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The Rule of 3: a Fly Tying & Fly Purchasing Method

  • 3 min read

The Rule of 3: a Fly Tying & Fly Purchasing Method

So, you’ve got your set up; rod, reel, line and leader. Now comes one of the more frustrating things in fly fishing. Choosing the right fly. You can buy all kids of kits, selections and flies by mail but how do you know you’re getting the right mix? 

Most start with the tried-and-true patterns that we all have heard of like the price, hare’s ear and stone flies. Once you go beyond those names the variations can go wild. Within each family of flies the color choices and options vary. These can be as simple as sparkle this, bead head that and so forth. Then add in all the local flavor and specialized names and your head can spin. What is a Halo, Batman or Christmas tree prince? Personally, I’m not sure but they live in my fly boxes. Some have been used and some lie dormant waiting for the right conditions, whatever those are or when the mood strikes me. But they all have one thing in common. They were found while browsing in those tables full of little bins.  

The regular scenario for many is that you find yourself standing in a fly shop or surfing a website and the options are massive. You start by consulting a shop, guide, or buddy as to what they recommend. Then you fill your box. Seems simple but then there is the need for variety and trying new patterns to see if you can improve results. Sometimes the fish are looking for something different. 

Now I have my mix and head to the counter or checkout. Wait! Did you buy enough? Is that an odd question? No, I think it’s a good one to ask yourself. Because if you are on the river or flat with one of something and it breaks off, gets lost or beaten unrecognizable you are screwed. Especially if that is what is working. However, this can be prevented with one simple rule. The rule of 3. 

I live my fly buying life by this rule. One to use, one to lose and one to take back the shop to ensure you get more of the right ones. I’m sure there are tyers, shops and websites out there loving this advice, but it serves me well. I was in Montana two summers ago and found some interesting looking variations. I made the mistake of buying just 2 of one pattern. 1st one broke off after several fish and the second one went kerplop into the Madison. I was unable to go back to the shop where I purchased them that trip and forgot the damn name. They did not have an online option to do a search while the image was fresh in my mind. 

On my next trip I was recommended a couple of variations at another location and followed my rule and bought 3 of each in a couple of sizes. Yes, the bill went up but at the end of the day I had exhausted all but one of them. This allowed me to come home and duplicate the fly at my vise. This resulted in adding a new weapon to my arsenal and they have served well on local waters. The flip side of this coin is I have a fair number of flies that proved less than productive on a particular trip and my box collection has grown, but you never know. 

Keep’em tight and wet!



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