I’m getting ready to head over to the Green River in Dutch John Utah with a few friends for a winter trip. My friend is from Montana and asked about the fishing style, flies, etc. this time of year. This time of year (January) the river can be empty and is one of my favorite times to throw streamers. I absolutely love the serenity and ability to plop in big meaty flies and watch eats. Yes, there are other opportunities but the whipping streamers is just plain fun in the cold. However, I need to organize my streamer box before I go or I'll be all over the place.
With temps being in the twenties I wanted to make sure all my streamers were in order so I’m not fumbling around trying new flies. That being said, I thought this was a great opportunity to go through my fly box and clean it up a bit. Of course that sparked my interest in writing an article on the tips and tricks I like to utilize when working on my streamer box.
Organizing and building a better streamer box for fly fishing can significantly enhance your fishing experience. Streamers imitate baitfish, leeches, and other substantial prey, and they require a bit more thought in terms of organization due to their size and variety. Here are some tips and tricks that I use for keeping my box versatile and in order when building an effective streamer box:
Choose the Right Streamer Box
Size Matters: Given the size of streamers, opt for a larger, deeper box. Streamers are bulkier than dry flies or nymphs, so they need more space. As my streamer collection has grown I’ve changed to larger boxes. However, I’ve alway kept a small box for easy access and as well as a smaller/medium sized box for easy access on a boat.
Compartments and Layout: Look for a box with variable compartment sizes or slotted foam/silicon to accommodate different streamer sizes. When you have the variability in your box you can house the single hook and multiple hook flies with a bit more cleanliness.
Organize Your Streamer Box by Type, Size, Color
By Type: Grouping similar types of streamers together (e.g., Woolly Buggers, Sculpins, Decievers, Dungeons). This method provides the ability to easily find streamers by imitation type or action required. For example, I may know I want a sculpin imitation or a fly that has more or less action. It can be really effective.
By Size: Within each type or color, organize by size. This makes it easier to find the right streamer for the current conditions. Although this is my least favorite way to organize on it’s own, I use it in conjunction with my favorite style of organization for streamers to add another level of decision making by sight made easy.
By Color: Organizing by color is by far my favorite method. When switching flies for the day my first thought is action then color. Usually, I head into the day with a fly type that describes action so the next is altering color and or changing the action. I find color being key because I may want to match substrate and or baitfish. Next is do I want to change my action, size, etc. However, being able to focus on a color then adjust accordingly has become my most consistent method.
Consider the Water Conditions
Depth and Flow: Have a variety of streamers for different depths and water flows. Deep diving streamers for deep pools and lighter ones or ones based out of more floating materials for shallower areas. Although I prefer affecting depth with my line selection having weight options are key. They effect the action of flies and how they react in different scenarios. This is particularly important to me when I’m fishing my favorite streamer style which is a dual fly set up. Flow is a juge concern. Sometimes when the water is flowing too rapidly a fly with normally a ton of action will be rendered useless regarding the action. In fast water I love small streamers like wooley buggers and or larger streamers with longer skinny tails like those with stinger hook rabbit tails.
Color Variations: Water clarity can affect which colors are more effective. Have a range of colors from natural to bright and flashy in your box is my best advice. It’s funny because I focus far less on color for dry flies and nymphs but when it comes to streamers I’m particular about color so I can either get good representation, aggravate or plainly ensure that a silhouette is being delivered. I however use little flash in my streamers and typically utilize it for lateral line definition more than anything. That one exception is a Krealex fly which I love in murky water.
Match the Hatch: Keep streamers that mimic the local fish species present during different seasons. For example, in the fall I love yellow and green as a colorway. I suspect most of my strikes are territorial but that color seems to be a go to. During the spring a cotton candy deciever can be deadly. Mini diecievers and or cotton candy large wooley buggers can be absolutely deadly during a rainbow spawning season.
Temperature Factors: Colder water might require slower-moving streamers, while warmer conditions could be conducive to more aggressive retrieves. This really can go either way but knowing that is a factor can help you in decision making. It’s less of an organization setup factor and more of an organization decision making tool.
Accessibility and Ease of Use
Frequently Used Streamers: Some place the ones you use most at the most accessible spots in the box and I don’t prescribe to that. Instead I like to have a spare box for my “confidence flies”. This term was coined by George Daniels and is super common with other fly types but for some reason most anglers just love looking into a big dreamy box of streamers and making a often rapid and indecisive choice from there.
Leave Space: Don’t overcrowd the box. It should be easy to remove and replace streamers without tangling and or missing the better choice. It can be hard to do because mose streamer enthusiasts are gluttens for boxes over crowded and stuffed full of meat. I get it and I can be the same, but over time I’ve founde that narrowing down to a few with confidence can really make the decision making process that much easier. If your boxes are stuffed prepare for difficult decision making, endless tangles, and countless uncertainties when it comes to confident angling.
Maintenance and Care
Dry Before Storing: Always dry your streamers before putting them back in the box to prevent rust and damage. Some boxes have a patch on the outside that will hold wet flies. Other suppliers have external magnets and patches that can be utilized. I also have a great podcast tutorial on a trick I like to use with a safety pin. This can be adapted to your preferences however listening to the podcast will give you an idea or two.
Two other key components are boxes being left open to dry for long term storage and those with silica strips in them. The silica sill suck the moister away from the flies and keep them from rusting, etc. Here is another podcast on a trick I have for that too. It’s one of my best tips and tricks episodes and has other applications.
Inspect and Repair: Regularly inspect your streamers for wear and tear, repairing them as necessary. I look for bad hooks, twisted, kinked or freyed cable or wire, unraveling whip finished heads and twisting bodies on the hook shank. Sometimes a repair isn’t possible but there are times when it is capable of being done. Sometimes cutting a wire and salvaging the head or tail as it’s own fly is feasible and a great approach. Other times good old fashioned ingenuity can solfve the problem, retying, glueing or other opoxies might be the cure for whatever particuyla illness your streamer has.
Labeling Your Streamer Box
Label Sections: If your box is large, consider labeling sections for quick identification. In addition to sections it is even more important to label boxes. This is especially important if you are in a boat and sharing streamers with anglers. The labels help everyone in quick identification.
Use Waterproof Labels: Ensure any labels are waterproof and durable. You don’t want them whipping off, unpealing, etc. Something sturdy and durable is going to save you alot of hassle.
Multiple Streamer Boxes for Different Scenarios
Specialized Boxes: You might need more than one streamer box – one for small streams, another for larger rivers, and maybe one for lake fishing. Boxes can also be split into color size as an option. The organization often starts with, what do I have?
Travel Size: Have a smaller, travel-sized box for short trips or when you don’t want to carry everything. I have a preference for organizing streamers in larger boxes and as described earlier selecting my confidence flies earlier and adequate reboxing them for the outing I’m intended to go on. Some examples I like are, a tiny boxes for the stream followed by extra boxes in the truck or backpack, mid size boxes for the boat close to me and larger boxes in the bag. There are a ton of options but I tend to go with what is easy to handle for the immediate situation backed up by boxes with additional selections available.
Personal Customization for Your Streamer Box
DIY Modifications: Feel free to modify your box with foam inserts or dividers that suit your specific needs. I’ve seen guys putting foam balls on hook boints, etc. There are a ton of customization that can be tried. There is no write or wrong way which leads to my next point.
Reflect Your Fishing Style: Arrange and modify your box or boxes based on your fishing style and preferences. Keep dialing it in as you see fit but dn;t hesitate to try a few ways.
Seasonal Review: At the start of each season, go through your box to update it based on past experiences and new insights. Refill what you lost or need and review your goals. Then start drawing up a plan to execute on it.
Post-Trip Reviews: After each trip, think about what worked and what didn’t, and adjust your box accordingly. This is probably the most effective way to manage my box throughout the year. Taking notes on what and what works helps more than you think. What I prefer now due to ease of use is making audio recordings on my phone. It is super quick and simple to do and reviewing is easy on a car ride or something where I can think through it a bit more at a later date.
When I first started fly fishing I kept stuffing my box and had very little multiples and instead tons of variations in color, size and pattern. It’s great to test different flies but when they are all different it feels like looking into a junk box vs an organized approach to deception. Building and organizing a fly fishing streamer box is a continuous process that evolves with your fishing experiences and preferences so don’t expect to be perfect from one organization effort. The key is to keep it organized, easily accessible, and tailored to the conditions you fish in most frequently. I mentioned earlier start with identifying what you have in your streamer collection and where you want to be. Then think about potential steps and ways you can get there without starting over if possible.