Truth be told, I have become a bit of a hoarder with regards to fly boxes and flies. I love to tie so much, that I probably have way more flies than I could possibly use for the rest of my days on the water.
As a beginning fly fisher/tier, you most probably have less than three or four fly boxes filled with store bought flies and your own creations. How to organize those flies?
If you check out the Mid Current link, above, you will see that renowned fly fishers have varying methods of sorting, storing, carrying their flies. My random thoughts regarding this subject are as follows: lake fishing or river/stream fishing; time of year and probable hatches; trout…bass…steelhead/salmon…pike fishing?; what are the probable hatches on that/those body of water?
I most often carry most of my flies in a central repository in my rig (there is a risk here of losing everything with a vehicle break in). From there, I usually in advance, load 1-2 fly boxes with the probable food sources for the fish, in that particular location, at that time of year. I have tried to refine this over the years, so as to not carry a ridiculous amount of flies.
This method usually works and the simplified selection process eases the mind (mine anyway) and lets me relax and focus on presentation, observation and relaxation. I get the ‘what flies to carry/use’ out of the way, in advance, if I can. I don’t like to be sorting through fly boxes at the location, unless I note something on the water and have the luxury of heading back to the rig to grab some flies I now see I need, given my observations.
You are at a slight disadvantage when you stop at a location and have no clue about the typical insects in that stream or lake. Eventually, you will have a general sense of the probable insects at different times of the year and carry basic dries, nymphs, emergers, streamers that will work in a pinch: Parachute Adams, Hare’s Ear Nymph, Wet/Soft Hackle flies, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Elk Hair Caddis, Woolly Buggers, San Juan Worms, Ant pattern……….. OK, we are filling up one small fly box already.
This whole process, begs for you to study and identify what food sources are probably available at a given time on a lake or river. There are plenty of online resources about hatches, patterns, timing, locations to help you fine tune your plan. This is all part of the fun, I think….sorting, studying your patterns, wondering if this or that would work, envisioning your presentations and the take…’the moment’.