Thursday, January 21, 2016

The River Creature

  Last week a friend texted me a photo of a streamer and asked if I could tie it for him. OK, no problem, except for figuring out the size of the fly from a cell phone photo. I had all the materials on hand and proceeded to tie three  versions in different sizes and different weighted heads. He was so overjoyed with the results he asked me to tie him 100 more. You may remember me saying in a previous post that the best way for me to ruin an enjoyable hobby is to turn it into a business but this time I decided to disregard my own advice and took my first plunge into production fly tying.

  Because this was a first time thing for both of us I suggested it might be wise to start off smaller and we decided 50 was a better number. I spent the first day compiling a material list and searching the web for their  availability and the best prices. It really wasn't a surprise that there was only one place where all the materials could be found under one roof...Bass Pro Shop. With a material and price list in hand it was time to negotiate a fee where we could both get a nice return.

  I declined his offer to pick up the materials and deliver them to my door for two reasons; he isn't that knowledgeable on the subject and wouldn't be able to make substitutions without my input and I had a long list of stuff I wanted to buy for myself. This turned out to be the second big mistake I'd made in the planning stage. The first mistake was not realizing all the prices on the Bass Pro web site are in US dollars so it cost me an extra $10 for materials and $20 for gas. Live and learn. The funny thing was that after cashing out in the fly shop I noticed three bins full of River Creatures, the same fly from the text photo. The major differences between it and what I was tying were the BP fly was tied on a curved shank hook and used medium crystal chenille instead of the large I'd bought.
med/small Fish Skull on a #4 Carlisle hook
3/8" cone eyes on a #4 Carlisle hook
1/4" cone on a #6  Aberdeen hook 
  It took just over 10 hours to complete the order with a few problems along the way. Normally, when working with coneheads, I don't glue eyes to them, so having them occasionally rotate on the hook shank isn't a problem. Cock-eyed creatures are unacceptable, so a thread dam behind the eye secured the cones from rotating. I'd bought some super glue to secure the eyes but immediately found it was too runny, difficult to control, and ultimately made a big mess particularly when trying to apply the mylar eyes to the curved surface of the smaller cones. Mixing small batches of 5 minute epoxy and applying tiny daubs with a pin solved that problem.
  I can honestly say I didn't enjoy the process all that much, but it was a learning experience and it did give me a chance to re-stock my drawers and put a few bucks in my pockets.


  1. John, production tying is a feat for special people. It seems to make an enjoyable pastime into a time of hell. I do a few orders but never over 20 flies.
    And they are wonderful flies...spend your profits buddy.

    1. Thank you Alan.
      My friend thinks they are more wonderful than I do. Around here, nearly all the cheap flys you find in small tackle shops and the fishing departments of department stores like Wallmart and Canadian Tire are tied in China, so it's not surprising that my profits amounted to my 1979 wages.

  2. Well John, so what do you charge for a handful. I really like the looks of that fly. What is your friend targting?

  3. Thanks Howard
    My friend is mostly targeting retail customers, but I believe he will also be using them on steelhead. I won't tell you how much I charged him but my cost, excluding fuel, averaged $1.40 each!