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  1. #1

    Default cheap and effective fly tying

    I made the following statement in a thread, so decided I better back it up…

    #10 streamer, #12, #14 nymph, and #16 dry fly hooks, peacock herl, some hackle (I like grizzly), elk hair, pheasant tail, some dubbing material, maribou, mallard flank (I like the yellow color), thread, small copper wire, a bobbin, head cement, and some scissors, a vice, are all you really need to start tying buggers, stillwater nymphs, EHCs, birdsnests, Arizona Peacock Ladies, and other flies that will catch fish. in the above list the only not really cheap item is the grizzly hackle unless you can find some hundred packs.

    I was thinking about doing a write up on fishing and fly tying on the cheap, just have not got around to it yet. I can't say I dont have money invested in materials as I have lots of materials, and use most of it occasionally, but I make sure I never run out of peacock herl, yellow mallard flank feathers, and grizzley hackle - especially if you are fishing stillwater.

    Materials and Costs:
    Hooks - $5 bucks for 50 (4 x 5 = $20)
    Herl - $4
    Hackle – Whiting 100 pack (if you can find it) $20 the used to be $10 and readily available
    Elk Hair or Comparadun Hair – $3 to $5
    Pheasant tail - $7
    Dubbing – 12 pack dispenser with 12 lifecycle colors - $14
    Maribou - $2.50 to $5
    Mallard Flank - $6
    Copper wire - $1.50
    Thread - $2 a roll
    Head cement (Flexament) $4.00
    Vise and tools – price varies – you can buy a cheap kit for $30 that has a vice, scissors, bobbin, hackle pliers, whip finish tool, etc (I’ve been using mine for 3 years) or a top of the line vice for $300 and individual tools at $4 to $30 each. For the purpose of this article – I have the Cabela’s Deluxe Tool Kit with Case – currently on sale (10/26/11) for $29.99

    Total investment tolls and materials (from above) ~$100

    Question: Can you tie cheaper than you can buy – well, I think the answer is either yes, no, or maybe. You can break even, if you use the above “cheap list”, you should be able to tie a couple hundred flies (you have 200 hooks) which would be cheaper than the cost of 200 flies at a buck a piece.

    However, if you go for the more pricey tools, capes, multiple colors of different tying materials, tie more complex flies, etc, well, it may take longer to break even, or you may find you are behind.

    The real advantage of tying yourself, in my opinion, is you can tie what you want when you want (assuming you have the right materials), it is relaxing, and you never have to worry about the store being out of a hot pattern you want to use – plus, there is nothing quite like the thrill of the first (or hundredth) time you catch a nice trout (or other fish) on a fly you tied yourself.

    I probably have not bought a fly from the store in a year or more, except to support my local fly shop and when I want to get a little local knowledge at a remote shop.

    Patterns you can tie with the above list:
    You can of course tie a bunch of unnamed patterns, with grizzly hackles or grizzly hackle that is palmered into the dubbing or peacock herl body, use Pheasant tail for wing cases, wrapped marabou bodies, etc. Here are a few that come to mind that are known patterns you can tie with the material list above – maybe not an exact to the pattern (zug bug, bi-visible, etc) but close enough to catch fish:

    Wooly buggers (use a peacock herl brush, 6 strands of herl, or wrapped maribou for the body), Stillwater nymphs, EHCs, birds nest, Peacock Ladies, PTN, Griffith Gnat, Grizzly Bivisible, stimulators, mosquito, Brassie, Copper John, Grizzly Zug bug Nymph, and many more. Maybe we should have a swap where the only material that can be used is in the above list to see how creative people can be.

    My favorite Stillwater nymph: Not sure if there is a name for it or not, but I call it a peacock and mallard nymph

    #12 Nymph hook

    Yellow died mallard flank for the tail, about the length of the hook long (make sure it is well marked) tie the tail in but do not trim the butt section, you are going to use this as a wing case – fold it back and out fo the way, a few wraps of thread will hold it there

    Tie in Small Copper wire for ribbing, grizzly hackle, and 4 strands of peacock herl I wrap the herl with the tying thread to make it stronger (you can make herl brushes if you want), then wrap forward herl and thread together on the hook leaving room for the whipped head.

    Palmer the hackle, but use only 3 or 4 turns

    Reverse wrap the copper wire (wiggle it as you wrap so you dont trap the hackle)

    Pull the mallard over the top of the fly and tie it down

    Trim the hackle fibers so there are no fibers pointing up hackle fibers to the sides and angling down are ok

    Whip finish and head cement.

    Have fun tying and fishing this fly and the others you can tie “on the cheap”


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    quiet corner, ct

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    With only rare exceptions, I've tied all my own flies for around 35 years.
    While I'll experiment, I was never into tying for fun. It was just what I had to do to have the flies I needed.
    I still tie on the Thompson vise I bought in the mid-80's to replace my original Herter's and still use most of the same tools too.
    I have a several lifetimes worth of accumulated materials and I'm painfully aware of the stuff that I never should have bought or collected in the first place.
    Nowadaze I only purchase what I absolutely need, and make do with what have or what I can scrounge.
    And I like it that way.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements. --- Horace Kephart

  3. #3

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    +1 same here

  4. #4

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying


    Me too, I don't tie flies I don't use. the flies listed above, are flies I have used at one time or another either on the lake or rivers locally, and the peacock and mallard nymph recipe is one of my go to flies for the local lakes. I started thinking about the above an decided to put it together while reading all the posts of those who wanted to get started in fly tying without investing several hundred dollars until they figure out if they like tying. Can you spend more, of course you can, and I have. Like you I have feathers and fur that I have used for one type of fly or to tie some special pattern which will probably outlive me and my kids will say what do you use this stuff for....


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    Great post Dave, well done, and well said.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Greenville South Carolina

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    If only we could get every fly fisherman to sit at a vise and tie just one fly. So many don't believe in themselves to have the "creativity" but for simple effective flies as you have listed, its not all that difficult. Having someone to guide you through the first couple helps though.. Once you do a couple and catch fish with them, I believe it to be difficult to turn back to buying flies other than the occassional half dozen to grease the information wheel at a fly shop. Even then, buying materials can grease that wheel just as well.

    Great thread! Tying your own doubles the fly fishing experience IMO. when I'm not on the river, tying is the next best thing.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    quiet corner, ct

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    I can't comprehend how people cannot tie if they fly fish.
    It must be very frustrating to be out on the water knowing that you do not have the own proper fly and still not being able to tie up what you need when you get home.
    The simpler the outfit, the more skill it takes to manage it, and the more pleasure one gets in his achievements. --- Horace Kephart

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Grand canyon of Pa.

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    O.M.G. -- I tie all the time, not just for my shop but just like to tie..I have over 40,000 patterns in books mags, and data bases saved alone. I am always looking for that perfect fish catcher.. every day I try to tie a new fly...
    sandfly/ bob
    N.J.B.B.A. #2215

    I did not escape.....they gave me a day pass!
    from the outer edge of nowhere
    fly tying and fishing Gillie..

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Northern California, USA

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    I'd also suggest tyers take a look for the pattern and instructions for tying the CDC&Elk, a fly attributed to Hans Weilenmann.

    This fly is about as simple as it gets, once you master the methods of selecting and handling proper CDC and elk hair, and how to secure them both to the hook so the CDC 'lays" properly and the elk hair doesn't flare too much or spin around the hook once tied in.

    Hans suggests the TMC 102Y style hook, and I'm 100% with him on this, but you can use a standard "100" style hook as well. And while he's a purist about the natural CDC, I tie this with yellow, fluorescent pink (both available from Marc Pettitjean) and black CDC as well for different lighting and water conditions for better visibility.

    Tie a dozen or more when you tie it, they get beat up pretty badly after 4-6 fish (and that doesn't take too long to occur if you fish it right) =)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Default Re: cheap and effective fly tying

    I am excited to give tying a try, I have my eye on a couple different sets for Christmas, I actually found a pretty nice one at the local sportsmans warehouse, showed my boys, hope they tell there mother....hahahaha or should I say ....hohohooho


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