Re: Local Fly Shop or Buy Online?
Generally, i'm an online guy. Only for materials, rods, reels etc.
The deals to be had online and the selection, including your mentioned free shipping, no tax and other incentives are more widely available, especially if you know exactly what you want. Case in point. I went on line today and bought 3x white flymaster, Ice dub, GP neck(topping and tippets) and cyclops beads. All zero tax, and the flymaster was just $1 per spool. With standard shipping ($3) i would have been out less than $20, but i opted for priority for $2 more. Generally i hate to pay shipping, hence why i used this vendor (The low standard rate) and more often than not i'll pay a few extra bucks to reach the free shipping minimum and get more materials for my money. Today i got only what i needed for $22 shipping. I could have gotten free shipping at another vendor (no minimum spend) but they are notoriously slow shippers since they think its fine as the offer free shipping, but i need this stuff fast.
I generally base my vendor decision on 3 things:
Speed of service/turnaround time
Shipping cost/free shipping minimum spend
Selection of materials i need.
Sometimes one store will have the majority of what i want, and if i'm not in absolute need of everything i'll go with that store.
If i'd gone to a local store, i'd have had to factor in gas to the store (>10 miles away; 20 mile round trip) high base prices on all the items, and tax - easily $30 for the same stuff i just got for $22 shipped, and little more than 20 mins of my time.
In terms of flies, i tie my own, except when at a new location. I'll stop by a local outfitter, ask for some advise on hatches etc and pick up some flies. I've yet to find a deal for equipment that i couldn't better online.