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Thursday, January 15, 2015

5 Steps to Fly Box Organization Zen

Get Your Stuff Together!


Chironomids ready for action
I have a sickness. Up until two or three years ago, I would meticulously and, for the most part, needlessly re-organize my fly boxes and spend time filling the holes in the boxes so that, come spring, I'd be ready to roll with all parking spots filled, organized by types, colors, sizes, species and locations. If I had a row that had open spots, I'd tie to fill it. Can't have a box with open spots, as we all know. OCD, much? Uh..yeah.

When I ended up realizing my need to organize wasn't properly balanced with a need to purge my boxes, I came to the stark reality that carrying around 30 boxes wasn't very practical.

Then, as I wrote about here, I decided it was time to pare down the "varsity team" flies and stick with patterns I was actually using. That little article has some good information on how to successfully make the purge, however the focus here will be ways to effectively organize those flies once you've gotten control of them.

So like I said, I was a serial re-organizer. As I did this for years and years, I came up with some things I would consider and that ended up working for me. Everyone will be different, but here are the top 5 things I'd recommend you focus on:

Dry fly "hatch" box
1. Group by Fly Types - not insect or baitfish species. Out of all the methods to organize flies, I think the most useful is to think about your boxes first by fly types instead of just insect or baitfish species as is often a common practice. This helps in a few ways. First, it helps you pick the best type of box for the situation. You might find dry flies fit into a better box than your nymphs or your streamers need a different box than your buggers. The biggest advantage is that you'll be forced to cut down on the number of patterns per pattern type but be able to cover more bases with fewer boxes focusing on the most effective patterns. When I had a Baetis, PMD, Caddis and Midge box separately, I had more styles of patterns than I needed because I'd fill them all up. Then, I'd ultimately find a day when I saw a caddis hatch and only had my midge box. Now, I have a nymph box for hatches and a dry fly box for hatches -- they both include a limited number of pattern types to cover species, color, size etc. If I'm on a river or a lake and there's any insect activity, I'll be covered with only two boxes, as opposed to 4 or 5. Sure, I have to cull the herd every now and again, but those flies are the varsity team for sure.
Stillwater Nymphs

2. Group by Water Type. This is related to the previous item, but more specifically, you can further break down the organization by fly types and then into where you'll be fishing those flies. You might have nymph patterns for rivers and then nymphs for stillwater. Or you might have surf baitfish patterns vs flats baitfish patterns. That doesn't mean you need separate boxes, but if you're going to spend a day out on the lake, you might not need your Baetis nymphs, but you'll need some damsel or callibaetis nymphs. When I organize it by water type, I can make that call on what boxes to bring depending on where I'm going to fish that day.

3. Label Your Boxes. Definitely not a novel concept, but besides sticking some labels on your boxes or writing on them with a sharpie for quick identification, you can also tack on your name and phone number in case they get lost.

4. Spend the time to organize and fill. Regardless of how you organize the boxes, you need to plan and spend time actually organizing and re-filling them. For me, this usually happens during the cold days of winter. Either way, you can make "to tie" lists and set aside the time to tie and to organize the boxes or it won't get done. On the back end, it's also a good idea to note down, while on the water, any holes you have in your boxes. I had a day where my yellow sally patterns weren't quite cutting it, so the next year, I came prepared with a new section of new flies in the box for those specifically.

5. Create "Overflow" boxes. If you're like me, you still have trouble narrowing down patterns to fit in your go-to boxes. In order to satisfy my fear that I'll be on the water and not have the right fly, I'll carry a few over-flow boxes that contain extra varsity patterns as well as more of the one-off patterns that I tie just in case. I don't usually carry these on the water with me but rather keep them in the car or a bag in the tent etc. Worst case scenario, I at least have them available should I run out or need something I don't have. Truth is I rarely use these boxes but it's nice to have them just in case.

And I'm sure next year, my approach could be different, but I must admit this methodology has held really firm for the past five or so years, so maybe I've settled down going forward. In any case, find what works for you and hopefully these suggestions will come in handy.

12 comments:

  1. Excellent article Curtis. Helpful info for sure. Besides my own flies, I've been trying to find a way to organize my humble collection of flies from other tiers - your suggestions could be the solution.

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  2. My problem is that I separate my self tied flies from everything else, it presents sort of an unexpected chain reaction that wreaks havoc through the rest of my boxes...

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  3. Nice article! I follow a few of these principles--organize by fly type, spend time organizing & put your name/cell # on all boxes.

    Thanks to you guys, I'm solely (well, almost) using the Tacky fly box now--3 but I might need a 4th. Two nymph boxes and one dry fly box. Don't need to label these as I can easily see what's inside. I also carry an Orvis Dropper rig box in the back of my WJ Confluence with a bunch of fly teams ready to go. One nymph box is for mostly small nymphs and the other for larger nymphs. Since I don't have many large streamers (nothing bigger than a size 8 wolly bugger), the Tacky fly box IMO is the best fly box there is bar none (for most trout flies).

    Another point on organization I feel that's worth adding:

    I follow George Daniel's idea of a "working" box, in which I use a light weight, small foam C&F Designs box. I change patterns out as necessary the day before for what flies I might expect to use. But in general I keep an assortment of flies that should cover several situations. I have flies ranging from size 22 Top Secret midges, mercury black/red/olive beauties, Ginny midges, TH Zebras, jujubee, RS-2s, micro mayflies, micro stones, small psycho princes, Rainbow Warriors, Iron Lotus', Frenchies, some egg patterns, some buggers, two small sculpin patterns, and plenty of jig nymphs size 16-12. Lastly, I have a small range of dries/emergers--BWOs, BWO emergers, and midge emergers & adults.

    I could leave home with only this box and be covered for a day of fishing...I'm sure many of us carry way more flies than we'd ever need for one day of fishing, yet we still do it. The other boxes are there just as an insurance policy. Maybe one day I'll be bold and bring only my working box.......nah, not likely. ;)

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    Replies
    1. Jp-7- I implemented that last year, after the previous year of bringing nearly 8 or 9 boxes with me during every outing. I went big...carried as many boxes as my Fish Pond Wild Horse tech pack would allow, and some.

      This past year I started carrying a confidence box, flies that are proven winners, regardless of water type or situation. I typically start with this box, and only go into the trenches for other flies, when these fail to produce, or I notice streamside conditions that don't fit any of the 50-60 patterns I'm carrying at the time.

      I'm a big streamer junkie- and what I started doing last year, and what I'm going to continue with this year even more- is just fishing articulated streamers for trophy fish. I leave the pack home, and carry a military satchel that will hold those huge Allen Guide XL fly cases. If I go a day throwing those, I know I've done my best trying to get a monster to come out. If I have other options on hand, will power is weak especially the last hour and a half when I know I'd be catching fish if I threw nymphs, etc.

      Keep it up boys.

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  4. GREAT ARTICLE ,,I CAN ALLWAYS USE SOME HELP ,,THANK YOU

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  5. Got a question. My boys young caught the fire this year. My boxes are now incredibly sparse and in need of a complete reset! So, following your principles here and staring from scratch, what would be the most efficient way to fill the following boxes:

    Stillwater Nymphs (my heaviest used set)
    River Nymphs (river, lake, wherever)
    Brookie Box (bomb proof flies for 80 fish days)
    Hatch dries
    Attractor/generalist/terrestrial
    Streamers

    By this I mean; I need to go buy new materials, hooks, etc. What hook sizes/types, hackles, marabou, Arizona dub, string, etc... would I buy to cover all those bases. And with the material you procured, what flies would you put in those boxes? Shooting for efficiency from ground zero. I live in Wyoming. I know this is a monster question to answer, but its conundrum that has been eating me for a week! Love the Blog

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    Replies
    1. After revisiting the One Fly Idea... I'm willing to limit myself. Ah, but to what.

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    2. This is kind of a hard question to answer because the flies you fish are based so much on personal preference. Curtis fishes totally different flies than I do, but we both catch plenty of fish. You can see the different categories of flies that we have listed on our home page, and they are kind of divided up based on category. That being said, If I had to choose one fly in each of your categories based on effectiveness, I'd choose the following:

      Stillwater Nymph: Chimera
      River Nymph: Arizona Prince
      Brookie: Cinnamon Toast Ant
      Hatch Dry: Bunny Midge
      Attractor: Grumpy Frumpy
      Streamer: Cheech Leech

      Delete
    3. This is kind of a hard question to answer because the flies you fish are based so much on personal preference. Curtis fishes totally different flies than I do, but we both catch plenty of fish. You can see the different categories of flies that we have listed on our home page, and they are kind of divided up based on category. That being said, If I had to choose one fly in each of your categories based on effectiveness, I'd choose the following:

      Stillwater Nymph: Chimera
      River Nymph: Arizona Prince
      Brookie: Cinnamon Toast Ant
      Hatch Dry: Bunny Midge
      Attractor: Grumpy Frumpy
      Streamer: Cheech Leech

      Delete
  6. I wish those nymphs were namesd they look absolutly amazing and i dont know most of them

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  7. Great idea's, my boxes alway look like a nuclear bomb went off in them after a day of fishing so I have to organize after each trip.

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  8. My problem is that I love tying ...so I'm always adding to the disaster that are the 7-8 boxes in my vest. I am purging now...I'd love to save everything but there are flys that won't ever make the travel squad so out they go...Im not even going to save hooks, if I don't toss them they will linger. I fish about 10 patterns with regularity maybe a dozen. I'd hate to limit my boxes to just that because it will get boring so I am going to have the "A"flies in two boxes. I will have a tailwater box, terrestrial box wetfly box and streamer box too but they will stay in the car, and will fill in a third box as necessary throughout the season. The tailwater box (midge pupas rs2's etc) will always be with me because that stuff is money. I suspect I will be a record disorganization by the end of May but its worth a shot

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