There is no shortage of opinions on what represents good value in a fly. Some believe cheaper is best, whilst others believe that quality is most important factor. I’m firmly seated in the second camp; let me explain why.
For me, value is achieved when you purchase a fly that does the job you intend it to, and doesn’t let you down by falling apart or not performing as you expect.
For a fly to perform, it needs to have 3 crucial elements:
1. It needs to be well designed.
If it is, it will perform well. If not, it will frustrate you by sinking when it should float, floating when it should sink, spin when you cast it, not hook up when a fish eats it, or manages to hook up on everything but a fish.
2. It needs to be well tied.
If it is not, it will fail by falling apart, or the eyes will move, it will float sideways or sink, it will foul up, spin, and the list goes on…..
3. It needs to be tied with premium materials on quality hooks.
Poor materials don’t last or perform, and cheap hooks open up, it’s that simple.
If you don’t tie your own flies, it can be a bit of a minefield trying to tick these boxes when looking to purchase flies, but let me tell you, price is usually the best indicator.
People in the cheap camp believe they are only going to loose the fly in a tree or a fish, so why pay more? Well the bad news is that the cheap flies are usually tied in poorly run sweatshops in third world countries, so if you are paying $1.50 for a trout fly, the fly will most likely be poorly tied using poor materials on cheap hooks, and will ultimately let you down when it matters. Where is the value there?
Lets talk saltwater flies now. There are lots of flies on offer, but unfortunately most of them fit into the sweatshop/poor quality category. There are a few companies out there producing good flies at a reasonable cost, but if you are spending thousands on travelling to an exotic saltwater fly fishing destination, you should do what the great fly fishermen do and engage a commercial tyer to select and tie an appropriate range of flies for your target species and location. These flies will tick all the boxes above, and is one of the reasons the best fly fishermen catch more fish.
I only tie flies for Christmas Island commercially. Why? Well for starters I like tying bonefish flies, and due to demand, they are all I have time to tie. I tie 2 days a week, every week, and tie thousands of bonefish flies each year.
I don’t watch the clock when I’m tying, it is all about the quality of the flies. I purchase my bespoke dyed fashion grade Finn Raccoon pelts from Europe, and they are dyed just for me. These pelts are very expensive, but absolutely worth every cent. I could use the cheaper craft fur like most other tyers, but it’s my goal to tie the BEST flies, not the cheapest. I also take the time to coat my bonefish flies with UV resin to increase their durability. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch 20-40 fish on the one fly in the one session. Imagine how many less they would have caught if they needed to change flies every few fish?
All flies fall apart at some point, but I like my flies to do an outstanding job before they do.
Fortunately, I have a fantastic list of new and repeat customers from all over the globe who see value in my approach, so they are obviously just as obsessed as I am. I am grateful for their support, and will continue to provide them with exceptional flies.
I reckon if you are paying ½ as much for crap tied on a hook and called a fly, then you are paying too much. I’m clearly not alone……