My Fly Boxes: What I Bring and How I Organize

Some of the goals for this blog are to: 1. Be transparent and share what works for us, and 2. Help other anglers.

So, I’d like to share the contents of my fly boxes. Many anglers will not, but I already have written about the patterns that work for me. I’ve kept my promise to be transparent; there are no secret flies that I’ve kept from you.

When I go to a river, I try to:

  • Pack light
  • Have a variety of flies for all conditions and species
  • Simplify as much as possible. A handful of patterns catches nearly all of my fish

I try to prioritize my fly boxes and think of them as “Starters,” “Back Ups” and “In Reserve.”

My most frequently used fly box is actually a small patch, the C&F Chest Patch.

As I’ve blogged before here, it holds many flies, and I can place used flies on magnets to let them air-dry. The sides of the patch are open, making for quick drying.

I pin it on my chest pack. When I want a fly, it flips open. I don’t have to reach into my chest pack at all.

Here, I’ve placed the flies that I think I’m going to use most often that day. It really doesn’t change much from river to river, unless I’m going to focus on throwing small dries at flat water all day.

For the remaining 90% of time, I’ll have anchor flies, dropper flies, and dries. You’ll see various anchors of various weights. For Euro-nymphing, that is the key. You want to be where the fish are. I think that fly selection is important, but far more critical are reading water, predicting where trout will be, and getting your flies down to the right level of the water column.

In most situations, I want my anchor nymph to be about 1′ above the bottom and not dragging on it. That usually calls for tungsten-bead nymphs. But, if trout are higher in the water column during a hatch, the anchors could be weighted with brass beads, glass beads or have no weight at all.

I like to keep this chest patch light, and so, there are only one or two of each fly that I’m thinking of using.

I store them in two fly boxes in my chest pack.

The first is the Umpqua Day Tripper Fly Box, which I really like (prior post here).

On one side, I have extra anchor nymphs, dries and streamers. To keep weight down, I don’t have too many of each kind. Those tungsten beads really add up!

On the other side, I store dropper flies of all sorts. The key dividing line is that all flies in this box are size 18 or bigger.

Some of these flies are proven winners. Others have yet to work, but I keep hoping they will. In the winter, I periodically weed out this box and get rid of the duds. It’s a good winter evening when it is snowing out, the Bourbon is poured, jazz is on, and I’m stripping dud flies down to bare metal to re-use the hooks.

For small flies that are size 20 and smaller, I store those in a special fly box with magnetized panels. Before I got this, too many small flies disappeared in a gust of wind!

Magnetized fly boxes are cheap. Here’s one from Amazon for $8.99.

In this fly box, I have dries, emergers and nymphs down to size 30. When I hit tailwaters, this is a key fly box for me. I dip into it and place flies on the C&F’s magnets.

So, I try not to bring too much with me to the river. The three fly boxes in aggregate weigh very little, but I have enough with me to target multiple freshwater species during all types of conditions. I want my focus to be on reading water and presentation.

This is an old fly box that I keep in the car. In it, I store extra flies in case I run out of certain ones. I organize the flies by hook size. During day trips, I almost never go into it. During sleepover trips, I periodically replenish my inventory from it.

So, that’s what I bring to the river and how I organize my fly boxes. How do you store your flies?

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12 thoughts on “My Fly Boxes: What I Bring and How I Organize

  1. I like your system. I too use the C&F patch but often struggle to clean it out from trip to trip and my euronymphs get commingled with my standard flies.
    In my vest I carry my Dry flies in a dedicated box, my midges in a magnetized box, my wets/streamers/unweighted nymphs in an old Wheatly that has been rejuvenated with new foam slotted inserts. In the summer I also carry a C&F box with threaders with patterns used in the evening ( last of the light fly changes etc). I also will carry hatch specific boxes depending upon the time of year i.e. Hendricksons & Sulphurs.

    My euronymphs and associated gear are carried in thin boxes in a Veedavoo sling pack.

    Every year the pattern selection gets pared down, but I have a rule of carrying three of every size fly pattern.

    Every year I try a few new patterns. Some I keep and some I discard. This year the big winners are: Iris Caddis & LaFontaine Emergent Pupa. The loser: MOP flies.

    1. Great system! Don’t give up on the Mop, though, for deep water, spring fishing when stockies are naive and quiet pools in winter.

  2. I fish a similar concept, but when my chest pack began to bother my upper back and shoulders, I moved the C&F box to a neck lanyard and moved the rest of my stuff (2 fly boxes, tippet, and a few gadgets) into my waders.
    Works equally well with a wading jacket. The C&F box handles most situations for me also.

  3. Enjoyed your ideas. Simplification is the key. Do you switch back and forth between using a sighter and a suspender? I assume you are euronymphing. What is your preferred leader formula? Using an 11′ rod.

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