The reason I took a 15 year hiatus from tying flies, my one true passion in life, was due to burn out. It didn’t take long tying commercially before I hated my favorite hobby. In time, I have learned a great deal about myself. What I learned is that as soon as you pay me to do something I love, I (typically) almost immediately lose interest, no matter my passion.
When I began tying again I set some simple rules with myself, if I feel like tying; I tie. If I don’t feel like tying; I don’t. I am a fairly goal oriented person so my goal is roughly 2 flies per day on an average year. This equals approximately 600 flies per year. This rough fly fishing math allows me to keep up with my ability to lose flies, allows plenty of room for gifting flies and prevents burnout. There are weeks where I never sit down at the vise and there are weeks where I tie 60 flies, it all balances.
Organizing your tying is an approach to tying flies commercially, but I believe it is also effective for the “personal use” tyer. It allows you to plan your tying and remove the hurdle of sitting down at the vise and figuring out what to do next. Organizing your tying will also improve the quality and consistency of your flies. Typically it takes 2-3 attempts to get a fly just right, and if that is a pattern you plan to use often you might as well tie a couple of dozen. Organizing your tying in this method still allows you to switch to another pattern temporarily without losing focus on the goal that you need to achieve.
I used to make paper and digital lists of the flies that I wish to tie, I tend to lose those lists or not pay much attention. Recently, I have come up with a better method. I work through draft patterns or (gasp), even buy them. I then prep the proper hooks, pinching down the barbs, installing the proper bead. This way I am creating a roadmap for myself. So when I am not sure what to do or tie, I can just sit down and tie some of the flies that I have previously thought through (and likely acquired the materials for).
One trick I use for organizing my tying are magnetic bowls. I have found two sources for these; auto parts stores (Magnetic Parts Tray) and sewing shops (Magnetic Pincushion). They allow me to configure and prep hooks with the intended patterns, so I stay focused on my next few weeks of tying. I do much of this prep in my favorite chair watching my favorite show which is often a competing priority to my fly tying which happens in a different room.
Right now I have a long list of files from my guide for a four day Steelhead trip in September, I have now mapped out all of the patterns I need to tie before that time. Some of the patterns are completely new to me so I purchased a couple, tied commercially for reference. I even dissected a few patterns with an Exacto knife, just to make sure. This allows my tying to remained focused on the goal without the mental stress and pressure of wondering if I will meet it in time.