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Katy Neusteter

Outsourcing fly tying to Asia

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Hello,

I'm a Denver-based writer and editor writing a story for a local magazine about how outsourcing fly tying is affecting local tyers. Wondering if any of you have insights you would like to share or if you can suggest some resources for me to look into. The story will focus on two local businesses--one hackle supplier and one fly-tying operation--that send the majority of the their business to Asia, only to have the trout flies sent back to Colorado to be used on Colorado rivers. I would love to hear your thoughts on the issues surrounding outsourcing. Also, can anyone recommend a Colorado fly shop that sells only locally tied flies?

Thanks much,

Katy

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Hi Katy- I can't help you with info about a fly shop, but I have sort of looked at the same circumstances you are looking into. It's simply economics. There will always be a small core of "celebrity" tyers here in the USA who make themselves a reputation, get endorsements, and are able to charge enough per fly to make a living. There always be enough wealthy or well-heeled fly fishermen travelling to destinations where these tyers are known, who will purchase the flies. Many of these tyers also publish books, videos, conduct seminars, etc for extra income.

 

there's simply more money to be made by outsourcing, or it wouldn't happen. I think there are darn few people around who actually make a decent living only tying flies. Most also own/run a tackle shop, guide, re-sell materials, and do the above mentioned things.

 

I think the vast majority of us would just rather tie all our own... I know that wasn't much help.

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Thanks for the response. What are the benefits of tying your own flies? (I would imagine that you're better able to mimic local species...?) Also, can you name a few of the "star" tyers? I appreciate your time!

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Beyond being a hobby I enjoy, tying my own flies brings me personal satisfaction when i catch a fish with afly that i tied.

 

Some folks contend that they save money tying thier own. With the amount of tools and materials i have bought I dont see me saving money by tying.

 

Tying celebs include AK Best, Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser among many others.

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Any decent flyshop will have a few local tyers that might not tie all of their flys but will instead tie the local patterns that work. I know at my work we have 1 guy who ties our striper patterns and another guy who does smallmouth patterns. The stiper stuff is interesting to see how it sells. His flys cost 2X what the Asian flys cost but we don't sell many of the Asian flys since they are

1. inferior to the local flys

2. the display we have our local patterns on showcases fish that have been caught on the locally tied flys.

 

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Thanks for the response. What are the benefits of tying your own flies? (I would imagine that you're better able to mimic local species...?) Also, can you name a few of the "star" tyers? I appreciate your time!

 

 

Thats pretty much the main advantage to tying your own or getting local tied flies if you dont tie your own (local patterns). Theres always a few local variations of patterns that produce better than the standard, and someone in Kenya isnt going to know what local twist to a pattern works best on the Au Sable river when they arent even in the same country.

 

Outsourceing is something we have to deal with though, and like it or not its something that is commom practice for most (if not all) shop owners. From a business standpoint it just makes more sence to buy flies at .15cents each from another country than it does to buy them at .75cents each from a local tyer. Not that I agree with outsourceing, but its pretty much the most practical thing for a shop owner to do because the end user 90% of the time will look at price first before anything else.

 

Some of the more well knowns are AK best, Lefty kreh, Bob Clouser, Kelly Galloup, and Al Betty just to name a few.

 

Steve

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Makes sense that selling all-local flies would be cost prohibitive. So are local tyers suffering financially/getting pushed out of the market? It sounds like tying is being relegated somewhat to hobby territory. True?

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I think a good number of local tyers are probably getting pushed out of the market IMO. Its hard to compete with someone when they are undercutting your cost by 75% or more. Theres still guys tying for shops, but I think alot of them no loger do it now since they end up making so little profit by doing it. Its just not worth the time/labor to do it for such little profit.

 

I wouldnt go as far as to say tying is now just relegated to hobby tying though. Theres still alot of patterns that you cant get from overseas that shops sell alot of (the local patterns that were mentioned). For the most part though most of the "standard" tied patterns like Adams, BWO's, Hares ear etc etc are now coming mostly from overseas. There will always be a small niche for the guys that have a specialized pattern thats geared to local waters.

 

Steve

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It might not hurt to look at who is tying the flies overseas. I know that some countries are using child labour....that is paying children very little in countries where they do not have to hire adults. That is a whole discussion in itself, but worth looking at. Do they use child slave labour (different yet again from child labour) as some chocolate plantations do? Thus the formation of WCF to promote using non-slave labour. Flies are a narrow profit margin item so I would think that it is likely they are largely tied by children, I know that some are for sure, just not sure what other countries they are tied in so can't say that about all of them.

Anyway, just another point of view....Kerry

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Another thing is that the "celebrity" tyers sell the licene to their fly patterns to the large asian tying houses and merely receive a royalty from the sales of their patterns.

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Good Day,

 

Another "benefit" of tying one's own flies is the satisfaction of catching fish on ones own creation.

 

If one has the time to invest in tying their own flies they can save a few dollars here and there.

 

If not a "celebrity" tyer one would have to tie nearly eight hours a day to make a living, and a meager one at that. Many of the folks I know who tie do so as a part time business to make a few extra dollars (Yes you Day5! haha). If Day5 does not mind I will use him as an example. He ties a few hours in the evening to supply flies to customers and his website. He says he enjoys it and makes enough each year to take his family on vacation.

 

Other tyers - Dennis Potter, Jeff "Bear" Andrews, Julie Nielsen, oh yeah... and me! Haha.

 

Steelie

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Id like to respond in great depth Katy coming from both sides of the debate but I am sure time and space are limited and will attempt to tackle this in chunks. I hope I can shed another perspective on the subject.

 

I started tying for profit when I was 14 years old. A local (colorado) fly shop used to purchase my woolly buggers. It was great to be able to make more money from a hobby than my parents offered in an allowance, and it offered added leverage to gain a raise in allowance or a reduction in chores. I just love tying flies! -

 

10 years later in my early 20's I tied commercially for several local fly shops in the Pacific Northwest. I was able to provide patterns that they could not purchase from the Asian distributors such as steelhead dry flies and other esoteric patterns of regional flavor. I would fill orders of hundreds of dozens of flies in which I netted roughly $1 each for my flies and was able to pay the rent. All of this in my spare time. I just love tying flies!

 

now, I am a signature tyer of a company that outsources overseas and have had two other companies offer me contracts in the past week (when it rains it pours). There is a moral dilemma in being one of those so called "celebrity tyers" :huh: of which I am definitely not a celebrity, but never-the-less I am responsible for outsourcing of fly patterns.

 

15 years later -

I work full time as a web application developer which is more lucrative than fly tying and have had to refuse offers to tie commercially recently as I simply lack the resources to sit at a tying vice and wrap feathers to hook all day long. I still want to support my local fly shop in offering them the regional patterns that they will be able to sell and give them leverage against the big boxes. If offering my flies to the big company in Luisville Colorado that outsources them, and then sells them to the fly shops (and sadly yes, the big boxes too), in turn offers many many people along the way an income, then I'm O.K. with that. If I find out that the factory in Thailand is operating as a sweat shop, I will have issues with that and deal with it accordingly. As Wiets points out in the next thread,

it is a issue of world economics and how each country fits into this picture.

 

To offset the moral dilemma of having my fies outsourced and meager royalties arriving in my mailbox, I am finding alternative ways of giving back to the fly fishing community. I donate flies to FFF clubs for auction. I teach as many fly tying classes as I can, give presentations and seminars etc,. I still tie all of my own flies and tie for my friends, clients... I still love tying flies!

 

I believe in making a profit and I believe in doing it with social responsibility. I live in Portland Oregon, a place where those two worlds strangely, seem to co-exist.

Until that balance is disrupted...

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In response to Inconnu;

 

I am a frequent visitor to Asian countries and have been doing so twice a year for the past 12 years. Although child labour is certainly more prevalent in Asia than in the West, it is by no means or manner nearly to the extend as commonly believed. I do not believe that this is the real issue facing fly tiers in the US or in other western countries.

 

The real issues are that the US has become very expensive, amongst other things, due to the strength of the Dollar in comparison to other currencies. About 30 years ago, to order or obtain goods from the US was fairly economical. Not so today. Putting rising prices and inflation aside, to import goods from the US now costs you about 14 times more than 30 years ago - all due to the strength of the US$.

 

The other factor of Asia is the huge abundance of comparatively cheap labour. These people tend to work very long hours and without being a problem for the employer. A 12 to 14 hour a work day (every day) is most certainly not uncommon. It is an eye opener to see how these people work compared to what happens in western countries. In fact, it is a humbling experience!

 

Bear in mind that in many places in Asia, 4 to 8 US$ a day is considered to be a good wage. This wage is also not necessary labour exploitation as the employee can live a fairly decent life with this kind of income! For example, as a tourist in Thailand, one can properly feed oneself for less than 1US$ a day!

 

I therefore suggest that the problem does not lie with the "expensive" US fly tier or the "cheap" counter part in Asia - it is a issue of world economics and how each country fits into this picture.

 

 

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im just learning to tie my own flys.

 

i dont have a "local" flyshop nearby. if i ever get good, the local bait/fishing store would like some flys.

 

soon hopefully by this weekend(60's outside this weekend)i will be able to go to my favorite home away from home.

 

if i did have a "local flyshop"............id give them my dime before someone else............even if that meant a few bucks more.

 

camoham

 

 

 

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At the risk of hijacking the thread, I did not specify asian countries and I believe that child labor in this and many other products is far worse than you think. Nuff said here on my part. :)

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