Winter Task—Organizing Your Flies

It isn’t exactly the dead of winter here in Montana, and probably not where you live either. Actually, it felt like the dead of winter here for about 10 days, with the thermometer never rising above 30 and lows ranging into the single digits. But now it’s warmed and I wish I were on a steelhead stream slinging Deceivers and such. But that ‘aint happening soon because I have the girls to take care of, and Christmas concerts next week, and basketball games to coach this weekend, and then Christmas. Christmas! Whoever decided that Christmas should equal a windfall of gifts? I’d like to have a word with them.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about fishing, a lot, and writing about fishing, a lot, and wondering what kind of task, aside from tying flies, I can do around here while I have these holiday shackles on my ankles. And something came to mind that each of us needs to do at least once a year—organize our flies.

So I spilled all my boxes out on the counter and separated them into distinct piles. Here’s the lineup: salmonflies; other stoneflies; drakes; medium size mayflies (i.e. Hecuba, mahogany duns, PMD’s, Callibaetis, etc.); small nymphs; stonefly nymphs; ants and beatles; eggs and worms; streamers; lake flies (meaning scuds, damsels and chironomids); and general attractors.

When I got to counting, my counter was covered by about 2,000 flies. I worked through them, tossing some, cutting the material off others so I could reuse hooks, and careful placing others in their allotted slots. By the end of it I’d whittled things down to nine manageable sized boxes and one big streamer box.

Do you know the relief I feel? I feel good. Like I’m ready to head out and plug away at winter trout, knowing exactly where I need to reach for the exact flies the trout desire. And spring? Ready for that, too. Baetis at hand. San Juans at hand. Streamers at hand.

It looks like a mess here, but now that I invested a few hours to organize my flies I’m ready for whatever hits me first—midging on Rock Creek, women’ on the Big Horn, streamers on the Mo’. I’m ready to go.

Since I was on a roll and it felt so good, I pulled all my tippet spools, too. Tossed the old ones. Checked the amount of tippet left on each spool. Noted which ones need to be replaced soon. Then I took stock of leaders. Made a list of what’s needed. Split shot? Did someone say split shot? Ok, I fish it. A lot. Especially during winter when I need to get flies way, way down. Made a note to buy BB in quantity. After that I dug in my bag and pulled out a flask. Wasn’t much left in it and I’d finished all the impending deadlines so I did the natural thing. Took a good, solid swig. Then I made a note to buy some Bullet, or Wild Turkey 81, or some Makers (all the good stuff) so that I could refill.

Right now I’m feeling pretty organized and I know you will, too, if you just sit down for a few hours one nigh this week and go through the gear. This is the time to get this done. You do not want to be disorganized and panicked when the spring Baetis and skwalas start up in late February or sometime in March. Do it now and you’ll be happy you did.

Just a suggestion.

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