Commercial and Production Fly Tying

This is a short post on some of my experience with commercial and production tying.

After tying flies for 25 years, I began a four-year stint of commercial tying for Cathy & Barry Beck at their former shop, Fishing Creek Outfitters, near Benton, Pennsylvania. From autumn of 1989 to 1993 I produced over 3,000 dozen flies; a combination of patterns that were primarily drys, including: Marinaro Style Thorax Duns, Polywing Thorax Duns, Hackle and Synthetic spent-wing spinners, Comparaduns, Tricos, Catskill drys, Wooly Buggers, traditional dry fly patterns, mayfly nymphs, Elk Hair Caddis, Wulffs, bead heads, and more. During this time period I changed my preference from using hackle fibers for dived tails on drys to preferring Microfibetts exclusively. I like them because of their consistent quality and ease of use. Also, after watching Barry Beck demonstrate his technique, I modified and (in my opinion), improved on his figure-eight method of dividing Microfibetts with only the tying thread. Using Microfibetts, I can tie in and divide a three-fiber tail for Tricos and Baetis, or a double split: 2/2 – #18 – #22 Baetis; 3/3 – #14 – #16 PMD’s, Sulphurs, Olives; 4/4 – #10 – #12 Hendrickson, March Brown, Slate Drake; or 5/5 – #10 – #8 Green Drake, Brown Drake, Yellow Drake; in less than ten seconds. Speed of secure attachment to move to the next step is important to me in tying split tail drys.

I have said this for years – the amount of tying I did in the first year of commercial tying was way more than in the previous twenty-five years. I learned so much from the sudden intensity of commercial fly tying. That is when I learned to hold my scissors in my hand while tying. I was still using my original Thompson A vise, but in the first year I wore out the original set of jaws and bought new ones. In 1991 I bought my first Regal vise and am still tying on a Regal.

I still have half the skin of an entire deer hide with most of the hair cut off – all of which went one fly at a time, into the tying of Comparaduns. I also tied commercial orders for other fly shops, including Slate Run Tackle Shop in Slate Run, Pennsylvania, and The Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, Maine.

More than once I went through an entire Metz hen back in one day tying Marinaro style Thorax Duns. More than once I went through a full spool of Monocord in one day tying woolly buggers. Many times, in a single day, all the size #14 hackles from a dry fly cape were pulled off and tied into flies. This experience was of great benefit to my tying ability and I am grateful to have had the opportunity.

The last time I produced a big batch of flies was in the fall of 2009, during a time period where I tied almost 300 dozen flies in about six weeks. No traditional wet flies were tied during this period, but rather I tied a wide range of nymphs and drys in the form of dun and spinner patterns, all for speculative sale. I have been selling some of these flies, but I still have about 175 dozen. I tied 12 dozen #22 and #24 Trico spinners; about 30 dozen Flash-back Pheasant tail nymphs from sizes #12 to #22; about eight dozen Male and Female Hendrickson Comparaduns, another six or so dozen same pattern Polywing Thorax Duns, twenty dozen BWO Thorax Duns from size #14 – for the E. cornuta, to diminutive #22’s for tiny Baetis imitations, and dozens more Sulphurs, Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, Light Cahills, Stonefly and Caddis drys, Griffith’s Gnats, Baetis Spinners, and Rusty Spinners. I enjoy tying, and I can’t explain why but it is gratifying to see fly box compartments fill up to the point where you can’t see the bottom.

Here is a link to a forum with my original Hare E. Rooster nymph pattern – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64579 This fly is a really good attractor – searching pattern. I devised it using the best characteristics of two of the best nymph patterns ever created; the Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail Nymphs. I tie it in natural, olive, black, dark brown, and tan.

I have several more original patterns that I would like to present; my Goose Quill Nymph, my XB Larva, and my floating caddis emerger patterns. In the future I plan to expand my traditional wet fly and streamer offerings here with some of these recipes and photos.

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4 comments on “Commercial and Production Fly Tying

  1. Eunan says:

    Last night I tied 20 flies in one sitting and I thought that was a lot, but to use a whole metz cape, now that’s some going!!!

  2. Thanks for your comment Eunan;
    Yes, in my commercial tying I found out that one Metz hen back would tie about 10 dz. Marinaro Thorax Duns; each fly used two feathers paired back-to-back, or 240 feathers. After that, most of what remains on the skin is fluff and stuff. I used to pull off 24 matched feathers at a time for one dozen, and lay the pairs in a criss-cross pile so I could pick them up, a fly at a time.
    Thanks again for your reply, I appreciate it!
    By the way, you did well tying 20 last night! Were they all wet flies?

  3. metiefly says:

    Hi Don – thanks for this inspirational post! Tying commercially is something I have often considered… Is there any advice you can give regarding sourcing bulk materials at trade prices? Looking forward to reading through your blog – best regards – metiefly

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Mark; Thank you for your reading of this article, glad you found it helpful! If you tie commercially, and I’m guessing that as I normally understand it, is that you will sell wholesale to a shop. In which case the shop you tie for should give you a discount of about 30%, more on certain materials. Other tying to sell retail, is not the same as commercial tying, since generally your orders don’t consist of say, ten dozen of the same pattern / size.

      Commercial tying was for me, a real benefit to elevate the level of my tying speed, material handling, and enhanced and improved tying methods and techniques – which, since I have not tied “commercially” in more than a dozen years, is still something that I am learning. Finding new ways to do this or that, etc. Thanks again for your comment!

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