Flybox spring cleaning?


if it's not this, then what?
I am not sure if this has been discussed before, but last week I was organizing my messy fly boxes. I wanted to put all Stillwater flies in 2-3 boxes, then I moved on to my dryfly box. To my surprise I had some flies in there that are close to 20 years old AND in good condition. I drag many of my non-used flies with me and use one only if the opportunity calls. However, at least on lakes, I stick with several of my usuals. So, here are my questions: Can any of you relate? Does anyone ever just chuck them? I am trying to be sensible any bring moving water flies with me on rivers and still water flies on lakes. Sometimes a fly works in either. As I told my fly fishing buddy (when the fishing is slow and we still see a trout splashing or some being caught) I say...I must have the correct fly in my box somewhere, but I don't have the time to test as to whether to use emergers, tiny nymps, etc. I try to use good judgement and watch the bug activity, fish location, weather etc. Stuff just drives me nuts during non-productive times. Kind of like too many flies, not enough time.
Ah yes, the eternal search for the perfect fly organization system. It's probably easiest to organize for a situation-specific need like lake fishing (for trout). I keep all of my lake flies in a single 12" x 14" box with foam on both sides that holds hundreds of flies. I custom-enlarged one float tube pocket to hold it, and of course it fits easily in a boat. Or you could fill several standard-size boxes.

For standard stream fishing I use a standard vest with bigger-than-average pockets. I can forego some boxes seasonally, like the grasshopper box before late summer.

For backpacking, four little boxes go in a 6" x 5" belt pouch with plenty of room for tippet spools.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
I have oodles of flies but only use a small percentage of them. I have some around only because I think I need them. You never know when an off shoot fly will be the one that will work.

As for fly boxes, I try to keep them as neat as I can, Which isn't easy.


Active Member
I never 'chuck' virgin flies in good condition (or even raggedy old flies that I probably last fished 20 years ago) too many times I've been down to losing my last 'go to' fly, tied one of these wallflowers on, and discovered they work just fine.

Fish really aren't all that smart, and neither are flyfisherman.

Pat Lat

Mad Flyentist
I pretty much only use flies I just tied, or ones that were really cool that I've been saving. I guess flies I tied last season are just old news. I have a box of crappy hastily tied flies that are waiting to be dismantled. Not just a fly box, a Tupperware, with probably a couple hundred flies.
Most are just from a few years ago when I was still pretty new to tying. But slightly used, ugly/wonky flies, or experimental ones that didn't work out are in there. I've had nights where I can't think of what to tie so I just sit and dismantle flies. One time I dismantled about 70 flies in a sitting


Active Member
I organize mine using the Dewey decimal system and keep a pocket reference guide handy in all my pants pocket.

That way I can look them up by name, color, fishery, purpose, etc.

Kyle Smith

DBA BozoKlown406
I just organized half of my flies. I try to go by type of insect and life stage. This weekend I learned that my turds and worms were in separate boxes. Not a good idea!

I need to stop putting wet flies back in the box! Must've tossed 20 rusty flies in the trash last week.

Now that I tie all my nymphs and streamers, it is fun to replace beat up flies, and not so expensive.

I would tie more dries, but I don't feel like buying $1000 worth of hackle at this point in my life. Foam and deer hair float just fine.
I do most of my tying in the winter. Around February I go through my boxes and pull out everything that I'm no longer satisfied with. This results in 1) room in my boxes for the stuff I have been tying recently and 2) a discard pile of flies, mostly unfished, that has grown to quite a heap over the past 5 years or so.


Active Member
It seems every winter I'm tying a "new better pattern" of last years flies. I have a huge plastic gear type box i cram all my "not using anymore" patterns but it is still always with me.

Last winter it was a new Calibeatis pattern for a specific lake with an epic hatch. I tied nymphs, emergers, and dries all out of fly tiers magazine. Come to find out all it took was a store bought dry Adams in #14 to slay a bunch of browns and bows on the surface.

This winter it is a new chironomid "flash back" pattern. tied about a hundred of them in different sizes and made a whole new box. I sure will be keeping my old ones though!

I like to think we get better with each passing year with our patterns, or at least it keeps me trying new things and grow with the sport and I hope it never ends! If the learning and changing stopped, well so would i because i would get so bored with the same thing over and over I would just quit fishing altogether.

It seems every new fishery means a new pattern or ten that works just in that fishery. I tend to change fisheries every spring and try and learn them so I can move on to more fisheries and patterns and "LEARNING" even doing all the research I can before hand it isn't until I fish a fishery that I find what I need and have to tie a whole new box just for that fishery. although this can be very challenging and yes sometimes you fail on a new fishery for a little while until you get it dialed in but, it is the dialing in process that keeps me coming back. the challenge of braking the so called code, without it - fishing would be pretty damn boring.

I truly believe you cannot have to many flies!


Indi "Ira" Jones
I do most of my tying in the winter. Around February I go through my boxes and pull out everything that I'm no longer satisfied with. This results in 1) room in my boxes for the stuff I have been tying recently and 2) a discard pile of flies, mostly unfished, that has grown to quite a heap over the past 5 years or so.

I like to steal from this pile and then catch fish in front of him with his unsatisfactory discards. Most people on this forum who like to fish stillwaters, would kill for his discard pile.


Not to be confused with Freestone
At work we are forced to "5-s"...a place for everything and everything has its place. I completely dismiss this theory when it comes to my fly fishing boxes... instead, allowing entropy to works its magic. :D

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