By Steve Clark
For many fly-fisherman, fly-tying is a serious hobby. Given that tying your own flies provides so much satisfaction, why buy flies online?
For many fly-fisherman, fly-tying is a serious hobby. Not only is fly-tying economical, it is enjoyable. Nothing beats the thrill of mastering a new fly pattern, or creating specialized flies for ones' unique fishing situations. Also, one cannot underestimate the sense of adventure that accompanies the fly-fisher on the prowl for the perfect materials, whether browsing the local fly shop, ransacking a craft store, or even salvaging road kill.
Given that tying your own flies provides so much satisfaction, why buy flies online?
Obtain local fly patterns
The first reason is that as your fly fishing experience grows, your desire to test new and foreign waters increases. As a result, your need for localized patterns becomes more important. Sure, you want to do the research and tie your own variations of the Club Sandwich before you hit the Snake River for the first time, but there's something to be said about fishing the tried and true local patterns on your initial outings to foreign waters. With that idea established, you can either buy these flies from a local shop or purchase them online. I recommend doing both.
Say you live in New Jersey and you're planning your first trip to Colorado. You and your buddies plan to hit a few a rivers within 10 days. Before you go, do research on the internet - find out what's hatching on these rivers when you plan to visit them, and what patterns work best. Then, based on your research, purchase enough flies online to cover you while fishing these waters. Now you have a safety net - you won't have to worry about not having enough flies for the rivers you'll fish at the end of your trip.
Next, research local shops on the internet - find out who the proprietors are and when they are open for business. Now this idea might seem obvious to many of you, but make it a point to stop at these shops before you fish. When you arrive, ask them about recent fishing activity and what flies they would recommend. Tell them about your trip, let them know you found their site on the internet, and ask for their advice. Tell them what flies you already have and ask about what else you may need. If your budget allows, purchase as many of the flies they recommend.
Save time while supplementing your current collection
There comes a time in which your energy is better focused on fishing than tying flies. A typical North American fly-fisher and fly-tyer spends the "off" months tying flies for the season ahead. Many fisherman focus the bulk of their tying efforts on the winter months to prepare for spring, summer, and fall fishing. If you are one of those anglers who feel like they never have enough flies, purchasing your "basic" flies online can leave you time to focus on the more specialized, region-specific flies that you might not find on the web. For example, why not buy your attractor flies such as Adams or Stimulators, so that you can concentrate on the special mayfly flies that you know will require special attention to detail? The same idea applies to those "hard-to-tie" flies - if you dislike tying size 24 Tricos, why not buy those items online so you have more time to crank out the flies you prefer to tie?
Also, consider how much your time is worth. Think about your fly-tying time as if you were a professional fly-tyer. How much is an hour of your fly-tying time worth? If it takes you two hours to tie twelve size 26 BWO emergers, you might be better off spending $10 on a dozen of the same fly so that you can use those two hours to tie 18 Rusty Spinners.
No matter what you want to purchase, nothing beats the internet for window shopping. I have seen the same fly pattern tied three different ways on three different sites. This variety allows you to find the best pattern that matches your intended fishing location. For example, if you plan to fish faster moving water, your parachute patterns might need a bit more hackle, or even a brighter post. On the other hand, if you plan to fish tailwaters, your mayfly patterns might need to sit lower on the water. By the same token, if you intend to fish mostly in the spring, your mayfly patterns might need to be a lighter color than if you intend to fish in the fall.
By browsing different sites for the same patterns, you will be able to compare patterns and ascertain the right fly for you. The best way to do this is to open two or three browser windows at a time on your computer. Then go to different sites in each browser and compare the patterns you are interested in.
Quite simply, buying flies online can save you money. Not only can you find discounts for large orders, the actual cost of individual flies can be lower than if you purchased flies from some of the larger fly fishing retailers. The best online merchants often charge as little as 65 cents (sometimes, even 50 cents for fly patterns). One disadvantage is that you don't get to inspect the flies before you purchase them, unlike in a store. I recommend buying a few different patterns your first time so that you can determine not only the quality of the flies, but the consistency of the quality across different patterns. For example, a good initial purchase might include a stonefly nymph, a caddis pattern, a mayfly emerger, a mayfly dun, and an attractor pattern. This way you could check the various elements of typical flies such as tails, dubbing, hackle, deer-hair, and hook strength.
Types of web sites
There are hundreds of web sites that sell flies online. These sites fall into two categories: companies that only sell flies, and fly shop owners who run web sites for their businesses.
Businesses whose sole purpose is to sell flies online usually have a greater amount of flies available. One advantage these sites offer is that they are more likely to offer discounts on larger purchases. Also, their web sites tend to be more user-friendly (though not always). Many of these sites typically include advanced functionality that make selecting and purchasing flies easier on the user. The best of these sites allow you to set up personal accounts or use "shopping carts" to store your selections before purchasing. In this manner, the purchase experience is more convenient. Shopping carts tend to be "persistent" - in that a visitor may select items to the cart one day and return to the site at later time to find that the shopping cart still contains the previous selections. This allows you to select items you are interested in, leave the site and do more research, then alter or add to your selections later.
Fly shop web sites, on the other hand, typically present the user with flies specifically relevant to the area that the fly shop services. You have a better chance of purchasing flies that are most effective to the area you want to fish if you purchase them from local fly shops. Furthermore, you are supporting the local economy of the area in which you desire to fish. Many fly shop web sites also include online hatch charts which can inform you of flies you most likely need.
The authors experience
In the spring, and summer I do a lot of fishing on the Delaware River in the Catskills Mountains of New York. Throughout the winter I will tie a decent amount of the flies I actually need. As spring approaches, I have found that supplementing my collection with web-bought flies ensures that I am ready to meet the various hatches encountered in the spring. Any Delaware River fly fisherman will tell you that hatch-matching is a critical part of success on this river. In my limited experience, I have encountered days in which four or five different hatches took place. On top of that, the hatches change from week to week. I have ensured a decent modicum of success by checking local hatch charts ahead of time and then purchasing a dozen flies from week to week.
Hopefully, these tips will help you increase the amount of flies you own, and enhance your fly-fishing experience.
Article courtesy of Steve Clark of TotalFlyFishing.com at
www.totalflyfishing.com This article cannot be reproduced anywhere else without his consent.
About the Author
Steve Clark runs TotalFlyFishing.com, an internet resource guide for fly fishing.