You only really need one fly

The rest is fly box decoration

A fly box with a few flies
If I had a fly for every time someone looked at one of my fly boxes and either said "wow, that's a lot of flies, but there's really only one fly you need to tie and that's the <insert woolly bugger, Ken's Peacock King or the super-duper secret fly xyz here>" or "you're never going to fish all them flies in there", I'd have a huge box of flies for people to gawk at and wonder why I have so many flies. Think about that for a while.

So why then, do we really carry so many flies in all different sizes, colors and styles when we honestly have no chance of using even a fraction of them? Beyond the obvious OCD collection affliction we all suffer from, we worry so much that there will come a time when only that "one fly" will work and worse, we don't know when nor what that fly might be on that given day, so we keep stocking and we keep stocking.

I think we all like to fool ourselves into thinking "if I had that one fly, I'd be catching fish right now". I know one of my winter rituals is the annual fly box filling and re-filling and thinking to myself, I'm planning for the eventuality of the "one fly" and making sure I have it. I think if we get really honest, we'll probably agree that in most situations there are a lot of flies that will catch fish in a given situation. I've had times where, in a solid midge hatch with super-picky fish, they'd eat a crazy attractor pattern or fishing a favorite stillwater where the fish had destroyed my Lemon Lime bugger and I continued to catch fish after fish on nothing more than a hook with a green bead.

Setting those types of instances aside, we're most concerned about those times the fish are finicky and are focusing on a color, an insect stage, a specific size, a specific weight or any other number of variations that might come into play. And those are the times that warrant having the "one fly". We've probably all experienced those times and likely we've been on both sides of the fence. I can remember vividly the times I've sat there and watched fish rise to an insect or feed on something that I couldn't imitate. I can also remember times where I've been lucky enough to cover my bases and pull the "one fly" out of my box that saved an otherwise unremarkable day on the water. What's even better is throwing up a hail Mary on a slow day with a fly that shouldn't work and having it turn into the "one fly".

Lesson learned: Don't worry about carrying too many flies. If you care to do so, buy a pack animal to carry them or better yet, train your cat or dog to walk by your side as a living breathing fly patch. No limit fly boxes. Be judicious in what you carry, plan ahead and make sure you aren't left without that "one fly".