Wonderful question! As fly anglers there are a ton of considerations in determining if you want to tie your own flies or simply purchase them. And if you are buying should it be from a fly shop or the one of many internet suppliers out there. So what is right for you? Do you tie? Or do you buy?
Space. If you decide you’d like to delve into the world of fly tying, the first consideration, other than price, is … do you have the space to set up a fly tying station? I’ve seen fly tying benches with more feathers and foam on them than you’d ever believe. I’ve seen fly tying benches that magically morph into entire rooms. Yet conversely, I’ve seen portable benches where fly tyers will simply pick up the materials they need for a specific pattern and can whip off a fly in a matter of minutes from basically anywhere they happen to be. The commitment level to fly tying will dictate what kind of space you’ll need to get things rolling. Keep in mind, tying of one’s own flies is an ever expanding activity that could very easily turn into an addiction. When you buy your flies, you simply need a the space to house your fly boxes.
Customization. One of the key benefits of tying your own flies is that you can make them to any specification you want. You know your favourite streams and rivers inside and out, you know what patterns work, and what colors have produced for you in the past. When you tie your own flies, you can create whatever you want. When you buy flies, you will spend a ton of time examining each fly before you buy to ensure the size, color, style of hook and overall presentation are what you want and what you expect. However, that kind of shopping may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Cost. Purchasing the gear to tie flies is a front heavy endeavor meaning there is a significant cost in equipping yourself with the right tools, vice, fur and feathers to effectively tie your own flies. A quick google search revealed vices ranging from $12 dollars to over $400. Remember, you get what you pay for. Fur and feathers can be quite costly as well. With partridge feathers running for $70 bucks, costs can really add up. That said, synthetic material isn’t nearly as expensive, so it’s an option if you don’t mind skimping in purity. Buying your flies takes much of the cost out of the equation up front. Flies can run you anywhere from a few cents per unit to $10 or more per fly.
Social. Many fly tyers enjoy the social aspect of tying flies. It’s not uncommon to see a group of people huddled together in the back of a bar with pints flowing and fur and feathers flying! Monthly or weekly club meetings are enjoyed by many as it’s an excuse to get out, talk shop and share ideas of what is working and what isn’t. Tying flies has also proven as therapeutic in the rehabilitation of physical and mental injuries. The repetitive motion and the exposure to other like-minded people actually assists in rehabilitation time. Buying flies doesn’t offer any of the social benefits tying does. www.projecthealingwaters.org
These are but a few considerations to take in when deciding whether to buy or tie your own flies. Regardless of the way you acquire your flies, you’re still participating in an fantastic sport chasing finned creatures on fly.