Fly Boxes & Organization
There are three things that are inevitable for the fly fisherman. Death.
Taxes. And accumulating too many flies. It's just a simple fact of life
that any angler will, in time, accumulate all sorts of flies.
And thus arises the problem of what to do with them all. Flies are light
and don't take up much space. But thats a problem unto itself, since
stuffing flies into a box with other dissimilar flies creates a organizational
problems nightmares are made of.
For this reason, anglers, whether new or experienced, always need to
keep one step of the organizational nightmare of their flies. This is
accomplished through the judicious use of fly boxes, fly wallets and
"on the road" fly storage systems. Each have their place - and which
one is right for a particular angler depends on the anglers own personality,
number of flies owned and other personal considerations.
In short, there is no "one way to store flies." Just be sure to find
a way to store flies that works well for you.
On the rest of this page, will go over some ideas on how to store and
organize your flies. Feel free to modify them to suit your needs - or
even not use them at all!
Considerations to Fly Organization
When organizing your flies, the angler needs to think about both how
to organize the flies for off-stream and on-stream use. Unless you have
less than 100 flies, there is absolutely no reason to bring along every
fly you own to the river with you.
Instead, the general plan of attack
is to have a main fly storage system/boxes/whatever that holds your
flies when home and is portable enough to take with you in the car or
Then, when you reach the water, you take whatever flies you need out
of this fly storage system you have and put them in the fly boxes you'll
carry in your fishing vest when you are actually fishing. This way, you
avoid overloading your fishing vest with innumerable fly boxes, keep
your vest slim and not bulky, and in general have a far easier time of
At Home & In the Car Fly Organization
So, this leads to the question, what to use for at-home/in-the-car fly
organization. Well, there are several ways to go about it. You can buy
a multitude of different fly boxes - storing your flies in them and then
hoping you don't forget to bring one with you. Or, get some large, relatively
inexpensive fly boxes that can be neatly stored in a bag or piece of
luggage that has been specifically designed to do just that.
The second way, of course, is to just have 4-5 medium-large fly
boxes you normally take out on the water with you. One box holds
dries, another holds wets, a third holds streamers, etc...Just be
doubly sure to grab them all when you head to the water - more than
a few anglers have hit the Bighorn River only to find their nymphs
back in New York on the shelf where they were left.
On the Stream Fly Organization
For on the water-storage of flies, there are several routes to choose
from. The one I prefer is one medium box and two smaller ones. The medium
box consists of compartments on the bottom and foam on the top. The two
smaller boxes are a mix of one foam box and one compartment box. The
medium box goes in the right pocket and the two smaller boxes go in the
left pocket. This system has the benefit of being inexpensive, keeps
organization a breeze and allows you to take enough flies so as to not
have to worry about trudging back to the car to get more. It also has
the advantage of allowing you to "load up" on your favorite fly for
Other systems exist, of course, for on-the-water fly organization. Some
anglers prefer to get one large box that holds all the flies they need
for on-the-water use. This keeps all the flies you need in one place
and also frees up one of the the larger side pockets on your vest for
Yet other anglers do what I call the "fly box by name" system. The angler
gets a bunch of small compartment or foam boxes - very small, actually.
Each box will hold only one type of fly, in differing sizes. While this
seems like it may be limiting, in fact, its got advantages. If you know
that the trout are hitting on the Parachute Adams, there isn't much of
a reason to go out with a bunch of hoppers or streamers. Instead, you're
better off going armed with differing sizes of Parachute Adams and flies
similar to it. And those tiny little "fly by name" boxes are a fine way
to keep particular flies organized by size - while making sure you have
enough flies of the right type in the right size for the type of fishing
Anglers that use this sytem invariably label each fly box with a waterproof
marker - so as to specify what each fly box holds and to avoid accidental
insertion of the wrong fly.
Of course, the downsize to this is that you can potentially end up with
lots of small fly boxes in your vest - leading to some organizational
problems. But there are ways to partially counter this, especially once
you've used this system for a while. This system isn't for me - but it
might be for you.
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