January 17th, 2005

Fly Boxes
By James Castwell

I remember three things about my first fly box. It was stuffed full of flies, smelled like cigars (which had been it's original purpose) and it came from a man who owned Jiggs, a big bristly Airedale dog. I kept that box of flies for several years, sadly I have no idea what ever became of it. That's all in the past now, all gone; Jiggs, the flies, the original owner. Well, no, darn it, they're not all gone, I have my memories. I still remember him and the flies and some other things I got from him. I remember Jiggs too, the first one of those dogs I ever got to know. Call me foolish if you like, but it is my choice. If I can remember things they are not quite all gone. I like old things and stuff. I try to hang on to what I can.

There was another box I got at the same time, you probably remember them, small, round tin with felt pads to keep your gut leaders moist. That got away from me too, but I still remember it. When I was a kid I used pipe tobacco cans for darn near everything. Cheap and seemed to be everywhere. In reality, they were a very poor fly box. I had to dump out the flies to see what was in there. Time and circumstance brought me more boxes over the years, many more boxes in fact. I have way too many now and have reached the point of complete confusion.

I think I have owned and used darn near every type and style of box ever created. If there ever was a 'flybox' junkie, it was me. It got real bad in Michigan when I developed a relationship with Scientific Anglers. They had fly lines, sure, but rods, reels, and fly boxes too. Now I could get my flyboxes at a greatly reduced price (wink-wink). I have, however learned a few things about flyboxes and will try to pass along a few tid-bits; gems, pearls of wisdom, if you will.

Oh, but first, I still smile when I remember at a big sporting show not too far back, (Salt Lake or Denver) some lovely big eyed honey was standing behind a table hawking a new fly box. She purred at me and I drifted over. My eyes passed from her fluttering lashes slowly down to the table where she had a display of modern, space age, streamlined, jelly-bean colored, clam-shell style fly boxes. Well dressed lips started to form words to encourage me to accept one of the items as a gift. I resisted the temptation to spend a day or two at the booth doing R&D but the LF was by my side and I decided to inform the hottie of the following:

I summoned up a few scraps of wisdom from my great depths and, handing it back to her, explained that certainly her box was very well shaped, nicely rounded corners, a comfortable shape and size, slim, sleek, smooth as a baby-butt, certainly lovely to look at and probably water tight. I told her I had been in the business for years and seen a lot, big ones, small ones, some you could see into, some you could not. Some from overseas that would pop right open with the flick of a finger. And some others that it took a real man to make any progress with.

It was with great reluctance I informed her I would have to decline her most generous offer. Startled, she huffed up a little and dropped some of her charm and grace. I could see that my time was running short (LF again) and tried to make it quick. If I had one of those it would be gone way too soon. That silky-smooth surface and sleek design would virtually slip away from this old man as soon as I turned my head. No pocket I had could hold one, way too streamlined. No thanks. I want a box that will not slide out of a pocket, maybe even a little rough around the edges. Imagine a warm day, wading wet, fly box in a shirt pocket, reach to land a fish... gone in a flash. And besides... they float!

Then again there are some other things about fly boxes to consider. Your milage may vary on this but, I try to keep it in mind. On a lake or non-moving deep water use a box that floats. On a stream or other moving stuff use a box that sinks. Should be obvious but if not, here. If I drop it in a stream and it sinks I just might have a shot at it. If it floats, bye-bye-boxie. The opposite in a lake. I want it to float there.

So anyhow, back to boxes. We all try to organize the things. And sometimes get it done to some degree. And then any number of terrible things can happen. You tie a fly, you find a fly, you buy a fly, someone gives you a fly. You get a new box, find one, buy one. It's Father's Day. You are invited to go fishing.

That alone will do it. Now utter confusion reigns. Should you take every fly you own, or just a few thousand well selected ones? You may by this time have organized your flies into a few boxes. Like, one for dries, for nymphs, for streamers, for bait. Or you may have moved on to one box for all one kind of dry fly, Hendrickson for instance, in three sizes. It's nymph in another, the spinner in another, also the emerger. All in assorted sizes of course. Sounds like a great idea and holds up for a while.

Eventually you will condense your flies into exact stream locations. Like when you fish the pool under the covered bridge. You take only the boxes you have filled just for that place. You know it by heart, you know every hatch and spinner fall. Probably. To be sure, you throw in a few of the other boxes. Can't be too careful.

So there you have about half a century of foggy-bottom observation on fly boxes. To sum it up. Cheap is good, fancy impresses mostly yourself, size does matter, shape is probably of some importance but I'm not sure, color (colour for you guys up there and down there) is nice. Get them in ones you like and can see. Put your name in them and I am sure a nice fellow will mail it back to you if you (make that, when) lose it. Especially if he is a fly fisherman, not a worm drowner. You never have enough, except when you have too many; then you still don't have enough.

A fly box always makes a great Fathers Day gift. (To yourself or someone else.) PS. Did mention fly wallets? ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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