Seriously now, beginning or for that matter continuing fly fishing in an economy such as this is hard. You've got to justify its place in your life, and be wise about how and where and why you spend. We all may think fly fishing is a need, not a want; but so is eating, and a nice bottle of wine every now and again. So go ahead, get in touch with your inner thrift. Let that little old woman (or man, as the case may be) out.
One of the biggest impacts you can have on trimming your fly fishing expenses is to start tying. For example, you can pay $2.25 for one zebra midge; or, a minimal amount on supplies and a few minutes while watching another mind-numbing TV show. Buy your hooks in 100 count packs. Or, ask your local fly shop if they give quantity discounts. Another strategy is to tie all your flies on the same hook. Even traditional straight shank recipes can be tied on curved, and can oftentimes actually be improved by doing so.
Now here's a secret, Hard as Hull has a cheaper and identical twin: Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails (as a date, she orders the hamburger instead of the filet mignon). I was told that years ago, the company wised up to the fact that they were selling an awful lot of product to an awful lot of men. Middle aged men. Curious, eh? Re-lable. Re-price. Re-market. Pow!
Another strategy for saving a few bucks is to tie bead head nymphs (you know, those things that aren't under my mattress) with lead wire instead of beads. A spool will tie a lot more flies than will a 25 count brass bead package. And for dubbing materials, there is always the give your dog a much needed summer cut savings plan. Not saying I've ever been involved in any such canine conspiracy or anything though...
My local Fly Shop, Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder Colorado, is currently running a "Free Flies for Trash" campaign. Boulder Creek gets cleaned up, and just a bit of time spent picking up trash over a lunch break, or hour before fishing, gets you a free fly. Perhaps a good promotional suggestion for your local shop as well!
Now gear. Waders, be they $150 or $700 will only last a few years if you fish a lot (which we are all aiming to do, right?); and, this is an easy way to budget gear. After all, do you really want even more zippered pockets to lose your memory in? Now, where did I put those car keys? Also, keep your eyes out for gear in unexpected places. I got my vest at Goodwill, and discovered on second use that it came with the previous owner's tied ant in the pocket! How many new vests come with flies attached?
And finally, "Go Local" is a pretty big deal rallying cry in many sectors right now, and it should be in the fly-fishing world as well. Expand your scope of species; it will expand your skill-set as a fisherman as well. I am lucky -- South Boulder Creek, a great trout stream, is 10 minutes from my front door. But, are lakes your stomping grounds? Try for some bluegill and bass. Or, take a challenge and chase some carp! Wherever you live, Go Local...to your streams and creeks, ponds and reservoirs. You'll save on gas! Get to know the waters, your waters, inside and out. Pick through all of their pockets and save money in yours.
*This work originally appeared in The Blue Collar Issue of Blood Knot Magazine, April/May 2011.