Fly storage has come a long way since the aluminum tins and "A River Runs Through It" style hat methods. Fly selection has changed too- fishing with jig nymphs and streamers is much more commonplace now than it was in the old days. Naturally, this has inspired more efficient ways to store different styles of flies. The width of boxes, types of foam cuts, streamer suitcases, and spey tubes can now all be part of the game of keeping your gear organized. If you’re just starting out, there’s no problem with having all of your flies organized in one box. As you start to accumulate flies over the seasons (and trust us, you will), keeping them in the right places will save you a lot of time on the water. In this article, we break down a few different types of boxes for storing different types of flies and how they’ll fit your needs.
Dry flies are usually where we see the most people make storing mistakes. Many popular patterns have delicate hackle and wings that can crush easily, affecting their appearance on the water or even rendering them unable to float at all. The best boxes for dry flies have tall compartments that keep materials straight during storage. Gaps between the rows of foam also allow hackle to sit correctly. Make sure to space larger dries appropriately in your box for the same reasons.
There’s also dry fly specific boxes out there to help you with bugs of different sizes. Given they have high enough compartments, most standard boxes have foam or rubber slots that will fit most medium and larger dries. The real difference can be seen in boxes designed for tiny midges. These have shorter slots that prevent smaller hooks from falling out, something you may have experienced if you’ve been putting fly sizes 18 and smaller in a standard box. Some of these boxes even have threading devices to help prep your flies for tippet knots, a pretty cool feature for little bugs.
You have a pretty wide range of options for storing most nymphs. They’re more durable and often pretty compact, allowing you to cram them into boxes better than other genres of patterns. Thin profile boxes are a great choice, as you can efficiently store a good deal or flies (or even multiple boxes) for an outing without taking up too much space or damaging your flies.
Thin boxes are great for storing minimalistic nymphs like euro style jigs, chironomids, and pretty much any other pattern smaller than a size 10 or so. For bigger flies or nymphs with more delicate wings and hackle, use a standard box you’d put dries into.
Streamers/Steelhead Swinging Patterns
Accumulating streamers often presents some challenges. They take up a lot of room in the box and often have materials that don’t look as great when they get crushed down. The fly fishing world has come up with a lot of creative solutions to storing big flies, but essentially there are two parts when it comes to this: storage and use. More so than dries and nymphs, the size of the flies will not allow you to take everything wherever you go. Instead, you'll pull from a larger supply.
For larger storage, fly suitcases and plastic compartment boxes are a great bet. They’ll give you the room you need to keep a lot of streamers in one place while still allowing you to organize them.
You have a lot more options when bringing a smaller number of streamers to fish. The most important feature you’ll want in a box for this purpose is streamer style slots in the foam/rubber. Even if they fit, putting large streamers in the same kind of box as your dries or nymphs will damage the smaller foam and increase the likelihood of your flies falling out over time. Foam designed to hold streamers is deeper and has longer slots for bigger hooks.
Spey tubes are great for storing intruder style steelhead flies and pretty much any other slim profile, wire trailer streamer. They keep these patterns separate and tangle free, and fit nicely into a bag or front wader pocket. You can also store spey tubes in bulk boxes for easy organization.
Don't know what to do with your stash of flies? We offer help with fly box organization, just swing by the shop with any questions!