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Save the Flies

I started fly fishing at a young age. With a few silver spoon exceptions, teenage anglers generally share a particular trait while on the water:

Don’t lose a fly, at any cost.

This means that sleeves get rolled up to the shoulder to pry a streamer from a log at the bottom of the stream. Trees get scurried up, in order to retrieve a nymph rig – leader and all. Precious minutes that could be spent fishing with a replacement fly are occupied crawling around, nose inches from the grass. A fly, after all, costs at least two dollars. That is a lot of money.

But as I spend time fishing, I notice that it isn’t just young people that put themselves through the paces looking for lost or otherwise poorly placed flies. There really isn’t any sort of cure to avoid snagging a tree now and again. Furthermore, there are a lot of reasons why an angler should be catching the bottom every so often. But just losing flies doesn’t have to happen.

One of the most treacherous times in the life of any fly is the interval after it is fished and before it is returned to the fly box. Part of the problem are the standard options provided for managing flies during this precarious phase. The ripple foam patch, the faux-shearling tuft, and small magnets will all work under ideal conditions. But if you fish a lot, you’re probably out in less than ideal conditions. For the sake of your flies – whether you can afford two bucks or not – something has to be done.

I’ve listed three reasons why you should consider investing in some sort of modern fly patch, and then I’ve given my top two recommendations on what you could give a try.

Why you should get one more piece of gear:

1. This is obvious: you don’t want to lose flies. Wind, bushwhacking, and errant limb movements can swipe away literally dozens   flies over the course of a season. A fly that hits the ground is as good as gone. Unless you’re on concrete, you can kiss anything that isn’t a streamer or egg pattern goodbye. If you have nice, secure fly boxes inside your vest or pack, it only stands to reason that you apply a similar degree of care to your flies when they are on the outside.

2. A fly that stays wet is bad news. Sure, hooks can rust and that rust can even spread to other flies in the box. If you’re frequently in extreme conditions, the hooks will break. But even occasional moisture will dull hooks and discolor light materials. Additionally, wet dry flies put back into an airtight box will stay wet. Pull that fly out later in the day, or even a few days later, and you’ll have a heck of a time keeping it afloat.

3. Most of us don’t fish competitively. But at the end of the day, most of us don’t like the idea of significant cumulative time spent fiddling with gear as opposed to fishing. A normal day on the water probably means switching flies, and then switching back. I know that I have some standbys that I’ll rotate on any given day, and having them at hand is a lot easier than going into my pack and through my boxes over and over again.

What pieces of gear you should look at getting:

1.  Streamworks. I’ve just bought my second Streamworks Chest Fly Holder to clip onto my Vedavoo Tightlines. I’ve had another on my traditional vest for over ten years, and I consider it essential. The box itself is light, but big enough for a day’s worth of flies. There are vents on the sides to allow for drying. The latch is sturdy, but easily opened with one hand. For ten dollars, it is an easy choice. The foam is durable enough, but the real value is in the box’s size, latch, and clip. This company makes some no-nonsense tools, and these boxes fit that mold. Pick one up from a local dealer and start saving your flies’ lives.

2.  Souplefly. At this winter’s fly fishing shows I had a chance to meet the guys from Souplefly, and they walked me through some of their wares. Their BugVisor is on my short list of needs/wants for smallmouth wet wading, but their hats are what get them in this piece. A lot of fly fishing lifestyle brands have integrated form/function elements into their offerings, but the fly-retaining patches on Souplefly’s hats are the real deal. Getting a hook out requires some deliberate effort; not too much, but enough that a branch or breeze won’t strip the flies off. If you’re a minimalist, the front of one of the many headwear options they sell will keep your flies safe, dry, and handy. And they have styles for brim-wearers off all types.

Contemplating temporary fly storage is one of those areas of fishing minutiae that fair-weather anglers might deride. But if you’re on the water a lot, those seconds add up to minutes. If you’ve taken off a dry to fish a nymph just to see a fish rise in front of you, those seconds of re-rigging feel like hours.

And even if you’re rolling in cash and feathers, no one wants to lose or damage a bunch of flies. So if you’ve been doing it the old-fashioned way or you haven’t been doing it at all, consider upgrading this spring to a fly patch that will streamline your fishing experience. It won’t keep your leader out of the trees, but it will go a long way in minimizing your hands-and-knees, looking-for-midges time.

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