As a professional, I buy most of my flytying materials from wholesalers. This has two advantges: (1) the stock is guaranteed vermin-free and can be put straight into my storage compartments, and (2) it is cheaper! The first advantage also applies, of course, to material from retailers but it certainly does not apply to most of the oddments given by well-meaning friends.
Most flytyers have to buy their materials retail, and a large proportion comes from mail order catalogs. It may seem obvious, but before you buy I would advise checking through as many fishing magazines and catalogs as you can. This way you can often find exactly what you are looking for, at a better price, at the cost of just a few minutes of extra research. Beware of Dealer X, whose inexpensive pack of seal fur contains half the amount of fur you find in the same-price pack from Dealer A.
When you are new to flytying and have to buy unfamiliar items (several types of hackles, for example) by mail order, it is sensible to ask the supplier to label the goods - it can be exasperating to receive a bundle of feathers and not know which is which!
When you order materials from an established supplier, you know just what you will receive. But, whether you are an amateur or a professional, you have no control over the variety of materials that well-meaning fellow-fishermen and friends bestow on you. Over the years I have been given (among many other things):
My advice is never to turn these gifts down, as long as you think you might possibly find a use for them. The friend who brings you something unwelcome today may well bring a real gem next time - don't discourage him!
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