide to what supplies to buy online and when it’s best to source suppliers from your local shop.
Buying Fly Tying Materials Online
JS Stockard Fly Fishing
JS Stockard has an amazing selection of fly tying materials online including feathers, synthetic dubbing, thread, synthetic, foam, hair, fur, and more. Any fly tying materials you need, they will have it and it often comes with free shipping.
All the materials are excellent and they are about 20-30% cheaper than the materials you’ll find locally. The more supplies you buy at once from this online store, the cheaper your fly tying materials become, so it’s worth stocking up in bulk, here is the link.
Allen Fly Fishing
Hooks and beads are the most expensive supplies you need for fly tying and Allen Fly Fishing offers great quality hooks and beads at awesome prices.
You can find trout, steelhead, jig, and saltwater hooks, and to give you an idea of pricing, a pack of 25 trout hooks costs around $3 compared to around $7 in a local store. They are all of excellent quality and you’ll find that 99% of them never break.
When it comes to beads, Allen is also great in price and you’re going to spend upwards of 50% less on your beads with them than you would buy shopping locally.
If you want to be really smart, you can wait for their sale to come up when they often knock off 20% on their beads and hooks and buy them in bulk for the year. Here is the link to Allen Fly Fishing so you can sign up as a customer and subscribe to their sale newsletter.
Ebay is a great way to get awesome deals on a selection of fly tying materials but you have to know you’re game.
If you’ve been fly tying for years, you’ll be able to spot if the fly tying materials are are good quality or not just from the photo.
If you’re new to tying flies then be cautious on Ebay. You might see a great deal on say beads and synthetic but end up with poor materials and thus ugly flies than don’t last.
Buying Materials Locally
It’s best to buy around 90% of your fly materials online from a budgetary perspective but there is nothing quite like the customer advice you’ll get at a local fly shop plus you can see, feel, and inspect the selection of fly tying materials you’re after.
Not all fly tying supplies are made equal and when it comes down to picking things like hair, feathers and fur saddles, you can’t guaranteed the quality online, you need to touch it. This is where paying a bit extra is worth it, as it’s better to have good materials that poor ones, regardless of the price.
Another great thing about shopping for materials locally is that there is no waiting around for delivery so if you need something urgantly to finish tying some flies for an upcoming trip, they are your best bet.
When in your local tying store, make sure you get all the free customer advice that you can, especially if you’re new to tying. The guys in the store will know their stuff and they love chatting fly tying with any customer who needs it.
Tips On Buying Materials Economically
Buy Variety Packs Wherever Possible
When it comes to fly tying, having a big variety makes tying far more economical. It will expand the range of flies you can tie immediately and you’ll be bale to make multiple versions of the same pattern.
Synthetic or natural dubbing variety packs are one of the best to go for as you’ll be able to dub with pretty much and color you need to. You can also using different synthetic or natural dubbing to make different blends and thus expand your variety even further, for free.
Look for split saddles too, as these will come died in two colors instead of just one and the feathers on these are a must have for tieing dry flies, and they’re expensive too. By buying a split saddle, you’re saving 50%, as you get 2 colors for the price of one saddle.
Buy Your Basics In Bulk
There’s a selection of fly tying material that you’ll need to tie every fly with such as thread and hooks, and it’s best to buy them in bulky and variety.
When it comes to thread, having multiple colors of thread and at different deniers opens up the variety of flies you can tie immensely.
95% of the flies you tie will required either UTC 70 or UTC 140 thread, so instead of spending money on different thread deniers, spend it on these two thread deniers but in loads of different colors. Once you’ve stocked up on thread, chances are you won’t run out for years.
See also our post on the Best Fly Tying Thread here.
You should buy your wire the same way you buy your thread, in multiple colors and in different diameters. You don’t need to go crazy on different diamaters though, just pick a thinner and thicker one and invest in color diversity instead. Again, this is where variety makes things far for econimical.
Foam is another great thing to have in bulk, and it’s cheap, so be sure to buy a large piece so it’s always available. White foam and some colorful marker pens is your most economical bet, as you can color the foam into what ever color you like.
Hooks & Beads
Whatever you’re fly tying, hooks and beads are essential for every fly, so as mentioned above, you should wait for discounts and buy them in bulk. But, only by hooks in the size you’re fly tying in. For example, you’re probably tieing way more size 16 dry flies than size 6, so there is no need to buy size 6 dry hooks.
Cut Out The Middle Man
One way to make fly tying far more economical is to source the materials yourself. This means either becoming a hunter or having some hunting buddies who will give you the materials.
People hunt duck, geese, pheasants, deer, elk, moose, rabbit and more, so if you can get a hold of the hides and feathers for free, you’ll save a pile of cash.
The quality will most likely not be the same as you’d buy from the store and curing them is a bit of a costly learning curve, but having some free materials to add in here and there is never a bad thing. The best place to start is with feathers and go on from there.
Tying Up & Flying Out
There is nothing quite like the feeling of catching a fish on a fly you have tied yourself. It really gets your motivation and creative juices flowing and is a big part of what makes fly fishing so all consuming and fun.
I hope, through all the tips and advice above, you’ll be able to save a few bucks or more on your fly tying gear and also be able to tie a huge variety of flies. Don’t be scared to buy in bulk and always be wary of the quality if a deal looks too good to be true.
Thanks for readying my article, I hope you enjoyed it. Happy tying, and until next time, tight lines!