Simplified Fly Box Journey

Eroksolfe

Active Member
'Short' Background story to this post:

Recently spent a long weekend fishing in CO. Went to the Gunnison, Taylor, Colorado and Eagle rivers. Though I have hundreds of dollars of flies in my boxes, I ended up buying new flies in different fly shops for each river. Couldn't shake the feeling of needed to find "THE fly" for each river. The final day on the Eagle was slow and I ended up talking to a very generous guide. He gave me what he called a "Thread Frenchie". It looked like nothing to me but I tied it on and immediately hooked several fish. "ah ha! I thought, this is "THE fly" for this river." Then I watched the tying video and I was perplexed -- it was so simple and didn't really match anything.

Fast forward a week, I was perusing the forum and ran into a post by @KillerDave that spoke to me -

“About 10 years ago I started fishing with a guy who didn't tie his own flies and thus grouped his nymphs by size & shade rather than specific pattern. He caught more fish than anyone so I adopted his approach and it's worked out pretty well. For instance, if you need a smallish dark shaded nymph, a pheasant tail is a good choice. If you need a big fat stonefly, PT's kinda suck.”

Boom. Long overdue lightening bolt to my fly fishing brain.

My search for "THE fly pattern" has grown my fly tying arsenal to an unmanageable level…and it still seems like each time I want to tie a new pattern, I'm missing something. "How can this be?" ! I think to myself. Something has to change!

So this leads me to the purpose of this post. I'm looking to simplify my fly boxes down to 1 (maaaybe 2) patterns to represent each life cycle of the various insects. My priorities are 1) fish catchability 2) ease / simplicity to tie 3) flexibility to mimic other bugs 4) common materials.

I'm looking for recommendations on "guide flies" that y'all like in each category:

Caddis - larva, puppa, emerger, adult, spinner

Mayfly - nymph, emerger, adult, spinner

Midge - larva, adult, adult bundle

Stone fly - nymph, adult (maybe spinner)

Terrestrial - hopper, stimulator pattern

a few of the patterns I like already - Thread Frenchie style nymphs, Pats Rubber legs, Elk hair caddis, CDC emerger patterns

thanks forum!
 

Zak

WFF Supporter
You might some some of the books that have helped me simplify things:

Giergach's Good Flies
Lyle's Simple Flies
Wyatt's What Trout Want
(see his deer hair and snowhoe emerger):

Fran Betters' Usual and muddlers in various sizes/configurations cover a lot of bases for me.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I think by the time you fill out the list you will still have lots of boxes. Couple thoughts:
I pretty much carry 2 boxes, one set for rivers and one set streams. Others are carried but rarely used.
I have pretty much eliminated all mayflies as they just aren't a big component of the stream food around here, so that eliminates some.
I've gone to flies that have worked successfully for me in the past. This eliminates flies I may not fish confidently (big clue).
Most of the flies are more impressionistic than realistic.
Drys: Stimulator, Elk Hair Caddis, Adams, basic ant
Nymphs: Lt and Dk hares ears, Trueblood otter, prince nymph, heather nymph, pats rubber leggs
Other: Brown, Olive and Black Woolly buggers
Add one box of favorite wet flies, always first option backup.

Other than that I got about 10 boxes of stuff from eggs to midges to streamers that may also be carried for trout depending on the day. And a couple boxes of clousers and minnows for bass, and steelhead wallets too.
 

gtrgeo

New Member
I am interested in this as well. That is what prompted me to post regarding pheasant tail nymphs on the main page. I still believe in the pattern but just have not had much luck with it. Probably more my error in use than anything.
I am going through the same effort after realizing I have been carrying boxes of flies I rarely or never use. Many were different patterns that I had run across while learning to tie and some were just ugly ties as I was learning. I pulled a bunch out and stuck them on a Flybrary patch on the Metolius this summer and just a few weeks ago stripped out probably 100 more flies out of my boxes.
At first I had contemplated using a form of Gierach's list from the Good Flies book mentioned above. but realize I need to tailor it more toward the rivers and lakes I fish. I will also check out Zak's other suggestions the see what I can learn from them. I also have a couple of older articles from Flyfishing & Tying Journal which I have contemplated. One is Searching Flies for Trout by Dave Hughes and the other is A Trout Junkie's Yellowstone - An essential summer fly box. I can share these if you would be interested in reading them.

I have contemplated limiting myself to one of these sets of patterns to push myself to learn to fish with them and narrow down what works for me. Only adding or changing as I determine a true need. Not just something that catches my eye on line, in a magazine or in a shop bin.

Honestly, I do not get to spend as much time on the water as I would like and would like to streamline as much as possible.

Thanks,
George
 

gtrgeo

New Member
I really like the Wyatt's deer hair emerger as tied in the above video. I have not really spent much time on emerger patterns but this looks simple enough to tie and should be quite effective.

Zak - That is an interesting tie. Do you fish it both dry and wet?
 

NRC

WFF Supporter
Great question, @Eroksolfe . My interest in this discussion comes from a slightly different angle - after finally getting a setup a couple years ago, I’ve devoted my fly tying time and energy to Puget Sound saltwater pretty exclusively. Really been wanting to transition into tying and fishing freshwater, but it’s hard to pick a starting point with any degree of confidence.

Hopefully you’ve saved me from a few dead ends by starting this discussion! Will be reading with interest.
 

Zak

WFF Supporter
Yep, but mostly as a dry. The tail, body and wing are all snowshoe, so it floats pretty well (and I squeeze Gink into it). But I also pull it under and fish it wet. I sometimes add knotted PT legs which seem to make it catch more fish, but they are fiddly and time consuming.

I like tying Wyatt's emerger with a skinny waist so it looks like an ant from below.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
'Short' Background story to this post:

Recently spent a long weekend fishing in CO. Went to the Gunnison, Taylor, Colorado and Eagle rivers. Though I have hundreds of dollars of flies in my boxes, I ended up buying new flies in different fly shops for each river. Couldn't shake the feeling of needed to find "THE fly" for each river. The final day on the Eagle was slow and I ended up talking to a very generous guide. He gave me

“About 10 years ago I started fishing with a guy who didn't tie his own flies and thus grouped his nymphs by size & shade rather than specific pattern. He caught more fish than anyone so I adopted his approach and it's worked out pretty well. For instance, if you need a smallish dark shaded nymph, a pheasant tail is a good choice. If you need a big fat stonefly, PT's kinda suck.”
If your traveling, like you said, then the shops are the place to start. Talk to them, or call ahead, and buy some flies to build the base. Then add what you like that's similar to start.
The same at home. Many people are talking about Ted's right now. The local shops can help build the box base list for your area. Best money you can spend.
When I started fishing eastern washington I used the inland empire fly fishing clubs fly book for the base, and still use them.
So I guess where I'm going the list really depends on where you are and what your fishing for. Shop the local shops, and visit with people you meet in the field.
Lacking that, or also, if you fish an area regularly, sieve the flow with a screen. Gently rummage a few stones. See what's there, and select popular imitations to start.
Second part again why I like impressionistic flies.
 
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Eroksolfe

Active Member
Thanks for the thoughts gents! Great stuff.

@Zak thanks for the patterns I’ll take a look.

@gtrgeo and @NRC hope it helps!

@MGTom definitely something I’ve thought of and a concern. I expect to end up with a handful of patterns for each bug that meet the “simple” criteria. Then it’s up to me to figure out which ones work best for me. Still expect to have several (dozen) boxes of flies that fit specific scenarios.
 

Speyrod GB

Active Member
I have been at this game for a few decades. Last year I really tried to simplify my fly boxes. It drives me nuts. SRC started out simple. Clouser in 3 colors. They all caught fish. The fly tier took over and more patterns went in the box. Steelhead was same way. I had to experiment with something else. It still goes on and on.

Last summer I bought a Fishpond wading belt to go with the San Juan chest pack. The pack will slide on the belt. The new rule, that I stick to most of the time, one box with a variety of flies. Unlike @MGTom, mayflies are abundant in SW Montana. So are caddis, stoneflies and some others I have not figured out. Hoppers are pretty much done. :( Now I need to reorganize for streamers and soft hackles. Such a dilemma. I'm sure I'll get over it. :D Good luck on your quest.
 

KillerDave

Have camera, will travel...
I think every commercially available fly pattern was pretty much the apex of fly fishing at the time it came out. I like cool flies as much as anyone but some definitely work better than others for me.

At the beginning of the season, rather than filling my entire fly box I leave about 1/4 of it empty and call this spot "the winners circle." When I have a great day, I put that fly in the winners circle. By the end of the season its full. Then, when I'm tying flies, I try to experiment off my winners. While I love tying flies, at the same time I want to tie flies that might actually catch a fish someday. It's not a perfect system but it's worked well for me.

A couple years ago I started tying flies that looked like my wife. Best idea ever. Sounds a little crazy but bear with me on this. My wife's name is Cheryl and she has brown hair, her favorite shirts are usually purple and she favors black pants. So I started tying flies with a brown-purple-black theme. I like to tell people they work as good or as bad as any other fly but for me they work good most of the time. I can vouch that next to getting honey do projects done, informing your better half that "I slayed em' today on the Cheryl special" goes over really well. On the odd times when they don't work, naturally I blame it on bad weather or a full moon. Happy Wife Happy life & all that.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
Years ago my wife got me the fly selection of the month club for a year from Big Y. Going through those recommended flies left me with a couple dandies.
 

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