Sunday Classic / What To Tie and What To Buy

12 comments / Posted on / by

Photo by Louis Cahill

I should be sleeping.

Oh man, that would feel good, it’s been a while. I’m flying to Colorado tomorrow. I wouldn’t be home today if a crown hadn’t fallen out of my mouth. This would have been the third trip in a row with only one day at home between but an emergency dentist appointment has bought me a night to tie flies.

That’s how summer is for me. These days it’s kind of how winter is too. With all of the travel and shooting and fishing and writing, there’s no time to tie. When I drive, I travel with a tying kit. I pack the materials I think I’ll need for the trip at hand and tie a few flies for the day. When I fly, I’m screwed. I find myself, time and again, on some piece of epic water fishing the dregs of the box or begging flies from a buddy.

In a perfect world I’d tie all of my flies but my world is far from perfect. With one night to tie, I’m faced with a question. What do I tie and what do I buy? It’s triage. Here’s how I prioritize.

First priority, the hot stuff.

Like every angler I have proprietary patterns. My dirty little secrets. The flies I don’t talk about. The ones you have to fish with me to see. They’re hot and I can’t buy them when I’m out. They’re first on the list.

Second priority, hot materials.

There are some classic patterns I fish that I tie with little variations. A different color, a little more flash, maybe it makes a difference and maybe it doesn’t but I like to show the fish something different so those flies are next on the list.

Third priority, the simple stuff.

This is where the the cheap bastard in me comes out. Simple impressionistic patterns that catch fish and take no time to tie. Worms, Soft Hackles, Hairs Ears, Woolly Buggers, Midges, Parachutes. Knock ’em out quick. Those beautiful realistic patterns are fun to tie but when time is tight, buy ’em.

Even if I’m fully stocked I end up buying flies. First off, I believe in supporting local fly shops. Independent fly shops are the heart of our sport and it’s tough to keep one going. I can always use a few more flies and the guys at the shop should know what’s working. I’ve been in a few shops where they just try to unload the junk on you. Here’s a tip, don’t buy flies from the bin that’s full. It’s the fly they’re almost out of that you want. The other thing I like about buying flies on the road is picking up local patterns to copy when I get home.

If you have a system for what you tie and what you buy, I’d love to hear about it. Post a comment.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

12 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / What To Tie and What To Buy

  1. I can only fish flies that I have personally tied. I like to carry a box full of nymphs and a few woolly buggers/crayfish patterns. I just can’t bring myself to buy a fly shop fly. If I have a friend that has a great fish catching fly I will take the fly and make my own version of it and try to figure out what the fish might think it is. If I get low on nymphs I will pull out a box of San Ron Worms to fish with. They almost always catch fish.

  2. I used to buy all my flies, it’s ready to spend 100 bucks at a fly shop if you want everything you think you need to fish. I invested in fly tying tools and materials about a year ago and now I only tie my own flies. I keep it simple and fun. I personally feel the more complicated patterns are more for the consumer than the fish.

  3. I am not the best at tying, and I don’t always buy, but when I do…. A lot of expensive flies from New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong I visit with local shops, and buy what is hot and some gink and tippet. But New Zealand has such picky fish that many sites on the web have some seriously good nymphs/ stoneflies

  4. I am also big into supporting the local shops. I often travel by car with a travel fly tying setup that is always full of the “third priority” materials, and a various random materials that can be used in place of others when in need of a certain pattern. Because most of the water that I fish is a ways away from the university I am a student at, I always go to a nearby fly shop (or two) before hitting the water. I always pick out a few flies to buy if they give some helpful info on the current hatches, etc. Its a good way to trade some business for some knowledge that could make the drive more than worth it. Happened to me the other day and I had one of my best days on the water in months.

  5. I try to buy a couple from any local independent fly I visit, just to show support & say thanks – especially if they provide info on local waters.

    In general, I tie size 12 and larger, and buy size 14 and smaller. It’s easier on my brain that way.

  6. I have my go to lure and nymph box for New Zealand and you have to tie your own as flies are 4 or 5 dollars a go and when you lose some many it can be an expense day on the river / lake – I love to look into local anglers fly boxes and will take a photo if allowed to tie some up later – I require quick easy generic patterns to tie – also happy yo swap flies when out and about – I try not to “buy” if I can 🙂

  7. I’ve been lucky enough to fish in many of the rivers this great country has to offer. Unfortunately I find that most fly shops fill their bins with the same generic patterns from overseas (MFC, Umpqua, etc). A couple of the older Catskills shops tie all their own, but they are a rarity. If I’m buying flies I prefer the person who tie them be a fly fisher, not a sweat shop employee.

  8. Stuff to buy?

    Anything under size 18. For the same reason why I pre-tie them with 12 inches of leader material at home in a vise. Also throw a loop on the opposite end.

    Anything that uses expensive or specific materials that is only used for a few patterns.

    Anything that’s used for a specific fishery that I’m not sure I’m going to consistently fish for or going to be in a position to use again.

  9. I paid my dues to fly shops, and then I started tying. After too many trips buying too many flies they recommended that did not work or I did not know how to use, I have a ton of flies that I don’t need of fish. So I started tying, and every once in a blue moon I will find a fly in a shop that I bite on. Now I try to tie everything I can, whether it turns out or not, just to do it…with the exception of some salt flies, because they are my weakness.

  10. I’m with you – I usually buy some flies from the local shop because 1) they usually know what works best on their waters, 2) I usually don’t have time to tie, and 3) I really want the local shop to be there next time I come back. Actually seems fairly simple to me – just think, act and buy local!

  11. Louis,
    Your approach is exactly what I have evolved to over many years. It would be stupid to buy simple flies I can tie up quickly and cheaply for a couple bucks a pop. But most of my tying focuses on my versions of favorites that have enough distinction from the standard store bought patterns that it gives me an advantage.

    I do buy hot flies at the shop in a pinch, but like you I prefer to buy one to use as a pattern if I have time to tie.

    When I used to fly to AK, I brought a travel vise, bobbin and scissors and a small plastic bag of materials and I tied across the country and up to AK. I asked the lodge owner what was hot before leaving and tied plenty of those. On one trip I had enough of my version of the top producing pattern not only for me and my son but to share at the lodge as well. I was a popular guy. The tray table works fine as a bench if you stay organized. Now that I think about it, it was the days before 911, so tying scissors may be an issue today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...