Fly fishing, like any specialty sport,
can be quite expensive. The median price
for a decent rod is probably $300, reels
can cost anyway from $32 for the tried and
true Pflueger Medalist to $1,500 plus for a
Bogdan, and even a decent fly line is probably
going to cost $50. And, while pricey, these
are precisely engineered tools made specifically
for fly fishing. Don't scrimp on the essentials
(but realize that a $1,500 reel may be a want,
not a need).
But it seems as if many fly fishing stores
assume that if one is willing to pay $300 for
a rod they are also willing to pay $135 for
a pair of needle nosed pliers, and it's at
this point that a reality check comes in handy.
I have a personal pet peeve concerning items
that aren't exclusive to fly fishing but quadruple
in price when they pass through the fly shops'
door. There's no need to spend $2 on a two-bit
comb because it comes packaged as a fly tying
tool. There are other venues for accessories
that are worth exploring, and you can save quite
a few bucks in the process. Squirrel away the
money you save for that Bogdan.
Stores like Home Depot are a treasure trove for
the fly fisher. Things like epoxy were around
long before epoxy flies, and the local hardware
store, unaware that you are using their epoxy for
fly tying, will charge you the same price that
they charge they guy trying to fix his sink.
I buy all of my fly boxes from Home Depot, clear
rugged plastic boxes with good hinges that will
hold all my flies at a price of $1.65 apiece.
And there are other things for the fly tyer, like
bottle corks for poppers, copper wire for nymphs,
even bead chain eyes, all at a substantial savings
over the same purchase at a fly shop.
Fabric and Craft shops have many of the items
a fly fisher uses at a significantly reduced
price. I recently bought 10 sheets of 8 X 12
craft foam in various colors for $6.95. Two
3.75 X 6 pieces sells for $2.95 in the fly shop.
You can buy 100 yards of chenille from a fabric
store for $7.64. Five yards costs $2.25 at the
fly shop. Do the math: the chenille is marked
up 600% over the retail fabric store price. In
his excellent book, Production Fly Tying,
A.K. Best recommends Wiss thread clip scissors
for the tier. I note that some fly shops have
taken this suggestion and are selling the Wiss
scissors for $20. Wiss scissors are actually
sewing scissors, and you can pick up a pair at
a fabric store (or on the web) for $5.35.
Drugstores are good for more than the hangover
medicine needed after attending the Florida
Fish-In; you can also find items that will
help with your fly tying. Cuticle scissors
are great for cutting the coarser materials,
like wire and tinsel that would dull your
good scissors. You can pick up a pair for
under $10, and they usually come with a
lifetime guarantee. Sally Hensons Hard
As Nails nail polish makes excellent head
cement, and there are other, more colorful
nail polishes that come in handy for coloring
flies (if you're the insecure type, ask the
missus to pick them up for you). Nail clippers
make perfect nippers, and most come with a
small file you can use as a hook hone.
Believe me, I am as convinced as the next guy
that Walmart is out to conquer the planet. But
that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of
the bargains found there. I bought an Eastsport
travel bag that works perfectly as a chestpack
for a mere $7. A similar bag sells in the fly
fishing catalogs for over $40. I also buy all
of my fluorocarbon at Walmart, Berkley Vanish
in 228 meter spools for under $10. One hundred
meters from the local fly shop costs $24.95.
And lest you think it's better quality, I can
say that I have been using the Berkley fluro
for over four years and have never lost a fish
due to leader failure.
I'm not suggesting you boycott your local fly
shop; I wouldn't buy a rod or reel or waders
or line from any place but. I am saying there
is no reason to pay four times the retail value
for an item just because you found it in a fly
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," Freud said.
And sometimes a comb is just a comb and a pair
of scissors is just a pair of scissors, no matter
what it says on the package. ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.