There are some ridiculously cheap fly fishing flies for sale on the internet. Selling mass-produced flies online is a growing business model for many would-be entrepreneurs and startups. It makes perfect sense. Flies are expensive. And not everyone has the time, patience, or skill to tie their own, many companies are pouncing on the opportunity to market their wares to fill that need. If you scroll through a Google search you’ll see a vast number of products and services spanning a vast range of prices.
It’s tempting to skimp on your flies. Especially when you’ve already invested a chunk on fly rods, reels, and other gear. They are just tiny things, after all. But it’s important to remember that all the fish see is the fly, not your fancy gear. A fish isn’t going to bite your rod and reel (or any of the other extravagant equipment you’ve spent money on like this Danish-designed fly fishing stripping basket). It’s the fly he’s after. Your fly is where the metaphorical rubber meets the road.
You want a fly to be effective and convincing or all of your other gear is for naught.
Buying cheap flies might save you money, but might cost you in performance. A fly tied carelessly by a factory worker who is focused on producing quantity more so than quality may lack important details. Should we really expect a random factory worker in China, who has never even held a fishing pole, let alone seen a trout, to care if each of the four dozen flies she’s tied in a day has an abdomen that properly tapers? Probably not.
In order to produce flies on the cheap, companies have to take shortcuts. Many of these producers utilize cheap inexperienced labor, inferior hooks, or skip important tying steps. Some have little to no quality control which results in an inconsistent product. It’s difficult enough to determine the quality of a fly based on a meager pixelated internet photo. However, there is a real possibility that the fly in the picture will only vaguely resemble the one the postman delivers.
No company has the market cornered on the “best” flies. You must look at each pattern to truly compare.
There are exceptions to the rule, however. Just because a fly is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. Many overseas factories produce excellent flies. Umpqua, the world’s largest producer of hand-tied flies, has factories in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Although the price tag on their flies is anything but cheap. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a company that mass produces flies by hand anywhere in the United States.
Kenya has its own bumper crop of manufacturers specializing in hand-tied flies. You can buy flies from some of these Kenyan companies for as little as 35 cents per fly. But don’t let the price tag fool you. Most of these flies are made with care and quality. Some of the bigger, well-known fly companies, such as Orvis, even have factories in Kenya.
Buy Durable Flies
It is important to consider the durability of a fly in relation to its cost. Buying cheap often means buying more than once. If a 55-cent fly falls apart on the second fish, but a two-dollar fly holds together to land a dozen, it doesn’t take a mathematician to discern which is the better deal.
Of course, if you lose a two dollar fly in the trees before it touches the water, you’re likely to spew some colorful language. A cheap fly caught in a branch doesn’t feel like a big loss. There is always an element of gambling when it comes to fly fishing.
In spite of there being a lot of cheap junk flies on the internet, it is still possible to find some good deals. But it can be difficult to sort the swindlers from the artisans.
Online Gambling… Buying Flies Sight Unseen
The internet has certainly changed the way the world buys sporting equipment, including flies, whether for good or for bad. The good is the convenience of having flies shipped right to your door, as well as the time and money that you can potentially save. The bad is that we won’t be able to see the product with our own eyes before we purchase, making the quality a mystery until it’s too late. Along with that, we lose the expertise of the local fly shop with its experienced knowledge of local conditions and the feeding habits of local fish. We lose the personal input of savvy fishing experts as we rely more and more on the convenience and impersonal information of the internet.
Purchasing flies online can be a bit of a gamble, but it’s a gamble that many anglers are willing to take for the sake of savings and convenience. The stakes are high, however. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with a fly box full of rubbish just as the fish are starting to bite.
Our Favorite Affordable Options
In order to take some of the guesswork out of internet flies, we’ve compiled some of our favorites. While not all of them qualify as “cheap” when it comes to cost, none of them qualify as “cheap” when it comes to quality.
Outdoor Planet Assorted Trout Flies plus Waterproof Pocket Fly Box
With Outdoor Planet’s Assorted Trout Flies package, you get fifteen freshwater dry flies in a variety of colors to give you plenty of options for fishing different conditions. Each fly is of good quality and individually packaged. As a bonus, you get a handy waterproof box that easily slips into the pocket of your fly fishing pack. With its rubberized seal, you’ll never lose your fly box again. Drop this one in the water and it floats right up to the top.
Piscifun® 40-Piece Fly Kit
Featuring well-made hand-tied flies, Piscifun’s wet fly kit comes with forty sinking flies, each in vivid, life-like colors. These tightly tied flies hold together well through multiple strikes and work for a wide variety of fish, including trout, largemouth bass, and small panfish. Priced at less than a dollar for each quality fly, this kit is a steal.
Manefish Nymph Flies Army
A great assortment of all the popular Nymph designs you’d find in a seasoned angler’s fly box, this collection contains fifteen tried-and-true patterns that present strikingly realistic insect profiles. Hand-tied by professionals, Manefish flies are constructed of quality materials with a remarkable attention to detail. This is quality craftsmanship that even comes with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t catch fish with these flies, just contact the company for a full refund of your money.
Umpqua Dry Fly Trout Fishing Selection
Umpqua is the world’s largest producer of hand-tied flies. They offer individual flies for sale as well as packaged selections for targeting specific species of game fish. However you decide to purchase umpqua flies, you are guaranteed a level of quality often hard to find in this current age of mass production. Umpqua may have a reputation for being a tad on the pricy side, but that is only because they refuse to compromise on quality. It is quite often true that you get what you pay for, and one Umpqua fly is worth a dozen cheap mass manufactured ones.
Umpqua’s Dry Fly Trout Assortment includes twelve flies crafted from high quality materials based on top selling patterns. You get only proven sizes, colors, and productive designs, each one individually labeled for easy identification. If you want to slay trout, this is the assortment of flies you want in your fly box.
Guide’s Top Assortment – Woolybuggers
Purchasing your flies in a package has several advantages. First, most packages come with an assortment of colors and sizes. Also, you’ll generally pay less per fly when buying a package deal than you would purchasing each fly individually.
This Guide’s kit comes with an assortment of 32 bugs in assorted sizes and colors. You get a great variety and incredible quality. Each fly comes in its own individual box with its own handwritten label. The level of quality is sure to please even the snobbiest fly enthusiast. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this level of quality at a better price.
Any of these flies tied on the end of your line will produce results that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve wasted your money on junk. Fishing may be part skill and part luck, but you don’t want to leave the quality of internet purchases to the whims of fortune. These quality flies help take the gamble out of buying your flies, making sure you only get keepers. And, if you’re a beginner… these are a great way to get your feet wet without sinking too much cash into a bunch of flies.