I always try to buy first from local fly shops. Sometimes they don't have what I need, but most can always get it. Sure you can surf online and buy cheaper, but I have better satisfaction knowing I'm spending my money to keep a local fly shop in the area and helping a fellow fly angler. Fly shops are more then just a place to buy gear, it's a place to brag about your big steelhead you caught yesterday, dream about your next fishing excursion, invent the next greatest fly along with a name for it, talk with other anglers who have the fly fishing bug and just a place to BS. You can't get that at Gander Mt.
The fly shop in my town has a great setup for customers to come in and start tying flies with the stuff they just bought off the shelf. It has about 6 vises setup with a good spread of assorted hooks, feathers and what ever is laying around. It's all setup around a large wooden desk, makes a great place to sit tie some flies, tell stories and BS about the upcoming fishing season. But this is why I support local fly shops, the big chains don't offer that.
Well run fly shops will help you with your ideas on your next killer fly your dreaming up. What materials and hooks will work the best for what your trying to conjure up.
So whenever you can, please support your local fly fishing shop.
Check out this video that a local fly shop that I support in my area did with a public TV Station : Fly fishing smallmouth bass St. Louis River Minnesota
. The guy with the beard is the owner.