For centuries, anglers have sought the best means to carry their flies while fishing. Flies must be kept secure but accessible, and the storage container should be compact, without crushing delicate hackles.
In that ‘fishing movie’ Brad Pitt resorted to an old tobacco tin and his hat brim., while his on-screen brother used a bit of sheep’s fleece in a leather wallet. Fortunately, today’s options are a little better than those.
When selecting a fly box, the first step is identifying what’s going to be carried. To help protect the delicate feather, fur, and synthetic materials that make up flies, specialized fly boxes are available for small dry flies, nymphs, streamers, and mixed kits made up of all these.
Another consideration is the means of fishing. When casting from a driftboat or raft, big boxes not only are possible, but advisable. The bigger size puts a larger selection of flies in front of you at one time, and it’s easier to handle in a boat. Wading fishing, on the other hand, calls for more compact containers that fit into pockets or a backpack.
Since most anglers stick with compact containers, that’s where the greatest specialization occurs. So that’s where we’ll focus on here.
For general use, the Tacky Dry Fly Box offers a couple of unique features to protect hackles while holding flies securely. The patented silicone inserts grip fly hooks firmly without snagging or tearing as you remove and reinsert flies. In their dry fly box, Tacky molds 3-D texture on that silicone insert. This design provides good security while keeping the fly bodies elevated off the box bottom, eliminating the risk of crushing hackles and tails. The clear plastic lid — held shut with strong magnets on the corners — allows viewing of the flies before opening the box. This helps eliminate dropped flies and ‘wind loss.’ The box will technically hold up to 199 flies, but 100 is a more realistic amount. Measures 7 in. x 3.5 in. x 1.125 in. Price: $30.
Tacky’s silicone inserts are also featured in the box I recommend for anglers who do a lot of “dry-dropper” fishing. That is to say, tying on a big dry fly and then connecting a nymph ‘dropper’ to drift below. The Orvis Tacky Collab Dropper Box employs two forms of the Tacky silicone mat into a two-sided polycarbonate box. One side of the box features ‘big bug’ mat to hold the larger hooks of big stoneflies, hoppers and foam-bodied attractor patterns. Opposite this is a standard mat, which is ideal for the smaller hooks used on small nymphs and emerger patterns. In short, this one slim box holds all the flies needed to rig up a variety of ‘dry-dropper’ two-fly setups. Measures just 7 in. x 3.75 in. x 1.25 in. and holds up to 240 flies. Price: $42.
For toting small midge-sized dry flies, tiny nymphs, and wiry chironomids, the Umpqua UPG Medium Midge Box works wonderfully. The clear polycarbonate features storage compartments on each side. One side sports a foam panel over a magnetic floor. Two large cutouts create open compartments ideal for flies that are too tiny to easily fit into slits. The magnetic base holds the small flies securely, even if the box is inverted. The other half of this compartment has slitted foam to secure larger nymphs as well. Flip the Midge Box over to access the second storage areas, which features a deeper foam panel designed for bigger nymphs, and emerger patterns. Measures 7.5 in. x 4.5 in x 1.25 in. Price: $36.