How do you organize your fly boxes? What style of box do you prefer? From tiny midges to big articulated streamers, there are plenty of options. Here at Anglers All we have slit foam, silicone, compartment boxes and magnetic boxes. Some boxes are waterproof while others are not. There’s no right or wrong way to organize all those flies. But we thought it might be helpful to outline some of the most common fly box styles, their advantage, and options for organization.
Every once in a while, it’s worth doing a good cleanup of your fly fishing gear. Throw out those old wrappers at the bottom of your bag and shake out the crumbs. Fly boxes are one of the worst culprits for getting disheveled. Whether you’re grabbing boxes and reshuffling flies for a particular trip or making quick changes on the water, it’s easy to lose track of what belongs where. If you’re not careful, dry flies get matted and fished out flies find their way back into your boxes.
Don’t forget that those flies represent a significant investment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $1.95 midge or a $7.95 streamer. Added up, that box is worth taking care of.
If you find yourself attempting to get organized this spring, here are a few ideas:
How to Organize a Fly Box
First thing’s first – no matter what boxes you decide to use or how you organize them, put your name and contact information on every box! Write it in permanent marker; tape a laminated card inside the lid – whatever works for you. But make sure that if you lose a box, that someone has a way you contact you. Ask anyone who has lost a fly box – it hurts.
One way to organize your flies is by the type of insect (or baitfish) they imitate. Think, stoneflies, mayflies, caddis, terrestrials, etc. Don't forget to include flies across the life cycle for each of these too.
Within each category, you can continue to break them down into more specific bug types or simply by size and color. If you tend to fish many of the same locations throughout the year, this can be an easy way to stay organized and quickly identify what you’re looking for.
BY WATER TYPE
If you bounce around to a variety of waters, it might make sense to organize your fly boxes by water type. For example, you might have flies specific to stillwater fishing, tailwaters freestone rivers or high alpine pursuits. Let’s say you’re going to hit your favorite lake this weekend – grab those stillwater boxes and you’re ready to rock.
We have some excellent tailwater fishing in Colorado that allows us to fish year-round. Each season on our favorite tailwaters brings the need for a different set of bugs. If this sounds familiar to you, think about organizing boxes for each season on the water.
BY FISH SPECIES
Another advantage of where we live on the Front Range in Colorado is a wide variety of fish species to pursue. In addition to trout, we enjoy fishing for pike, carp, bass, panfish and more. With this in mind, it’s easy to imagine having specific fly boxes dedicated to each one. Going to hit your favorite bass pond this weekend? Grab those bass bugs and go!
In reality, the right setup for you is probably a combination of these. Think about your most frequent fishing habits, whether that’s locations, species or seasons, and come up with a system that makes sense in your brain. Don't be afraid to try a few of these tips and fish them. We are betting one will stand out to you after a few trips. The next step is choosing the right box for each of your categories.
How to Choose A Fly Box
Foam, silicone, compartment or magnetic? Each one has its advantages. Here’s a quick rundown of factors you may want to consider:
It may seem obvious, but one of the first considerations is size. Slim profile boxes are easy to slip in and out of your fishing pack or even a jacket pocket. But consider the fact that your bushy dry flies will get crushed in a box that’s too slim. If you’re loading up a box of dries, make sure they’ve got enough head room. Reserve those slim profile boxes for nymphs and smaller flies. Larger boxes will always hold more, and often give you the right head room for big dries. These boxes work great for boat bags and sling packs, but are often too big for smaller fishing packs.
Slit foam boxes are easy to use and they keep flies neatly organized. If you have a touch of OCD and like to see your flies neatly in a row, foam boxes can be a great option.
If you’re looking for a foam box, the MFC Colorado Flag Box is one of our all-around favorites. If you’re carrying dry-dropper rigs or a combination of large and small flies, check out the Cliff Outdoors Big Cliff. If you’ve got a collection of big flies or articulated streamers that you need to organize, take a look at the Plan D Pack Articulated Plus.
Silicone is another great option for folks who like to keep their flies in neat rows. The advantage of silicone is that it’s less prone to relaxing around a hook, keeping those flies snug and secure for the long haul.
Compartment boxes are a great solution for large freshwater or saltwater flies. These give you customizable organization for those big bugs. Two of our favorite compartment boxes are the Umpqua Bug Locker and Waterproof Bug Locker. Adjustable inserts allow you to create a variety of compartments for different shapes and sizes. Because flies in these boxes are loose, organization can be tough if you over pack them.
Magnet boxes are a great solution for those midges and other small flies that are difficult to place into foam or silicone slits. Simply drop them onto the magnetic compartment for quick and easy organization. Two of our go-to magnet boxes are the Umpqua Large LT Magneto and the Yakoda Supply Fly Tin and Tweezer Combo.
If you don’t want to be drying out your flies after a day wading deep in your favorite river, you might want them in a waterproof fly box. This is especially important for dry flies or in saltwater situations. A box of soggy dries or rusty saltwater hooks isn’t a good thing. For those boxes you need to keep absolutely dry, look to the Fishpond Tacky Pescador. Other favorites include the MFC Boat Box, the Umpqua Large HD Fly Box and the previously mentioned Umpqua Waterproof Bug Locker.
Contact Us With Questions
If you need help or have questions, please feel free to ask! You can visit us at the fly shop in Littleton or give us a call at 303-794-1104. We’d love to help you get organized and ready for your next fly fishing adventure.