Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

February 21st, 2005

The Frugal Flyer
By Dave Micus

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.

Hardware Stores:

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/Craft Shops:

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 fishing store.

"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

About 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.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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