Sorting the Fly Box

February 1, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

A neatly organized fly box

A neatly organized fly box

What’s in a fly box? Flies, obviously, but it is the stories those flies tell of a winter gone by and the promises of an upcoming season that make the arrangement special.

Monday night, after a particularly frustrating evening of fishing current rushing by at 1300 CFS, I called it quits and went home. I sat down at my fly-tying desk and picked through all of the nymphs, dries and streamers I had tied or received this year. There was a good pile of flies, both small and large, that needed sorting.

I picked out the nymphs and wet flies first. There were shimmering floss-bodied Partridge and Yellows, reminding me of early November, as these were the first ties of the winter for me. Each of them had a spider-like collar made from the breast feather of a Hungarian partridge taken by a hunting buddy here in Barnes County.

Next in the bottom row of the box were the EZ Nymphs and Carey Specials, made from pheasant feathers originating on a young rooster shot on grandma’s farm near Watford City. Fittingly enough, I planned to try the Careys out this weekend on a small lake filled with trout about 20 miles from there.

Next I added in some Hare’s Ear Nymphs that didn’t make it into my ice fishing box this winter. I managed a few nice perch and a 14-inch sucker on a hare’s ear while up in Baldhill Creek in January. The nymphs left over weren’t top quality, but were buggy enough to warrant stocking along with the rest of the misfits in my box. Besides, it has often been said that fish don’t want a work of art; they just want something that looks like food. I’m sure bluegills in Detroit Lakes, Minn. won’t notice during a feeding frenzy around the docks in July.

What followed was a motley crew of flies obtained through the Missouri Valley Fly Fishers Club fly swap in March. I tied up 27 San Juan Worms, and in exchange I received a Green Weenie, a Red Brassie, a Peacock-egg-sucking-something-or-other, and more. Into the box they went, as I was certain the folks in MVFF knew something about this group of flies that I didn’t. At the very least, they should work on bluegill at the cabin.

Next came the dry flies, some were unused from the season before; others were just tied a few weeks ago. A trio of tiny Griffith’s Gnats were first. They resembled the individuals that comprised the black hordes that now swarmed the Sheyenne’s banks. I added in a couple do-all patterns next to them – a pair of Adams dries and a couple lame attempts at copying Einar’s Parachute Hatcher. I can’t wait for him to get here in May and show me how it is really done!

Next up were some hopper imitations, via the Madam X. Not as alluring as it sounds, this fly is simply a bunch of deer hair wrapped over yellow dubbing with a couple rubber legs added in to form an “X” beside the body. However, it is effective for surface feeding largemouth and of course, bluegills in late summer.

I added in six Stimulators, three royal, two olive and yellow, and one black and grey. The black and grey Stim looked like a horsefly, perfect fodder for – you guessed it -summer bluegill. The olive and yellow flies looked grasshopperish, and the Royal Stims were more like Christmas trees – true attractor patterns if there ever were any.

With the small-fly side filled, I opened the other side of the fly box and went through the pile of streamers on my desk. Clouser minnows in every combination sat in a pile to be sorted. Since room was limited, I put in two chartreuse models and one orange and brown for the smallie fishing, which is sure to pick up when the river goes down.

Next were some unused Woolly Bugger patterns in four different shades and a couple baitfish imitators, the Mickey Finn (the pattern I caught my first largemouth on) and the Blacknosed Dace.

More of the MVFF fly swap flies went in including: leeches, bugger-types, two of my San Juan Worms, and more for every species under the water.

Finally, I added the last pattern I had worked on, the Mohair leeches, with bright orange beads and without. I felt certain that this pattern would fool everything from trout to bass.

I’m not a neat freak per se, one look at my room or my office desk will meet that burden of proof, but as I arranged the flies in the fly box I became more nit-picky about the layout. It got to the point where I had to force myself to lay the box down and shut off the light knowing that hordes of bluegill, bass and hopefully a trout or two would leave my fly box just as unorganized as it was after last summer. After all, that will be when the flies that aren’t in my fly box tell the best stories, after several trips this upcoming season …in our outdoors.


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