The Difference In Fly Quality (And Why You Should Care)

Around the bonfire this past weekend a friend who follows Postfly on Facebook (like you should, duh) asked what the difference was between cheap flies and high quality flies. Now this friend doesn’t fish and certainly doesn’t fly fish, so I wasn’t sure how to explain to him easy, but that got me thinking that there might be a lot of fly anglers out there that don’t know that difference either.

So instead of just repeating my usual tag line, that Postfly sends the best flies to your door every month, I figured why not explain the differences in fly quality and what to look for the next time you go shopping to fill up your flybox.

***I’ll preface this section by saying even ugly flies, just like ugly fishermen, can still catch fish. If you start tying your own flies and think a fish will never bite your fly because it looks like you were hammered when you whipped it up, don’t worry, there’s still a chance it’ll work.***

High Quality Fly Versus A Bad Quality Fly
The fly on the left is a good, consistent and properly tied fly, while the one on the right is sloppy and won’t last very long.

Durability Matters, But Isn’t Everything

There are a few different signals that a fly’s quality isn’t up to par, but the one you’ll hear most is how many fish can be caught on a single fly. Most assume that a fly that will last 20 fish is better than a fly that lasts 10. My only thought about that is it highly depends on the fish you’re targeting.

I could probably catch 1,000 bluegill on a single fly, keeping that hard-working pattern going for years, no matter the quality. One dance with a bluefish and nearly any fly will be toast. While the number of fish you catch can be a good signal to fly quality, just make sure you’re comparing apples and apples. When a fly does give out usually the materials start to unravel and come apart, rendering the fly useless in most cases.

An Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Sports A Quality Fly
When fishing for a trophy with teeth, make sure to check your fly and leader after each fish.

What To Look For

A signal of a bad fly is the shape and quality of the materials. A fly that is designed to match a particular bug has to get close with the color, not necessarily be 100% exact, but close, and also match the shape. To me, the shape is more important. If a fly is supposed to have wings that extend twice the length of the bug’s body, but the fly in question features a wing drastically the wrong size, it’s not a good fly.

A quick way to judge the quality of the fly is to make sure the materials were tied consistently. If the pattern calls for an even chenille body, make sure there are no gaps in material showing the hook. Another way to tell if the tier knew what they were doing is to check the eye of the hook. If there are thread wraps covering the eye of the hook, the tier made a mistake and you should check the rest of the fly carefully.

Many think that a hook eye covered with head cement is a bad fly, but I greatly disagree. Not only does that mean the tier cares about the durability of the fly, but it’s also very easy to clear the eye with the hook point of another fly. Plus, that’s just oh so satisfying.

Postfly's President Brian Runnals Shows Off An Alaskan Trophy
The right fly means you can catch fish, but also means you can keep catching on the same fly.

Thoughts On Making Your Own

There are many fly tiers that look down on any other fly they encounter, but it’s highly impractical to think  that way. Imagine you have your own personal tailor that lives in your house, knows your every taste when it comes to suits and the materials involved and can hand make them for you whenever you like. Even if you could buy an Armani suit for half price, that suit would never come close to the suit that you had made custom for you, with every material you like and nothing you don’t like.

So again, before you compare flies, know what you’re comparing, and make sure you’re not stacking the deck against logic. You might have a better fly in your hand than one you could ever tie, but think it’s of lesser quality because they used synthetics and you prefer all natural materials.

 

Sick of staring at flies in the fly bin unsure of what makes a fly good or effective at catching fish? Sit back and relax, sign up for Postfly and just wait for a hand-picked selection of the best flies around to show up at your door, ready to fish. 

 

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