Fly fishing is a game of skill, practice, hard work, and a little bit of luck. However it seems at times the luck part of that can go both ways. On many occasions chance, timing, and the ability to be ready, play a role in catching fish. I am a firm believer that staying organized and prepared is a key part of fly fishing. Having the right fly, knowing where it is, and how to use it can all make the difference between catching fish and just wetting a line.
Organizing your flies is at the simplest an aesthetic part of fly fishing. Keeping them lined up by size, color, and type can almost be considered an afterthought that doesn’t really mean a whole lot when you get down to fishing. And in principle it doesn’t mean much, the fish don’t really care. So why should you?
I’m a firm believer that there are times it can save the day. Trout streams and trout fishing, for example, can change on a dime. In a matter of a few minutes a patch of water can g from zero to hero if a hatch happens to spring up out of nowhere. Unfortunately you may be watching the action from the bank if you’re out of a particular fly or left that “one” pattern at home.
Keeping an organized box or set of boxes means you always know where your flies are. If you have different patterns spread out over an array of different fly boxes you risk leaving that key fly pattern at home. Organized flies make it much easier
to tell what particular pattern you may be running a little low on. It’s hard to gauge spread out flies and you never really know exactly how many you have.
When organizing my flies I first and foremost start by placing each fly in either a warm water, cold water, or saltwater category. From there they are categorized by type, i.e: streamer, dry fly, nymph, midge, topwater, etc. For trout I have a nymph/midge box, a dry fly box, a scud/egg box, and a streamer box. I have similar boxes for the warm water and saltwater categories as well.
From the more broad categories I separate each fly into more specific groups. By name first, then color, and finally size. For example my Elk Hair Caddis collection is separated into green, olive, tan, orange, etc. From there they are grouped by size such as 20, 18,16, and 14. Once finished sorting I have a comprehensive and accurate idea of my fly inventory in size, color, and type.
Having flies categorized and sorted makes rigging up quicker, which means you get on the water quicker too. You always know where that “one fly” is and how many of them you have. Fishing will become more convenient for you and overall more successful. If nothing else you’ll look more prepared and professional.