Can you ever have too many fly boxes?

dry fly boxI’ve heard the statement over and over again: you can never have too many fly boxes. I’ve always wondered about that.

What if you are getting tired of carrying them? Would rather have the space in your pack for food and drink? Do those boxes wind up glorified storage, like Tupperware operates in the leftovers realm? I know many folks who never eat what lingers more than a day in the fridge, and a while back I got an inkling the same might be the case for flies. I’ve since kept track of what I’ve cooked, and what could now be deemed a science project.

As far as trout flies are concerned, I have roughly ten mainstays – they’re my pizza and PPJ PBJ. While I haven’t chased trout as much as in years past, those ten flies have accounted for 90+ percent of production, with the elk hair caddis and the buckskin making up about half that. If I tossed in a few new streamer and hopper patterns I lucked out with, it would be immeasurably close to 100%.

I also noticed that some flies have been sitting in one box or another for more than a decade, put there for very particular situations such as microscopic midge hatches on the San Juan quality water. I’ve used the regulars in those same places since, and done just fine. Further, a few months back I watched a buddy toss a big yellow sallie in a sea of small yellow sallies – the fish all around us rejected that fly like it was radioactive. I don’t carry yellow sallies, but I did have a plain ole’ caddis in just the right size. We tied those on, and they saved the day.

As of late time on the water has skewed towards bass and carp, but with an even narrower distribution around the mean. Roughly 75% of the bucketmouths I’ve taken were fooled by a single popper (albeit with some variation in color), and the rest by either a Clouser or a Jawbreaker (again in different colors). When it comes to the ditches, I’ve used a handful of flies for smallies, and just two patterns on the goldfish. That’s correct…every carp I’ve caught this season has been on one of two patterns (in two colors), with the color tan accounting for 8 out of 10 fish.


Sight fishing for carp has been a constant reminder of that week in Andros. Where I used just four flies.

Over the last two seasons I’ve cut the number of rods I own in half. Actually, more than in half, as seventeen sticks are now seven. The goal was pushing limits – understand the finer qualities of each piece of equipment in a wider variety of conditions. Reducing predawn decision-making was a side benefit. So far it’s working out – one rod has been damaged since, but I didn’t lose any time on the water because of it. Recent observations suggest the utilitarian method could be applied to flies too. Trick fish with fewer patterns, substituting something very close for an exact match and then overweighting reliance on delivery.

Can you ever have too many fly boxes? I’m not sure just yet, but last weekend I found my hat getting handed to me while nymphing. As many folks who have fished with me know, I’m not wanting for dredging tools. Yet despite zero apprehension regarding multi-fly rigs and truckloads of lead, I was forced to turn things around.

With a single dry.

MG signing off (to balance quantity, size, color and namesake, with method)


Bjorn says:

Aren’t we supposed to keep buying and buying and buying?

I just bought a new fly box, a big case style box by Cliff for tarpon flies, but generally, I don’t buy too many fly boxes. I end up going through fly boxes from time to time and culling the flies that have fallen out of favor and putting them in some sort of container for future consideration.

Either that or keep tying and tying and tying.

you know me; I had my tiny day’s worth box with me out on the water and that did me just fine for the week. simplify man!

I do remember, and well. I also saw Deeter out one day (on trout water), with a handful of flies in a little plastic cup and a single spool of 5X dangling from hemos (which were clamped to a shirt pocket). Granted it was his home water, but he schooled me quite nicely.

I’d really like to get to the point where I don’t even need a pack.

My goal for next season is to fish 10 patterns, and no more.

I could have lasted the entire carp season with 2 out here. i bet i spent 95% of my fishing time with the same two fly rig. but…i’d get bored. nice to throw some crazy shit at them from time to time.

@Smithzilla – “You mock me! I will not be mocked!”

@JM – Funny thing is, the more crazy shit you throw at them here, the fewer fish you seem to catch.

Pete McD says:

What is a PPJ? Some strange bastardization of a peanut butter jelly born out of your Florida heritage?

Good point mg. I never said the crazy shit works!

Get out to pdx sometime and we will give it a go on the big c.

@Pete – We’ve got a lot of strange bastardizations down there, but the sandwich to beat all sandwiches isn’t one of them. Corrected. You are a fine editor indeed.

@JM – Yep. And will do (sooner or later).

Pete McD says:

Strange is what makes Florida Florida.

Rob says:

Hey…a game of Germany or Florida would be great right now!

Do you have flies in all 47 fly boxes?

I have 2 fly boxes. One that I take with me and a big one for storage. Once I tied enough flies to fill them both, I stopped tying.

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