How many flies do you really fish? If you are like me, you’ve got a short list of favorites. Mine is a Sparkle Dun and the IOBO Humpy this year. I met a customer the other day who purchased some of my flies and told me his favorite fly to fish is a Renegade. A good friend of mine enjoys fishing parachute flies…PMD, BWO, you name it, he’s got a beautiful parachute imitation.

PMD Fly Box |

This is an image of one of my fly boxes. Kind of a messy, right?

It’s been a long season and several of these flies have been used to catch multiple trout. I better add this to my “to do” list for the winter. Clean out the flies and add new ones.

I looked in my fly box recently and noticed several flies I never use. Those two flies in the upper left hand corner are a perfect example. It’s a Quigley Film Critic March Brown.

Film Critic March Brown |

Beautiful fly! But honestly, I seldom fish them. I have customers who do and catch fish with them, but me? Nope.

You’d recognize the names of other flies too. I’ll tie flies for customers and decide to tie up a few extra flies for me. The flies make their way to the fly box, but seldom get fished. The exception is the IOBO Humpy I mentioned above. That fly just catches fish when nothing else works!

But they are still in my fly box!

So this begs the question, why are they still there?

I was a fly tyer early in my life (read My First Flies) and wanted to tie flies, but didn’t know what flies I should really tie. This was WAY before the Internet and the only method for me to learn flies were from books. I payed attention to what the fly imitated. It’s how I began my journey about learning diffenent aquatic insects.

The next way I learned was to buy a dozen or two flies for the water I planned to fish. I’d go into a fly shop and ask what was hatching and purchased flies they recommended to match the hatch. It was a great strategy to build up my fly box for the flies I’d need for specific hatches. If I found a really effective fly, I’d use it as a sample and tie more. In fact, I believe it really helped me learn the flies needed to imitate hatches.

Fast forward to today. I spend a lot of time on the river and my observation skills have improved tremendously over the years. Most fly fishers notice insects flying and/or floating down the river. I also spend time searching the vegitation next to water. Often you’ll find insects hiding. You just need to look for them.

And it might help when I have a camera close at hand. I’m always looking for something interesting to snap a shot.

Or this image of a fly floating down the river.

PMD on Water |

Does your fly box have flies taking up space that you never tie on? I’d be interested to know.

Lastly, you might have noticed I’ve started publishing fly tying videos on my RiverKeeper Flies YouTube channel. The latest is a Shakey Beeley, a fly I recently tied for a customer.

Shakey Beeley Flies |

And a link to the video…

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. LIke the Shakey Beeley. Guess that’s a wet fly. what do you do with the flies you discard? I once was having some refreshment after dinner with a couple of friends on a fishing trip when one of them asked how many flies were in my boat bag. So I counted the number in one box, then did the math counting the number of boxes. The number was astounding. The following Monday I called my insurance agent and added an amount for equipment rider for my boat insurance. BTW, still have all those flies plus some new patterns that are can’t miss!

  2. I’ve got too many variants in my boxes, for sure. I get a slew of weekly “how to tie this pattern” emails, and when something catches my eye, I’ll tie a few. When they work, I’ll tie more, but if they don’t, they take up space in my boxes, which I’ll cull this winter as I tie my faves, which will include many of your dry patterns for next year.

  3. John, my boxes are full of “I might need you” flies. But I agree, there are really only a few standards I rely on. Time to clean the boxes!

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