Al Campbell, Field Editor

October 29th, 2001

Get Rich Quick - Part 1
By Al Campbell

That's what I said, get rich quick. It's a dream many of us have and one that can bring each of us to ruin if we don't plan our actions carefully. I'm sure some people have realized their dreams by just being lucky, but most either plan and work for their riches or they learn the hard way that riches only come to those who look beyond the dream to the methods required to achieve it.

I want to talk about four recurring dreams I hear people talk about in the chat room and on bulletin boards across the fly-fishing internet. Some of these folks plan to get rich quick. Some plan to make a lot of money and fish a lot too. Some just plan to make a living in the fly fishing business. That last one is possible, but only if you carefully plan your actions and work hard to make it a reality.

Part 1 - The commercial fly tier

"I'm going to quit work, and just tie flies and fish for a living." Many of us have thought that, some have expressed it out loud, and a few have even tried it. However, very few can make a living tying flies, and those who do either have another source of income or they have very little time to fish. Do you really know the costs and benefits?

First, who is going to buy your flies, and at what price? Do you already have an outlet that will buy all the flies you can tie? What price are they willing to pay for your flies? How many flies can you tie in one hour? How much will it cost you to tie each fly; and what will your profits be? How many hours are you willing to work in a day; or, in a week?

Let's tackle that first question. If you plan to tie flies for a living, you need to have a place to sell them before you plunge in head first. Most fly shops already have a source for their flies; so what do you have to offer them that they don't already have? It takes most commercial tiers years to establish enough outlets for their flies to make a living tying them. What's your plan to short-cut that time?

What price will you be able to sell your flies at? Realistically, there are dozens of sources out there that already sell flies to fly shops at approximately 65 cents apiece or $7.50 a dozen on average. The very best sources sell their flies to fly shops for about $10.50 a dozen on average. Let's see, that's about 87 cents a fly for the best, and about 62 cents a fly for good to average tying. Even the average flies use the best hackle and hook brands money can buy, so you won't be able to cut many costs there.

It's going to cost you roughly 1/3rd of your selling price to produce those flies. You'll also be required to pay a 10% excise tax on the sale price of your flies. If your quality is excellent, and you get a shop to agree to buy all the flies you can tie at an average of $10.50 a dozen, that means your hourly wage will be as many flies as you can tie at $5.95 a dozen after costs and taxes. I won't go into the costs of shipping and the time lost to ordering materials and taking orders, but you need to be aware that about 5 to 10 percent of your time will be spent doing these things and there are costs associated with those activities as well.

How many Adams' or Royal Wulff's can you tie in an hour? Let's say you're really fast, and you can tie one Royal Wulff every five minutes or a dozen per hour. That means you'll be making $5.95 per hour for as many hours per day as you can keep up that pace. Let's also say you can do that for ten hours per day, six days a week (60 hours per week). That means you'll make $59.50 per day, $357 per week, and $18,564 per year before income taxes. What would a guy flipping hamburgers at a fast food joint make? At least he'd get overtime pay for 20 of those hours per week; but you won't.

Are you ready to start? Are you ready to get rich quick? I'll add another piece to this puzzle. There are a bunch of sources in Kenya and Asia selling flies to fly shops for less than $5.00 a dozen right now. How long will your buyer continue to buy your flies at more than twice that price per dozen? It's something to think about isn't it?

I tied flies commercially on a part-time basis for many years. When imported flies became the standard in most fly shops, I learned to do something else with my spare time. I learned a lot from the experience, but it sure cut into my fishing time. You probably want to consider that cost too.

I'll ask you again; are you ready to get rich quick? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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