Twenty years ago, I learned how to tie my very first fly.
I was going through some dramatic life changes, and I needed to take up a hobby that could help me detox from the negative stressors.
A friend of mine suggested that I take up fly tying. He showed me some of the flies he'd crafted, along with what I perceived to be very strange and unusual materials. White calf's tail? Moose hair? Rooster hackle? Muskrat underbelly fur? Peacock herl ?
What kind of recreational activity was I getting into? Roadkill recovery?
As with any new event that initially seems like a radical departure from the habitual and comfortable fit of things, I was a bit hesitant.
Nevertheless, I dared to step outside of the figurative sandbox, a forty-year-old man emotionally not far removed from and certainly waxing nostalgic for my simpler kindergarten days.
I met a man named John who was willing to teach a handful of others and me how to tie fishing flies, and he was willing to do it for free. Not only that--he also had several extra fly tying kits and was willing to loan one to me for the duration of the class. Wow! Such a deal! Any cold feet thinking was quickly disposed of, and I soon found myself seated at a table with something called a fly tying vise tightly secured to it.
The very first day, John taught my fellow novice tyers and me how to tie an olive woolly bugger. Intermittently scanning the room, I noticed that my peers' works in progress looked so much better than mine.
John must've seen me gazing forlornly at the constantly unraveling concoction of chicken feathers, gold wire, and chenille. My creation was like the Frankenstein monster of woolly buggers. It sat there in front of me, looking more and more like a cat's hairball than enticing trout cuisine.
"Don't worry about what it looks like," I remember John telling me. "Sometimes, the uglier the fly, the better the results." I looked at him with a mixture of embarrassment and gratitude.
And then he told me something I will never forget.
"Sooner or later, every fly you tie will catch a fish."
Encouraged by John's kind and uplifting remarks, I put my nose to the fly tying vise, so to speak, and proceeded to tie.
A few short weeks later, after teaming up with a couple of my classmates, I put together a nice assortment of flies and sent samples off to a few fly shops in town.
One of the shops, a feed and hardware store, said they'd give us a go. After selling a couple dozen flies to them, my friends and I were stoked!
So I went through a toll-free directory and called every single shop, guide service, and department store that might be interested in purchasing our flies. Although we were initially beset with the cost of supplies and materials, samples, and postage, we ended up landing a huge order...well, at least it seemed that way to us newbies...from a gun shop in Tacoma.
My makeshift marketing techniques had worked. Honestly, as I look back on those early days, I believe I experienced more of an adrenaline rush with the roughshod salesmanship successes than with the labor-intensive and cost-inefficient production aspect.
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A couple of months later, I happened to be shopping in a sporting goods store in downtown Walla Walla. While admiring the thousands of flies in the display box, I made the acquaintance of an elderly gentleman who was re-stocking empty bins under a sign that read, LEE DAVIS FLIES.
It turned out to be a fortuitous encounter because Lee Davis was looking for more fly tyers at precisely the same time I was looking for more business. This Idaho entrepreneur, a retired war veteran, was willing to buy all the black, olive, and woolly buggers and olive matukas that my friends and I could tie at $5 per dozen.
Because we were eager to generate sales, my friends and I didn't think twice about the relatively low amount we were getting paid. After all, Mr. Davis was providing all the supplies and materials for free, so that balanced out the fiscal equation for us.
We tied for Lee Davis Flies for a good five years. Sadly, he passed away during that time, but his female assistant continued to purchase our flies.
Eventually, I branched out on my own. Polishing my marketing and tying skills, I manufactured and sold tens of thousands of flies to fly fishermen and fly fishing lodges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Alaska. When I opened my eBay business in 2000, I sold flies all over the world--as far away as Australia and Russia.
When an arthritic condition in my neck and lower back worsened, I decided I'd retire my fly tying vises (by this time, I had three of them). Instead of selling flies, I decided to market the fly tying materials and supplies.
For the first five years of selling on the global marketplace, I concentrated on just that one niche. I'm thankful for all the wonderful customers, transactions, and opportunities I've had to develop my business acumen during that time.
Today, I'm branching out into different online venues as well as niches. But I still sell Dai-Riki fly tying hooks on eBay and will continue to do so this side of heaven.
The Dai-Riki 305 is the standard choice for dry fly patterns. However, it is often used extensively for nymph, caddis, and emerger patterns. The frugal fly tyer would do well to shore up his or her hook inventory with this wonderful, all around item. It has a downturned eye, is composed of standard wire, and has a round bend and bronze finish. The Dai-Riki 305 is comparable to a Mustad 7957B, Tiemco 9300, or Daiichi 1310.
Featuring a curved shank and slightly offset bend, the Dai-Riki 135 is a superb choice for tying your favorite scud, caddis pupa, and larva patterns. It's a great hook for nymph and bead head flies as well.
The scud hook has a downturned eye and is composed of 1X strong wire. It is 1X short and has a reversed bend and bronze finish. It is comparable to a Mustad AC80200BR, Tiemco 2457, or Daiichi 1150.
With its special bend, the Dai-Riki 270 gives your fly a natural and realistic appearance. Versatile and durable, this hook is especially effective on patterns such as stimulators, hoppers, caddis, and nymphs.
The Dai-Riki 270 has a straight eye and is made from standard wire. It is 3X long with a special bend and bronze finish. It is comparable to a Mustad AC80050BR, Tiemco 200R, or Daiichi 1270.
(I apologize for the distorted image of the hook. Hopefully, the image below will give you a better idea of what the Dai-Riki 270 hook looks like.)
The Dai-Riki 730 is the standard hook for nymph and bead head patterns. It is also an excellent choice for hoppers. The Dai-Riki 730 has a down eye and is made from 1X strong wire. It is 2X long with a round bend and bronze finish. It is comparable to a Mustad 9671, Tiemco 5262, or Daiichi 1710.
Whether your game fish is trout, steelhead, or salmon, the Dai-Riki 155's short shank and heavy wire make it the hook of choice for tying those chartreuse, hot pink, fuchsia, red, orange, and other brightly colored egg flies.
The Dai-Riki 155 has a straight eye and is made from 2X strong wire. It is 5X short with a reversed bend and bronze finish. It is comparable to a Mustad 9174, Tiemco 105, or Daiichi DX510.