Since the fly/lure is the direct connection between us and fish, it would be hard to catch a fish without one. Being able to craft that connection, in turn, makes you a more complete angler.
Many great comments & perspectives here! I also started tying before I owned a fly rod. Tying is what peaked my interest in the sport to begin with.
"Better" is one of those terms that is subjective, but I believe tying has made me a better angler, because as brookfieldangler has said, it makes me more of a complete angler. However, since I fish with other tackle too, I feel that way about fly fishing in general. The method has improved my patience, awareness & thinking process, that can also relate to better fishing with other tackle as well.
I also feel that both parts, tying & fishing need to compliment one another. In that regard, I try to tie with a purpose, not to just fill a fly box, (even though I do that too) but to fill needs for situations I may encounter, just as Rip Tide has said. I believe tying has also given me improved insight into prey species, regardless of what I may be chasing. Some patterns, because of the materials incorporated, will always do a better job of imitating a prey than similar patterns. That does not mean it will look any better, but in the water it may act better. There's a difference, and tying has helped me identify that difference.
I'm not one who believes all tying has to imitate something natural, but does have to include qualities that induce positive reactions from the fish. Over many years of tying, I can now identify those qualities in fly patterns that induce strikes, just as the natural prey does and tie nearly anything that includes those qualities without even thinking about it. It's become a habit (and an addiction!) Same holds true if I buy a pattern. I won't buy flies that I don't feel possess those qualities!
I'm positive, the fact that I've been tying all these years, has improved my fishing. I may have learned the above otherwise, but feel that tying has vastly quickened the learning curve!
I'm in with those saying it makes me pay closer attention to fish activity, hatches, etc. It helps me hone my insights into what fish do and why.
I have an acquaintance who likes to fish bluegills and he often does it by finding a fly they like, then switching to variations, different sizes, and so forth that he's tied up. He insists that his size of fish goes up when he figures out what it is about the fly they are cueing on.
Great posts thus far and an interesting discussion. Tying has made me more aware when I'm on the stream, which I'm sure has some impact on some part of my fishing success at times. Knowing that I can create flies that better replicate a food source I've observed on a stream I fish than store bought flies makes tying that much more a cool hobby.
I don't think it has made me a better fisherman but I am much less afraid of throwing a fly into heavy cover. It does, however give me more time to daydream about all the big ones I am going to catch on the flies as I tie them.
Heavy cover. Me too. I try nooks and things now I might not have with 2.00 flies. And that,,DOES make you a more productive fisherman. That may be the biggest thing a fisherman can overcome that will help him the very most. Going were the good ones hide. If I lose one fly, I have another,,if I lose them all I can tie more..but I WILL go into their bedroom for them now,,were before I might have been hesitant !
I don't know yet, as I'm just learning to tie and haven't fished anything I've tied. However, I can see that, after probably 30 flies, my end products are getting better. As a result my confidence (as mentioned before) will be up when I'm fishing them. While most of what I've tied so far is aimed at the San Juan River, I'm branching into things that have more general applicability.
Another yes. Tying has made me much more aware of fly types/sizes/colors/action; and how certain flies should be weighted to fish in the water column.
Might have learned most by buying flies, but sure would have taken longer.
To tie a fly that is going to work for where I am going to fish, I think about where the fish are going to be, what kind of presentation I need to show them, what depth I need to fish at, what kind of bugs are going to be available during which time of the year, etc.
Do I want the fly to be above the weedline, just outside the weed line, high in the water, low in the water, just below the surface or down at the 6, 8 or 12 foot level, what bugs will the fish be looking for, and how would the natural bug react and look at the time and place I am fishing, and how can I tie my fly to represent that.
Then I tie the fly with weight or without, with a material that is going to float or not, with a material that represents gills, or not, stimulator or natural replication, etc
I don't always follow proven patterns, sometimes I tie up my own, sometimes I look at what is there, how it acts, etc adn in trying to replicate what the fish will eat, I think about not just what, but when, where, how to present, depth I am going to fish at, fast or slow retrieves, and what materials are needed to make the fly do what I want it to do and get the fishes attention.
So, yes, in my opinion, tying has made me a much better and more complete fisherman.