Anything Fly FishingMike's Blogs

My Fly Box

4 Mins read

Do you remember the special stuffed animal or blanket you had as a young child? It always stayed tucked tightly with you at night to comfort and protect you. Whether to ward off evil spirits or the need for companionship, this inanimate object of security was always there until ultimately, you lost it or simply grew out of it.

Each of us has sentimental parts of our lives we don’t want to give up or lose, and we remember them affectionately. We’ve probably clung to these sentimental items for a long time, and each holds a special meaning only to us.

So, why should a dry fly box differ from a stuffed animal or blanket? Aren’t fly fishermen kids at heart? Unfortunately, several weeks ago, my dry fly box popped out from the zipper of my hip-wading bag. Human error caused the wading bag to be loosely closed, and the fly box decided to jump and ride the waves of high water to wherever a river ends. I wish I knew it’s final resting place.

I never saw it disappear. Otherwise, I would have wished it well, but not exactly. If I had seen it fall out, I could have attempted to save it by stalking the bank and following its journey along the swift currents, hoping for a quiet eddy to net it. Instead, the fly box had mysteriously disappeared.

It had been a tough fishing day fighting the snowmelt runoff in the river. At first, I thought about all the hours spent tying those dry flies over the years and how much time I spent creating them. The box was packed with flies, almost to the point where it wouldn’t stay shut. If someone else looked at it, they might disagree, but to me, it was organized to be organized.

At first glance, each fly looked horizontally straight across lines of foam holders. But it wasn’t truly organized if you examined it more closely. Flies were stuck on top of the holders with their hook tips firmly embedded into the foam; other flies were cinched in the tiny slits provided by the manufacturer. The newer flies were usually in the slits, while the proven ones, the old stand-by patterns, penetrated the foam above them. I could locate every different fly pattern with my eyes closed.

A fly box is a personal item created by its owner. A fly box in the store may look drab and plain, secure in its barren, plastic shell. It’s the fisherman that brings the fly box to life. When opened, it comes alive with bits of fur, feathers, and synthetics wrapped around various sizes of hooks, all designed to fool a fish.

Each fly box contained a sense of individuality as many of my fly patterns were tied and deviated from their original recipes. For example, some flies were bulky for high water while others were tied sparse, barely able to float but capable of deceiving the wariest trout in low water conditions.

If my fly boxes could talk, they would tell stories of my fisherman’s journey through time. It was my personal time capsule of flies tied back to the mid-70s. I remember the groundhog caddis patterns tied with a piece of groundhog skin given to me by a friend who is no longer here but shared the joy of watching me catch a fish using this material. That box contained many flies given to me by friends over the years, and they were held in a special place. It was my museum of memories.

Losing the fly box could be a sign that Glaucus, the Greek patron god of fishermen, was sending me a sign. When I determined the box was gone, there was no ranting up and down the riverbank but merely a period of disappointment at my lost treasures. Frustrated, I had thought about throwing a hissy fit and pity party, but it might have gotten me locked up.

The more I pondered over the box, the brighter side of my loss emerged; maybe philosophical wisdom explaining the glass was half full was correct. It could indeed be a blessing. With technology and the overabundance of new fly patterns and materials, it may be time to start fresh. Though somewhat difficult, I positively tried to call it “updating my inventory.” I decided that I could quickly re-tie the important flies and later tie the seasonal ones as their appointed time approached. One day, this new box will be as complete as the lost one.

Another justification emerged for the positive thoughts. Several old fly hooks were rusted, and many flies were unraveling and falling apart. I considered why I kept them and determined the box should have been left home. My dry fly fishing security blanket was gone.

Instead of lamenting over all the work and time lost in the old flies tied in the vanished box, it was time to make new memories. Then I ascertained the loss also provided an opportunity to review the number of fly boxes and become more of a simpleton by scaling down. After all, who needs five thousand flies every time one goes fishing?

Knowing the loss, my fly fishing buddies were the first to rescue my new, empty fly box. They were generous to share a few of their flies, so we fished on, fully armed to match whatever insect hatched the next day.

My lost stuffed animal was never found, the old blanket finally rotted, and the creature in the closet never appeared. With a brand new fly box, history began repeating itself with a new sense of excitement.

I can only hope the fly box drifted downriver into a young person’s hand. Then, they would realize this treasure’s significance and use the flies to catch a fish!


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