Saturday, April 9, 2011

Drug Store Fly Tyer

Now we’ve all done it. Well, I know a lot of you have. A quick trip to the drug store for a tube of toothpaste turns into a wandering adventure through a mystical land of fly tying materials. The strange thing is that all these great materials are disguised as other things. Now don’t get me wrong as a take off on a currently popular TV commercial for Ally Bank. I love my fly shop! and I’ll go every chance I get.

What comes over us when we get into these realms just outside of the fly tying lines? Remember we just wanted a tube of toothpaste. But we start looking at all that cool, shiny, cheap fly tying material hiding in plain sight. The goal of this piece is to show you, if you have not already found them, the wonders of tying materials available at your local drug store.

The first time I decided to try a Sally Hansen product I was actually a little nervous. What would the clerk think if all I bought was a bottle of nail polish? I could just imagine the rumors that might start going about. I got my courage up and bought some clear. Clear Sally H’s is pretty close to the cheapest head cement substitute around. I also have suspicion that Sally’s Hard as Nails and a popular head cement Hard as Hull might have something in common. It also makes an excellent cover coat for poppers and similar flies.

On the dental care aisle there’s an over looked product that a friend told me of. He showed it to me at a group informal tying gathering. A little blue mono loop that just seemed more suited for fly tying than your mouth. The gadget is used to thread dental floss between teeth and braces hardware. So it certainly works with tying threads, floss, rubber legs, and anything else you need to thread. The thickness of the mono is a great tail boom for the adult damsel fly as well.

I buy all my super glue products at the drug store. The price is right. They sell enough that I am pretty confident that it’s not flat. The personal choice I make is the kind that brushes on. The brush makes a great applicator and/or smoothing tool.

One day I was in for something actually drug store related and found myself cutting down the eye make up aisle. I stopped at the sight of a little box of eye lash extensions. They were perfect, perfect for nymph legs. I am not sure what they are made of. They have the perfect length and curve when tied in to make outstanding legs. Pun intended. The clerk that day was one of my students. She knew where they were going and just laughed.

When it is popper season the local drug store becomes a key stop for two great products to color bass and bluegill noise makers. Sally Hansen products, after buying it for head cement, caught my eye for all the wild colors. In the past attempts with popper paints seemed to be overly messy and and the paint did not last long due to the container drying out. Nail polishes have their own brush that does not have to be cleaned. They dry relatively fast and just need to be allowed to air out before storing away for the trip. Also, since our little town has a college, our drug store always seems to have a aisle of art related products. Permanent markers of a wide range of hues await the popper season. I am not sure what the college students do with pale yellow but it makes some really kicking shade accents on those top-water flies.

Around Christmas or more exactly the week after there is an usual ritual of the seasonal sale. Bows and tinsel are marked way down for quick sale. The bows are usually made of Mylar and often prismatic colors. Cut thinly a flashback pheasant tale gets some sparkle for 50 cents or less. Ten dollars sets you up for the next twelve months. The tinsel or icicles come down in price. Usually silver or gold. I take them from the package and put a zip tie on them soon as I get home. That makes them look like they were bought from a fly shop and not the bargain bin. The tinsel makes awesome Clouser Deep Minnows and other streamers that need flash.

One last tip that might help the fly fishing budget is that Albolene make-up remover in the one pound tub makes a great substitute for fly floatant oils. No scent or color. One tub will last you and your friends for years. Warm it up in the sun and refill your floatant bottles. Or better yet pick up the empties from the streams you fish and refill them.

Next time you go to the drug store give yourself a little more time and bring your imagination along. Don’t abandon your local fly shop but just add some tricks that will broaden your tying options and save some money to be spent on maybe the less available fair a fly-shop offers.


  1. Love your blog!!! Really creative and awesome ideas. I have added you to my blog roll on Tight Lines!

  2. Awesome info!! I'm gonna hit the dollar store and pick up some lashes

  3. Thank you :) They make make some great legs and are easily adjusted for hook size. They also have a great taper to the tip. Buggy.