I’m not sure whether any of you out there have ever give this much thought, but here’s an observation I (The frugal fly tier that I am) made some years back while living in Scandinavia regarding tag end wastage. As fly tiers were all guilty of it, but when starting to dress a fly, how many of you leave a tag end of anywhere between 25mm – 35mm in length flapping around only for it to be snipped off and discarded?
How many of you out there fold it over and run your thread along the length of it to cover over it, purely because you couldn’t be arsed to pick up your scissors to snip it off, it’s still a tag end….innit!! If you are guilty of doing that, the 10 mm – 15 mm of thread you’ve used to cover that tag end can also be construed as wastage.
Also, how many of you lay a base of thread starting from the hook eye all the way down the shaft to the bend of the hook? To me this becomes even more wastage depending on the size of the hook you’re working with. You’ll use half the amount of thread if you start directly from the back of the hook and before each new added piece of material run 2 to 3 wraps in front of the last tie off point. Sure some fly patterns warrant having to run a thread base along the length of the hook shank but some tiers especially novices probably see this as a given.
The amount of fly tiers I see on you tube with tag ends of even 50 mm – 60 mm in length astounds me. Ok sure, some are sponsored fly tiers and aren’t that bothered about how much they waist, and why should they, they’re getting the stuff at cost, yet are subliminally advertising to you to use more thread than what’s actually needed anyway making you go through bobbins quicker which in turn makes you buy at a far quicker rate than necessary. Even still, add up every section of tag end and it will equate to a shit load of wasted thread. Let’s also not forget that once you get to the end of your bobbin of thread you could be left with a section ranging anywhere between 100 mm – 200 mm In length, depending on the distance from your bobbin to the eye of your bobbin tool which gets discarded in the bin anyway.
So if you manage to tie 25 flies with one bobbin and have a tag end of even 30 mm equates to 750 mm of wastage + the 100 mm – 200mm left at the end of the bobbin, could eventually add up to anywhere between 1 m & 1.020 m wastage. Now in my eyes that could mean the difference between tying another 2 flies depending on the hook size.
At the height of my Baltic pike flies shop (2005 – 2012) I was most active in front of my vice during the off season (October to April) and was tying anywhere between 750 to 1000 flies per month for both clients as well as for myself and the coming season’s clients. That’s an average give or take of around 6300 flies per year. Times that by 7 years and that already adds up to around 44 000 flies. I’m certainly not as productive these days but I’m still tying around 150 - 250 flies for fly fisherman around the globe on a monthly basis. From 2012 – 2017 averaging 134 flies per month x 12 months x 6 yrs = roughly 9600 flies
So let’s just say that over the last 15 years……. I’ve tied, and this is a rough ball park guesstimate figure of around 53 600 flies, would equate to a shit load of tag end wastage had I not become conscious of the issue all those years back. Let’s do the math.
Even leaving a tag end of just 20mm x 53600 flies = 107200 cm = 1007.2m = 1, 0072 km ÷ 50m bobbin = 20.114 bobbins of thread I’ve squandered. I’ve used Semperfli’s Nano silk for the last 8 yrs, and at R60 a bobbin, it equates to R1206,84c that I would have fritted away leaving just a 20mm tag end every time I start a fly. (And that’s a rough ball park guestimate of the amount of flies I’ve tied, not even adding on the +- 200mm end of bobbin wastage. One could get even more anal and also count the amount of meterage ones wasted attaching dumbbell and bead chain eyes to hooks within this argument, because let’s face it, you use a shit load of thread attaching them to a hook shank
I wonder whether commercial fly tying companies have thought about this at all, am sure they have at some point, and if they have, what’s the stipulated length of tag end they allow their tiers to leave to be snipped away? Food for thought I suppose.