Spring 2021 Tying Contest

Date: April 12 – May 14, 2021 (Winner will be announced May 30th)

Hello fly tiers and welcome to Savage Flies’ first tying contest! Please read this entire post if you are considering entering.

First, a little background. One of the primary missions I have for Savage Flies is to encourage new tiers to join the community. And for the channel to give back to the community however possible.

Throughout this first year we’ve been able to do various giveaways every month or so. And since the beginning I wanted to be able to give back something nice for the one-year anniversary. I’ve decided on offering a Regal Revolution vise as the prize for this one (or a $500 gift card to J. Stockard Fly Fishing if you already have a great vise.)

I was consulting with a couple of my mentors on how to conduct this– whether we do it as a fly swap or as a single fly entry. We’ve decided to do it as a single fly entry. We’ll try to hold a fly swap later in the year but trying to do both at the same time seemed like it could quickly get overwhelming.

Some of the comments and guidance I’ve gotten from many of you, the fly tying community and supporters of my channel, is that holding this as a strict tying contest where only world-class tiers have a chance to win would likely discourage new tiers from entering. And we want this to be a contest for everyone.

We’ve decided the best way to handle this is to hold it as a tying contest, but take the top ten ranked flies and then do a drawing out of these for the prize. Yes, this will still give experienced tiers an edge, but it will still give new tiers a chance. And we know this is not how a lot of tying contests are held, but please remember, my mission here is also different from most tying channels or fly shops. Simply stated, it has always been to encourage new tiers to get into the sport, and give back to the community however we can.

The rules of the contest:

Participants will be asked to tie one of seven flies (listed below on this page.) You will then mail the fly to me (address also below).

I have three experienced tiers who have volunteered to help with the judging (with over 100 years of experience between them). We are not all colocated so I will create still pictures and videos of every entry for the judges. The flies will be numbered only so the judges will not know who any entry belongs to.

The judging criteria will be based on the following from the Fly Fisher’s International (FFI) Bronze Level tying handbook.

  • Material selection – were the correct materials used or if alternates chosen, were they the appropriate choices? Is it on an appropriate size and type of hook? Was the right size thread used?
  • Proportions – proportions for some patterns are pretty well known, but for some it’ll be a judgement call. Do the body and tail and thorax look well proportioned? If it’s a hackled fly, is it the right fullness and length? If it’s a bucktail or feather winged streamer, are the wings the correct length? Is the head the right size?
  • Neatness – Is it the appropriate level of neatness? If it is a tinsel body is the tinsel evenly spaced and free of lumps? If it’s ribbed, is it ribbed with the appropriate material with the correct spacing? Is the head finished neatly?
  • Complexity- while we have tried to select all patterns of medium difficulty, some are slightly more complex to tie than others.
  • Overall appearance and fishability- this is somewhat a judgement call for the judges but the fish-catching ability of a fly is always a consideration.

Each of the five categories may have 2-3 subcategories (based on the specific fly). Ie, some flies have feather wings, others do not. Some have ribbing, palmered hackle, etc.

The judges will return their scores to me for compiling. I will send the final results back to the judges to confirm we are all in agreement. The top ten will then be announced. If I can figure out how to do the drawing live we can do it on YouTube, otherwise I will ask the judges to witness as I do the drawing (via random number generator) on my computer. We will announce the final winner either in a new video, or during the intro for a regular video, or perhaps a simple pinned comment in the announcement video. I will also email the winner directly.

The Prize

When the winner is announced, I will ask for your mailing address and your choice of base and the color of the custom head you prefer for the Regal Revolution vise. I am not going to order this ahead of time as I won’t know what your preferences are. When the winner is known, I will order the vise and have it mailed directly to you from the retailer.

The winner will also have the option to choose a $500 gift card from J. Stockard Fly Fishing. This is the only option for tiers outside of the United States. (See the following note.)

Who can enter

This contest is open to any tier who wants to participate, with the focus on novice to intermediate level tiers. If the winner is outside of the continental United States, the prize will be the $500 gift card by default. Unfortunately I can not predict shipping costs overseas and shipping a seven pound vise across the globe could be prohibitively expensive. If a tier from overseas does win, I can work with you to choose a different fly tying retailer if you would prefer the gift card to be from somewhere more local to you. We may have to look up the Euro to US Dollar conversion, but if we do this we can potentially reduce any significant shipping charges.

The Flies

Participants need to select ONE fly from the following list of seven wet flies or nymphs. (If this contest goes well, we can do a future one with dry flies or streamers.)

  • Alexandra Wet Fly
  • Grizzly King wet fly
  • Watson’s Fancy
  • American Pheasant Tail
  • Clouser Swimming Nymph
  • Copper John
  • Tellico Nymph

Click here for recipes and pictures of the flies.

Where to send the flies

Please do what you can to protect your fly in a small box or padded envelope. Or small box inside a padded envelope. Mail it to:

Matt O’Neal
PO Box 190
Hughesville, MD 20637

Please include your email address with your entry so I can let you know that your fly has been received.


All entries must be received by Friday, May 14, 2021. This is just over a month from announcing this.

If your fly does not make it to me by the deadline I can not guarantee that it will be included. Please try not to wait until the last minute but if you do, just email me and let me know your fly is on the way so I can be looking for it.

May 14-28. This is when we will do the judging. Please be patient here as I will have to create pictures and videos of all flies for the judges. This could take me a few days.

Sunday, May 30, 2021 – we will hold the drawing and announce the winner.

More info and potential questions

Please read the following before emailing me with questions, but if you do have questions not covered here, please DO email me and I can try to answer and post it here. My email: matt@savageflies.com.

Remember the goal of this contest is to encourage new tiers to participate and to give back a little something to the community. I do not expect this to be super-competitive and I really want it to be a fun event where tiers have an honest chance of winning something cool.

Will you be posting all the flies tiers submit? I don’t plan to show all of them (that could be a long video to create and some tiers might not want their fly shown to everyone), but I would like to show at least the top ten, perhaps with the judges’ comments.

Can I submit more than one fly? Unfortunately, no. We are limiting this to one entry each so try them all if you want, but I’d recommend sending in your best effort.

What if I submit a fly early in the contest but change my mind or tie a better one later, can I send that one instead? Sure, just make sure to get the newer one in by the deadline. We will replace your first entry with the newer one. If you do this, please send me an email as a head’s up.

What if I disagree with the judges, can I appeal? We really don’t want to open that can of worms. Remember we’re doing this for fun, and I’ve solicited help from some very experienced tiers to do the judging. I’ve done this to try and keep it as fair as possible, and due to the fact that I am not a master tier myself.

Will you tell us who the judges are? In short, no. But if the judges are okay with me letting you know who they are after the contest is over, then we can consider it. I’d prefer not to burden them with this as I might like to do another contest in the future and I don’t want them to have to do anything but judge the flies. Remember, they are taking themselves out of the contest by volunteering to judge it.

Will we get our flies back? I don’t plan to send any back, but if you do want yours back, please include a postage paid envelope when you send yours in and I’ll mail it back to you.

How many entries do you expect to get? I have no idea, but with the size of the channel and based on other contests we have held recently, I would expect we might get about 50 or so.

Will you tell us how many entries you have received? Sure. During the month or so I expect the flies to be coming in I have no problem announcing in one of my tying videos how many we have gotten so far.

Have you ever done a contest like this before? No, this is a first for me. I ask you to be patient as I’m sure there could be some bugs to work out with this being the first one. If all goes well I would like to do something like this every year. If there is any drama, or if I screw something up (which is possible), then the chances of me wanting to do something like this again would go way down.

Just remember, I am not a fly shop owner. I do not have a staff available to help with this. And I have a regular job so I don’t have an unlimited amount of time to do things like this. This effort is being led by me, one guy in my basement, with the help of a few experienced tiers. Thanks for your understanding!

I hope some of you new and novice tiers out there will consider participating. Happy tying!