The one type of fly fishing gear you’re going to buy the most of in your fly fishing career is flies. Not only do you need a box or 5 full of a different variety of flies to make sure you have the right one for each trip, but you’ll also lose flies often.
When fishing on a river surrounded by trees or full of snags, you can lose upwards of 10 trout flies a day just from hooking them on your backcast or on your drift.
To know more about the Different Types of Flies For Fly Fishing see our post here.
Cheap vs Quality – Find The Balance
Cheap fly fishing flies aren’t always quality flies and this is something to be aware of in your search for cheap flies. Just because you save some money on a lower price, doesn’t mean you’re actually saving it.
Poor quality flies are made with poor materials, on unreliable hooks, and tied in a way that the flies don’t last. You might catch one fish with a fly and notice the materials fall off the hook, or have a hook snap when you go to strike a fish.
This isn’t saving money, it’s throwing it into the river. Be cautious when buying discount flies or finding deals on prices that are almost too good to be true, especially from online retailers, or a brand/company/store you don’t know.
Low prices will often equal low quality and end up costing you more money in the end.
Understanding Fly Prices
Flies can range in price from 35 cents per fly for small quality dry flies to 15 dollars per fly for large saltwater flies. Anglers should be aware that the larger the fly, the more materials required, and the more expensive the hooks are for tying.
Understanding this is a great way to spot a bad discount or bad deals. If a large brush fly is on sale for $5, over half what it should cost, then it’s a telltale sign that the hook will rust of the fly will fall apart quickly.
The same goes for a deal offering 100 trout flies for 10 dollars. The beads will probably float instead of sink, the material falls off while casting, and the hook snaps as soon as it touches a fish’s mouth.
You can also check out our Best Trout Flies if you want to know the best flies to catch trout!
Where are flies tied?
Flies are made everywhere in the world and by anyone – from a fly fishing guide down the road to a local fly shop, or huge factory in another country.
Selling flies is a huge industry and a big business in Thailand and Kenya, where most of the flies in the world are made, and where 99% of the people are not into fly fishing. These flies are then exported to online retailers and local shops for anglers to buy.
Companies like Fulling Mill and Umpqua outsource their fly tying to these countries in order to bring the costs down.
Where can you buy your fly fishing flies from?
You have three main options when it comes to buying fishing flies; local stores, an online business or company, and going to the source (factory or tyer). Each has its own pros and cons when it comes to price and quality which we’ll discuss below.
Online fly shops and retailers can afford to sell their flies at lower prices. They have far fewer overheads than a local fly shop and will buy in bulk to hold a lot of stock, also bringing their price per fly down.
Shopping for flies online will give you access to a huge variety of fly patterns, a much larger one than local shops and you often get discount flies or find a sale when shopping online. Also if you buy in bulk, which is ideal when you need a large selection of flies and patterns, an online company will often add a discount to your order as standard.
One thing to be cautious of with online fly shops is both quality and shipping costs. You can’t inspect each fly like you could in a local shop and you might have a hard time gauging the size and quality of the hook from the numbers you see online.
Delivery costs could also trip you up, as paying 5-10 dollars for delivery could equally an extra 10 flies at your local fly shops.
Online flies are cheaper overall and it’s best to test out a few online fly stores to ensure the quality meets your standard and to see if you can avoid any delivery costs. Once you find one you like, stick with it, and they’ll start sending news bulletins with special discount codes to save you even more.
Local Fly Fishing Stores
There is nothing quite like being able to inspect a fly before buying it and this is one of the great things a local fly store can offer. You can take your time, look at each fly in detail, and ensure you’re getting the best bang for your back in terms of quality.
Another awesome thing about local stores is that they will have local patterns that work on the local fish.
If you’re fly fishing somewhere new, then it pays to use local resources as much as possible, and wandering into a local fly fishing store and asking ‘what are the fish eating at the moment?’ will often give you the edge on the water. They’ll suggest something like a dry fly that the fish love but you’ve probably never seen anywhere online.
Buying local is more expensive, so do not buy all your flies from your local shop, just the specialist ones for the local fish, like the magic dry I mentioned above.
Going To The Source
The cheapest way to buy any gear is by going to the source and cutting out the middle man. When it comes to flies, this means the people who tie them.
If your local fishing guide likes to tie flies, then it might be worth making a deal with him/her. Put your fly order in for the year, make a deal on a price that suits both of you, and then the guide can tie them in the off-season when money can be short and there is nowhere to fish.
If you negotiate well, it can work out amazingly for both parties, plus the guides will know which flies work best and make them to high standards.
Another way of going to the source is going directly to the factories abroad. I grew up in Kenya, and have visited the factories and it’s quite an amazing industry to behold. This company, Gone Fishing Kenya, makes high-quality flies and ships worldwide.
It pays to buy a fly pattern by the dozen and by doing so, you can get a trout fly for under 30 cents. Also, if you become a member, you’ll start seeing your fly prices go down and you can even send them samples of flies you want to be recreated.
Something to watch out for is the delivery cost. They are being sent from Africa, so it’s best to buy all the gear you need at once so that you pay one delivery fee instead of 10.
Making your own flies is also an option
Making your own flies does cost quite a bit up front. You have to invest all the tools including bobbins, a vice, whip finish tools, and all the materials and hooks too.
See also our Best Whip Finishing Tool to know the best whip finish tool for you.
To begin with, your flies will end up being quite expensive but if you stick at it for a year or so, each fly you tie will be as cheap as any you can find online, but you get to guarantee the quality and make your own styles too.
But, for this idea to make each fly less expensive, you have to be committed and do it for at least 3 years to start seeing your fly prices going down. You do get to have a new hobby though and there is nothing quite like catching a fish on a fly you have tied yourself.
Thanks a lot for reading my article about how to find the cheapest flies around. I hope you enjoyed it and now have some ideas about how to bring your fly purchasing costs down. Remember, there is always a risk when it comes to cheap flies, so be sure to shop for good value but for well-made flies too, and not just purchase the least expensive ones.
Thanks again for reading and please feel free to share the article with your fishing buddies. Everyone can always do with saving some cash on their fly budget, so they can get some extras, haha. tight lines, and until next time…