The hidden cost of fly fishing

I don’t think there are any of us who would argue that fly fishing, if you want it to be, can be an expensive hobby. High end rods costing upwards of £500, reels of a similar price, line, clothing and those oh so essential gadgets and gizmo’s all mount up to a kings ransom if you let it.

One area I never really considered costly, until chatting with a fellow member of the DAA when out the other night, was the fly’s we use to fool our quarry.

For as long as I’ve been fly fishing I’ve been tying my own flies. I would never ever claim they’re are works of art, or that they come close in appearance and craftsmanship as those that can be purchased from your local tackle store; but as with most ‘tyers’ I enjoy the idea of fooling a trout into taking a fly I’ve tied, they seem to do the job and they hold together on the hook for as long as I need them to.

In tying my own flies I’ve been ignorant of the actual cost of a shop bought fly. All the materials I have have been built up over years, with the only regular expense being hooks and stocking up on the odd bobbin of thread or two. That hairs mask I bought 5 years ago for £3 has still got some life left in it (hopefully not mites!), and those oh so expensive Metz hackles I paid a little over £20 for 12 years ago are still going strong.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a prolific tier, but I make what I need. when I used to live down in Lincolnshire, and the only trout fishing to hand was lakes and reservoirs, I’d carry a huge wooden double sided fly box filed with all sorts of gaudy lures, traditional nymphs and delicate dries. Nowadays I prefer the simple approach of two small Richard Wheatley fly boxes – if I can’t fit what I need in them, it’s not coming with me.

The conversation I had with my fellow club member started with a shared joke about a notorious fly catching tree he was at that moment trying (unsuccessfully) to extract his fly from. He’d already lost five flies that evening in various trees and bushes along the bank side, and with the loss of this one was seriously considering calling it a night.

I thought that was a bit of an extreme reaction to loosing a few flies, until he told me he’d paid 60p each for them. That’s £3.60 worth of flies buried in the flora and fauna in a little over an hours fishing. Now, there is an argument to say he should be a little more careful/better caster, but I doubt there will be anyone reading this who doesn’t consider themselves fortunate to come away from the river with the same amount of flies in their box they arrived with.

In the whole grand scheme of things, £3.60 isn’t going to break the bank, but with two or three sessions a week on the river at this time of year, it could soon turn into the price of a night out.

I could be drinking this, instead of trying to extract my fly from this tree...
I could be drinking this, instead of trying to extract my fly from this tree…

I can only imagine stocking up with flies from the tackle shop must be a fairly tense experience. If I want to experiment with some traditional wet flies (something I don’t really use much of), I’ll have a crack at making some one evening at the vice. I may only use them once or twice and decide it’s not for me; if I had to go to the tackle shop and stump up three or four quid for a selection I may think twice about it and go for one of the more reliable patterns instead.

I’ve never really calculated the cost per fly that I create, maybe if I did I’d get a nasty surprise and find I’ve been paying 60p a pop for the last 20 years; but I don’t think I am.

However, I won’t be working it out – I’ll be staying blissfully unaware. And not thinking of the pint I won’t be able to buy as I next attempt to wrestle a size 16 klinkhammer from the clutches of an overhanging beach tree.

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