Fly Organization Tips Part 1

When fishing for trout, good fly box organization is a must. A big part of what makes fly fishing for trout so challenging and rewarding is the wide variety of insects available. Also, the selective nature of the wild fish we are trying to catch. It is because of these two ingredients that good fly fishermen needs to acquire and carry an extensive collection of flies to the river each day. Keeping a large arsenal of flies organized is no easy task. But, if you follow a few of these simple guidelines it can be done. Listed below is a basic outline of my organization technique, which has worked for me for a while now.


The first tip I have for organizing your growing bug collection is maybe the most important. You need to find a way to classify and sort your flies, and then do your best to stick to it. For example, you can choose to sort flies into boxes based on which time of year they will be used, fly type (dries, streamers, beadheads, midges, etc.), or by insect representation. If you don’t know a lot about insect categories yet, one of the best ways to learn is by reading up on the subject. Matching the Hatch by Pat Oreilly, Hatch Guide for Western Streams by Jim Schollmeyer, and Which Fly Do I Use? by Darren Banasch are all great beginner insect guides that can help you determine how you want to sort your bugs. Once you lay a good foundation for organization, you will be able to build the system up as you go, and each and every fly you purchase will have its proper place within the system. It took me years to figure this out and now I have about a dozen labeled fly boxes that I can find quickly to get the right bug every time.

Get the Right Boxes

With so many different styles of fly boxes out there, picking out the right ones can be difficult at first, so it is important to remember that not every fly box is designed to hold every type of fly. Some are made to hold wads of tiny midges and some are better at securing heavy streamers. There is no one fly box that does it all, so if you want to keep things organized, you will need at least a few different styles of fly box. Some of my favorite new options include the Fishpond Sushi Roll for large streamers and the Tacky Fly Box for small to medium sized nymphs. For dry flies, I like to stick with large compartment style boxes that give the fragile bugs plenty of room to breathe so that they do not get mashed when pulling them out.

These two tips are probably the most important tips I can give new fly fishermen regarding insect organization. No matter how you choose to sort and store your bugs, it is important that you stick to your plan. This means that you do not stuff a handful of beadhead flies into your dry fly box when you are in a hurry to get to the water. Take the extra few seconds each time to do it right and you will have more success.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Fly Organization Tips where I will talk about a few more tips on keeping your flies in order.

Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer