Learn the Right Flies to Put
In Your Fly Box For Any Occassion

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Craft Your Fly Box Course

All your fly selection skills are worthless if you don’t have the right flies in your box when it counts. Learn the fly by fly, perfect boxes to have for any occasion on the water.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

140+ Pages with detailed lessons to teach you what flies you should have in your box and what insects they imitate.

  • Get fly by fly Steps to create the top fly boxes for every occassion
  • Master the strategic approach experts use to create the perfect box
  • Learn about insect lifecycles, seasonality, and planning for different bodies of water
  • Learn the names of the most popular flies and the insects they imitate.

YOU’LL ALSO GET THESE FREEBIES:

  • Two, 50% off coupons for any flies or assortments on our site ($100+ Value)
  • 50% Off our Catch n’ Hatch Fly Boxes ($10 + Value)
  • An Downloadable PDF for offline Viewing
  • Downloadable spreadsheet of my fly boxes, fly by fly & a template to create your own boxes
  • Lifetime access to the course including future updates
  • One, 50% Off Coupon for Any of Our Other Courses ($100+ Value)

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Course Outline

Introduction | 4 Lessons | Conclusion

Introduction

In the introduction we explain the unique importance around this highly overlooked skill set for fly fishing.  We discuss all the components that are available in the course as well as the coupon codes and freebies available in the course.

Lesson 1

In this lesson, we discuss all the options, pros and cons available to purchase a fly box.  Learn which fly boxes work best for certain situations so you can have the best boxes for you flies.

  • Fly boxes come in all shapes, sizes, and weights.  They also come with all sorts of ways to store the flies, access the flies and protect your flies.  Ultimately, you’re looking for something that will be easy to access, easy to store in your bag or vest and holds the flies you fish safely without damaging them.  Let’s review some of the considerations you’ll want to think about when choosing a fly box.

    COMPOSITION

    The first consideration is the composition.  This encompasses the dimensions, weight and material used to create the box and the material used to hold the flies.  Make sure you choose a size and material that fits your needs.  We’ll go over the pros and cons of all the options below, but for now understand this is the most important consideration and should be made first.

    FLY CAPACITY

    Some boxes hold more flies than others, but the more fly slots is not always better.  It depends on what flies you are putting in the box on what capacity you should choose.  Generally, the more flies you can put in the better, but there are several cases where this isn’t true.

    THE WAY IT HOLDS YOUR FLIES

    This is the most overlooked consideration.  Some boxes hold streamers really well, while others do a great job holding small flies.  The key is to find a box that holds the right amount of flies in a secure, non-damaging way.  Some fly boxes are too thin that they crush large dry flies, ruining them while others are excellent for large flies and large streamers.  This can make a big difference for the success of your box.

    ADDITIONAL BENEFITS

    There are several other benefits of fly boxes that are features that are not critical to any fly box, but can be great depending on who you are.  Some boxes are waterproof for example which can be great for you butterfingers out there who have dropped one too many boxes in the water.  Others have fly threaders for the near blind folks who are unable to thread a eye (I’ll be here very soon, it happens as you get older young guys.  Old guys, you get it)  There are a few additional features that some fly boxes come with that can be good for you, but almost all of them are not essential to any box so they are grouped as “additional benefits”.

    COST

    This is another huge variable.  No need to spend $100 on a box unless it’s hand-carved wood with diamond coated insides.  There are some beautifully made boxes out there that cost a pretty penny, but they are not necessary for an angler.  If you want one for fun by all means grab one, but most fly boxes are going to run you between $10 and $40.  Paying outside of that range your sacrificing quality or paying to much depending on which side of the spectrum you are on.


    Alright, those are the major considerations.  In the next part, we’ll discuss all the different options within those considerations, and describe the pros and cons of each option.  Then you’ll have a strong understanding of which fly box is the best fit for your needs and our recommendations will make more sense.

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Lesson 2

In lesson two, we discuss all the different methods available when organizing your fly box.  We go over the framework you need to learn in order to correctly craft your fly box with the right flies for the right situations using the right hierarchy of decisions. 

  • Understanding the variables that exist when organizing your fly box is key to your success at putting your own box together.  There are many different variables that go into catching fish on any given day, and it’s our job to plan correctly for as many of those as possible with our fly selection and the way we organize our fly box.  In order to catch a fish, you have to be there in the right place, right time with the right presentation and fly.  The right place means the right region, right weather, right season, right river, right section, right run riffle or hole and right cast onto where the fish is holding.  Then you have to be there during the right time of day making a good enough presentation with an accurate enough fly to catch the fish.  I wrote a whole article on “the fly fishing equation” that you can check out to get a good understanding of the reality it takes to catch a fish.  It really is quite impressive that we stumble onto it with luck a lot of times and the other times is where good timing meets good preparation.

    In addition to all the variables around being prepared to catch a fish, think about the increased number of techniques available to us now.  Dry fly fishing, traditional nymphing, euro nymphing, drop shotting, streamer fishing, emerger/wet fly swings and more there are many different flies needed for most if not all of those techniques.  If that wasn’t enough we are now in an age where you can fish for just about anything on the fly.  Trout started it, but now common carp, grass carp, permit, bonefish, redfish, albacore, stripers, bass, giant trevally and more are all noteable fish to catch on the fly and many require different flies in different weights and sizes and colors to catch successfully.

    I think the point is made that when considering how to craft a fly box, there are a lot of variables.  So let’s go over them now, understand their importance and how it matters when putting our boxes together.  Keep in mind that these methods are not mutually exclusive, meaning they can be used within combination of each other and the best overall methods combine all of them in a hierarchy:

    THE IMITATION METHOD

    The first way you can organize a box is by insect imitation.  Your midge nymphs on one row, your mayfly nymphs on another row and your caddis dry flies on another row etc.  If you have a good set of knowledge in entomology or the insects trout eat, this is a pretty good way to do it.  The benefit of this is that when trout are eating midges, you’ll have your box that has all your top midges and so on.  The downside to this method is that it can get a little complicated and require you to fill in some gray areas for yourself.  The gray area is around the four kinds of fly patterns that exist.  Fly patterns can be designed in four ways:

    1. Imitative – designed to imitate an exact insect and stage
    2. Search – designed to imitate a wide variety of insects
    3. Attractor – designed to get a trouts attention and may or may not imitate anything natural
    4. Impressionistic – designed to imitate a small range of insects (mix between imitative and search)

    Patterns can usually have one or two of these characteristics.  A pheasant tail is meant to be an impressionistic pattern that imitates a wide variety of mayfly nymphs.  If you put a red dubbed collar on the pheasant tail you can claim it is an impressionistic/attractor pattern.  For more on this subject check out our free guide to the four kinds of fishing flies.

    As an example, a hares ear nymph can imitate a small stonefly nymph, a mayfly nymph and even a caddis nymph with decent accuracy.  So this gets tough when you are trying to put all your mayfly nymphs in an area and you can’t decide if a hares ear should go in there or if they should be in the stonefly section.  This is the gray area you have to fill in for yourself.  I personally think a hares ear looks more like a stonefly than a mayfly so I put it with my stoneflies.  Regardless of your choices, just be consistent with it and choose a “primary imitation” per pattern so you know how and where it fits in your box with this method.  The more search and impressionistic patterns you have in your box, the harder this method becomes.  

    On a quick side note, I am a huge fan of search and impressionistic patterns and only carry a small number of imitative patterns for very specific scenarios.  So even though this is a great method for organizing your box and it is harder with search and impressionistic patterns, I still recommend a lot of search and impressionistic patterns along with this method.  Don’t let it scare you away as you’ll see this is a method I use in my boxes later on.

    THE PATTERN TYPE METHOD

    Another way you can organize your patterns is by the type.  There are also four types of flies:  A nymph, emerger, dry, and streamer.  In addition, you can do beadhead nymphs, brass beadheads and tungsten beadheads vs no beadhead within the nymphs section.  You can do foam dry flies vs thorax-hackle style dry flies vs parachute dry flies in the dry fly section.  Articulated vs single hooks in the streamer section and soft hackle vs foam backed emergers in the emerger section.  In short, there is a pattern type and sub pattern type you can organize by with this method.  This method is good when you are carrying a small amount of flies and you don’t have enough flies to fill a full row of midge nymphs but you do have 12-24 beadhead nymphs of assorted patterns that can all go on the same row.  The downside to this method is that a box will get crowded and messy as you add more flies to it.  It really only works as well when you have a few flies.  This method works best in conjuction with the imitation method mentioned above.  For example, I’ll put all my midge nymphs on one row, but on that row I’ll put all my beadhead midge nymphs on one side and all my glass beadhead midges on the other side.  Within those sides, I’ll organize by color and within those color groups I’ll sort sizes small to large, left to right.  

    THE SEASON METHOD

    If you missed the 3rd grade, there are four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.  Organizing flies by season is a great way to fish more and re-organize boxes less.  Flies that work in summer usually wont work in winter so having separate boxes really helps you specialize for the season and have a variety of flies that should be active within a grouped period of time.  Seasonality if super important with fly fishing success and organizing your boxes by season is a great idea.  If you don’t want to have 4 boxes (1 for each season) then you can combine a spring and fall box together since many of the flies will be the same due to common temps, flows and hatches.  Summer boxes and winter boxes should usually be kept separate, but many don’t fish or can’t in winter so you don’t always need one.  

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Lesson 3

Now that you’ve learned all the methods and options available in lesson 2, we now go over our recommended process in lesson 3.  We also go over a large amount of entomology information here teaching the 13 categories and 1-4 stages each insect goes through.  We also go over all major species of insects and hatch times so you know what insects you need for each season and can craft the perfect fly box that covers all of your bases.

  • STEP 4 – ORGANIZE BY SEASONS

    Our last 3 steps have been fairly broad, but this step is where it gets detailed.  Sure, organizing by seasons, spring, summer, fall, and winter are simple at face value, but in order to do this successfully, you have to know what flies work for what seasons.  If you are going to master fly selection, a course like our online entomology course is a really good idea in order to learn all your bugs really well with all your questions answered.  We don’t like to leave you hanging though on this, so we’ve put together a list of bugs to use for each season.  Now when I say seasons, I don’t mean calendar seasons as a calendar states it.  Colorado often has more snow in spring than in winter, so seasons are sometimes a bit mis leading.  What I mean by seasons is when tempratures and weather patterns stabilize to meet what we all expect out of each season.  This varies by region, but each and everyone of you knows what your spring, summer and fall feels like in comparison to other “seasons”.   Don’t worry about the calendar months when it comes to seasons and fly fishing.  Seasons are defined when weather patterns become consistent enough to change hatches, fishing behavior and the landscape.  For some of you in the lower half of the US, you may have a lot less noticeable seasons and maybe can say that by this definition above, you don’t even have a winter.  That’s fine and is the reason we use “seasons” loosely and instead of calendar months that way it’s relative to everyone but concrete enough to apply to all.

    There are 13 categories of insects that are important to fly fishermen:

    Midges, mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, scuds, sowbugs, annelids (worms), dragonflies, damselflies, water boatman, hoppers, beetles, ants.   This is the best way to think about the bugs trout eat.  13 categories, memorize them, it will help you a ton in your fly fishing career.

    Within the 13 categories, some go through transformations (metamorphosis) throughout their lifecycle and trout pay attention to that.  The reason we have nymphs vs dry flies is that we are imitating those different lifecycles.  The four possible stages insects go through are commonly referred to as nymph, emerger, dry, spinner.  These are also fly categories which is based off the lifecycles (see how it connects?).  Here are the different stages each of the 13 categories goes through:

    • Midge – Nymph, Emerger, Dry
    • Mayfly – Nymph, Emerger, Dry, Spinner
    • Caddis – Nymph, Emerger, Dry
    • Stonefly – Nymph, Dry
    • Scud – Nymph
    • Sowbug – Nymph
    • Annelid – Nymph
    • Dragonfly – Nymph, Dry (but not important to trout usually)
    • Damselfly – Nymph, Dry
    • Water Boatman – Nymph
    • Hoppers – Dry
    • Beetles  – Dry
    • Ants – Dry

    If you add up all the important stages from above, you get a total of 22 different “things” you could imitate with flies in your box.  Not all of these exist in every river and lake, but overall it is common to be able to find all of these in any region.

    Now that we know the categories and stages to look for, let’s go through those and their importance through each season:

    Spring

    Early spring is all about midges, annelids (worms), and small mayflies (BWO mainly).  As spring picks up, caddis and stonefly nymphs become important and more mayflies hatch (hendricksons and march browns), then in late spring right before run off, you will see caddis hatches and early stonefly hatches depending on the year.  Scuds and sowbugs are always on the menu and work best when other hatches or insect activity is less active.  Craneflies and annelids work well when flows increase or after rains.  These are all some general guidelines for spring time fly fishing to help you put the right balance in your box.  I’d make sure your spring box is mostly midges and mayflies if you fish early season for example, and more heavy on caddis and stones if you fish mid to late spring.  Balance it if you fish the entire season and so forth.

    • Midges
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry
      • Colors: Any | Top Colors: Black, Olive, Red, White, Brown
      • Sizes: #18 – #28 in Rivers | #14 – #24 in Lakes
      • ** There are also craneflies which are midges but big (Sizes #6 – #14 in Olive, Cream, and Brown in nymph form only during spring)
    • Mayflies
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry | Spinner
      • Colors: In Spring – Olive, Brown, Tan, Gray
      • Sizes: #12 – #24 in Rivers and Lakes
      • Hatches: BWO, Hendrickson, March Browns
    • Caddis
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry
      • Colors: Tan, Green, Brown, Orange, Yellow, Black
      • Sizes: #10 – #20
    • Stoneflies
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry
      • Colors: Nymphs: Black, Brown, Yellow | Dries: Black, Brown
      • Sizes: #6 – #14 | #10 – #18 in Black
      • Hatches: Early Black Stones (LBS), Skwala Stoneflies
    • Scuds
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Gray, Olive | (When dying/infected) Pink, Orange, Yellow (Can also have hot spots being primarily gray or olive with spots of pink/orange/yellow)
      • Sizes: #12 – #20
    • Sowbugs
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Gray, Brown, Black (Often have red/orange hot spots on patterns)
      • Sizes: #12 – #20
    • Annelids
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Red, Pink, Tan, Brown, Purple
      • Sizes: #8 – #16
    • Dragonfly
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry isn’t applicable to fly fishing
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Olive
      • Sizes: #8 – #14
    • Damselfly
      • Stages: Nymph
      • Colors: Nymphs: Black, Olive, Brown, Tan
      • Sizes: Nymphs – #8 – #18
    • Water Boatman
      • Stages: Nymph
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Yellow, Olive
      • Sizes: #12 – #16

    Summer

    Fantastic landscape with a river in the mountains. Upper Svaneti, Georgia, Europe. Caucasus mountains.

    Summer is when everything hatches and bugs like midges and small mayflies from spring are still present, but often less important.  A well balanced selection is needed for summer making sure you have a lot of mayflies in appropriate size/color combos to match the hatches you suspect will be occurring when you fish.  Local reports are best to learn hatches for the waters you fish as hatch times vary enough to be hard to list them below with any accuracy for more than just a few areas.  Out of all the seasons, summer has the most variety and you may need to have two boxes.  I personally have a standard summer box that has a mix of common sized bugs, then I have a hopper/big fly box that has all terrestrials and bigger stonefly patterns and attractor patterns that I bring out when mid summer to late summer is in full swing.  A take away for summer is to have variety and know your hatches for your given area or waters you plan to fish.

    • Midges
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry
      • Colors: Any | Top Colors: Black, Olive, Red, White, Brown
      • Sizes: #18 – #28 in Rivers | #14 – #24 in Lakes
      • ** There are also craneflies which are midges but big (Sizes #6 – #14 in Olive, Cream, and Brown in nymph and dry forms)
    • Mayflies
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry | Spinner
      • Colors: Any | Top Colors are dependant on hatches | Gray, Olive, Brown, Yellow, Black
      • Sizes: #10 – #24 in Rivers and Lakes
      • Hatches: BWO (small olive), March Browns (medium tan/brown), PMD (small yellow) , Green Drakes (Big olive), Brown Drakes/Iso’s (big brown), Hex (Big Yellow Mayflies), Tricos (small black), Callibaetis (lakes speckled black/white medium to small)
    • Caddis
      • Stages: Nymph | Emerger | Dry
      • Colors: Tan, Green, Brown, Orange, Yellow, Black
      • Sizes: #10 – #20
    • Stoneflies
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Yellow, Green, Orange
      • Sizes: #6 – #14 | #14 – #18 in Black and Yellow (Yellow Sallies)
      • Hatches: Salmonflies (Big Black/Orange), Golden Stones (Big Yellow), Yellow Sally (Small Yellow)
    • Scuds
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Gray, Olive | (When dying/infected) Pink, Orange, Yellow (Can also have hot spots being primarily gray or olive with spots of pink/orange/yellow)
      • Sizes: #12 – #20
    • Sowbugs
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Gray, Brown, Black (Often have red/orange hot spots on patterns)
      • Sizes: #12 – #20
    • Annelids
      • Stages: Nymph Only
      • Colors: Red, Pink, Tan, Brown, Purple
      • Sizes: #8 – #16
    • Dragonfly
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry isn’t applicable to fly fishing
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Olive
      • Sizes: #8 – #14
    • Damselfly
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry
      • Colors: Nymphs: Black, Olive, Brown, Tan | Dries: Blue, Black, Olive, Yellow
      • Sizes: Nymphs – #8 – #18 | Dries: #8 – #14
    • Water Boatman
      • Stages: Nymph | Dry
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Yellow, Olive
      • Sizes: #12 – #16
    • Hopper
      • Stages: Dry Only
      • Colors: Olive, Brown, Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple, Tan
      • Sizes: #6 – #16
    • Ants
      • Stages: Dry Only
      • Colors: Black, Red, Brown, Purple
      • Sizes: #12 – #18
    • Beetles
      • Stages: Dry Only
      • Colors: Black, Brown, Olive, Blue, Green
      • Sizes: #12 – #18

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Lesson 4

In lesson four, we go over every single fly box we use and break down every fly pattern, size, color and quantity in each of those boxes so you have a super in-depth set of examples.  We also include some excel spreadsheets to create your own fly box lists and get organized as you craft your fly boxes. 

  • The Fly Boxes We Use

    We use a combination of Tacky original boxes and our Catch n’ Hatch boxes.  We put our dries mostly in the Catch n’ Hatch boxes to protect the hackles and reserve the Tacky boxes for nymphs.  Our strategy is to always have the right seasonal flies and specialty flies for any where we fish on any given season while carrying the least number of boxes.  This is easier said than done however, and we find that the best we can do while still staying fully prepared is 3-4 boxes in our pack for every outing.   We carry two seasonal boxes, a streamer box and a specialty box as the fourth if needed. 

    List of the Fly Boxes We Use

    • Spring Nymph Box | Fly Count: 238 | CnH Box
    • Spring Dry Fly Box | Fly Count: 235 |CnH Box
    • Summer Nymph Box | Fly Count: 246|CnH Box
    • Summer Dry Fly Box | Fly Count: 204 | CnH Box
    • Stonefly – Terrestrial Box | Fly Count: 152 | CnH Box
    • Fall Nymph Box | Fly Count: 260 | CnH Box
    • Fall Dry Fly Box | Fly Count: 306 | CnH Box
    • Winter Nymph Box | Fly Count: 142 | Tacky Original Box
    • Winter Dry Fly Box | Fly Count: 126 | CnH Box
    • Stillwater Fly Box | Fly Count: 80 | CnH Box
     
    • Specialty Box | Fly Count: Varies | Tacky Original Box
    • Streamer Box | Fly Count: 40 | Fishpond Sushi Roll
     

    12 boxes total that I work to keep stocked and managed.  I take each seasonal box for the appropriate season as well as the specialty box and streamer box if needed.  I always like to have some streamers on me if I find some time to throw them.  The specialty box may be specific patterns for a certain river I know does well on a certain fly that I don’t commonly carry.  Aside from that, however, all the flies that are needed are in two seasonal boxes and cover every insect, stage, color and size with 1-3 patterns and at least 2 of each fly, color and size in case it’s the top fly for the day and you lose one.  

    Now let’s get to the flies.  My overall strategy for stocking my box is that I use a lot of patterns that are impressionistic in order to give me 2-4 patterns that imitate a certain insect or stage.  Then, I carry a single imitative pattern for the most prevalent insects found for that season.  For example, I have hares ears, and pheasant tails that both imitate mayflies and stones in different sizes and colors.  So that gives me 2 patterns that imitate a stonefly in different sizes and colors.  Then I have a pats rubberleg stone which really only imitates a stonefly but does it really well.  That gives me 3 patterns for stoneflies that span different sizes, colors and profiles without tying up my whole box with just stonefly nymphs.  I try to do as much of that as possible in order to maximize the options and space in my box at the same time. 

    We’re going to go over each box now with every size and color and quantity of fly.  We’ll also share the insects it imitates, stages they imitate and the type of pattern it is so you can learn the patterns along the way so you can learn patterns also.  If you’re an excel nerd like me, I created a spreadsheet when I first organized these.  I’ve included the finished spreadsheet, and a blank template for you to fill in and adjust as well with all the formulas to make it easy to work through and create your own boxes.  If you use excel a lot, it’s pretty straightforward.  If you aren’t great with excel, then just use the list below to work from….

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Conclusion

In the conclusion, we go over a four step process to create any fly box now that you’ve learned the framework, methods and seen our examples.  We also discuss a few important concepts and ideas that really connect this knowledge back into a strategy that helps you catch the most fish possible every time you’re on the water.  

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