Having touched thousands of fly fishing boxes, I thought I should publish a flybox guide to help narrow down your choices. With so many fly box styles, sizes and materials it can be difficult to select a fly box to fit your needs.
Think about how you fish before buying a fly fishing box. Trout, bluegill and pike all use different sizes flies and require different size fly boxes. If your not sure what type of fishing you’ll be doing, select a general purpose plastic fly box with slit foam.
Fly Box Characteristics
The fundamental function of a fly fishing box is pretty simple; securely hold your valuable flies without damaging them in a portable organized manner.
Plastic fly boxes dominate the industry for good reason, the material is durable, flexible and lids can be clear for easy fly identification. Plastic is relatively inexpensive to mold, so the sizes and styles can vary widely to fit your fishing style.
A wooden fly box may seem impractical, but fly fishing is an essentially impractical sport. Wood boxes seem to connect with nature and the beautiful places that trout are found. I’ve made hundreds of wood fly boxes and still appreciate sitting on a river bank staring at my favorite fly box. Wood fly boxes also float, if accidentally dropped you have a chance of grabbing it.
Compartment fly boxes are perfect for small delicate dry flies. It would be a shame to buy or tie a size 20 CDC emerger 0nly to crush those delicate fibers before you get to use it.
A slit foam insert is great for nymphs and parachute dry flies. The key to using slit foam is to back the hook bend
into the slit. Rippled foam works pretty well, but sticking the hook into the foam repeatedly quickly wears out the material and you get small pieces of foam stuck in the barb.
Having a box that is either waterproof or water resistant is a feature that warrants consideration. If a hook gets wet and isn’t dried, it will rust. Preventing water from getting into a box is key to hooks staying in good shape. I am on the fence about having a truly waterproof box. It makes sense if you diligently dry your flies before storing, but it you occasionally drop a damp fly in your box you may want that moisture to escape.
With so many effective ways of holding flies, I would avoid fly boxes with clips. They tend to hold flies in the wrong orientation and will crush the hackle and wings.
Fly box sizes vary, but most are 3″ by 5″ to fit in a vest or shirt pocket. Lately, I’ve been trending toward a smaller box with a lanyard that is easy to carry. Currently, I have a small flybox with lanyard attached to a travel fly rod in my car. I keep a both dry and nymph flies along with split shot and an indicator.
Size varies with the type of fishing. Large fly boxes are usually for streamers, with flies starting at 4″ in length and extending to more than 8″. Streamer fly boxes usually have a handle and are used on a boat. A small 2″ x 3″ dry fly box can carry dozens of flies and still have room to spare.
Flybox Care and Maintenance
First and foremost keep your fly box dry! If it gets wet, remove all the flies and thoroughly dry. I open my fly boxes after every outing and lay them on my car dash. After a couple hours in the sun, I close the boxes up and I’m ready for the next trip.
A couple buddies I know use desiccant in there boxes, either in powder form or in the small bags (found in electronics).