When you are on foot, going light and arming yourself with the bare essentials makes your time on the water more enjoyable and toting your gear less cumbersome. When I am out fly-fishing a beach, I like to take a minimalist approach and carry the least amount of equipment I possibly can without hindering my odds of catching fish. This is especially true when I’m wet-wading or sight-fishing. I want to be as mobile as possible so that I can cover as much ground and water as I can, without feeling like a walking tackle shop. My motto is if I can get by without it, it stays in the car. If I am wet-wading, I usually take a rod and reel and eight essential items: a stripping basket, nippers, a file, a small tape measure, a spool of tippet or leaders, a fly box, needle-nose pliers, and either a waterproof pocket camera or a cell phone. The point is, most of this stuff will fit on a belt or in a pocket.
Another thing I do to simplify is take fewer flies. I keep my fly selection targeted and try not to carry more than I need. This exercise is manageable when I am familiar with the area I’m fishing and know the species I’m targeting. If I am fishing small flies, I can get by with a dozen or so. This method doesn’t work as well when I’m fly-fishing an exotic location or an unfamiliar area. In these instances, it makes total sense to carry lots of fly boxes and flies in all sizes and colors to maximize opportunities. But this Saltwater 101 is for when you want to keep your fly box simple, pocket-size and homemade.
The Perfect Box
The best small yet comfortable containers I’ve found are do-it-yourself (DIY) cases made from eyeglass holders. These boxes are simple to make, adaptable, affordable and perfect for the fly-angler who wants to go keep things simple when on foot.
To keep flies organized within empty eyeglass cases, I use inserts of craft foam, the kind you can find in any craft store, that I custom-fit. These make rinsing off your used flies after an outing a piece of cake. By pulling the insert out of a case, you can wash off your flies under a sink faucet or garden hose and then allow them to dry before returning them to the case. Putting even one wet, saltencrusted fly back into a box for storage is almost guaranteed to ruin all of the flies in the box. I have found that these custom eyeglass cases, or even ones made from smaller plastic denture cases, make great fly boxes that easily fit into shirt and pants pockets. You can purchase eyeglass cases for around $5 at your local eyeglasses discount store, or you can use old ones that you find hanging around the house or in your glove compartment. I like to use the classic old-style eyeglass cases that are springloaded and snap shut. The ergonomic shape of these cases makes it easy to slide one in and out of a pocket.
For fly inserts, purchase ¼-inch craft foam at your local hobby shop. I usually get a nine-pack of children’s Creatology foam door hangers for around $7.99. Obviously, if you buy larger packs, the unit cost is even cheaper. The craft foam can easily be cut and customized to fit any eyeglass case with a sharp pair of scissors or a single-edged razor blade. As long as you get a tight fit, you don’t need to glue it in. Make sure it fits snugly and snaps into the shape of the case. These inserts are very easy to replace. When the foam becomes too torn up use, simply cut a new one and pop it in.
Before I began using eyeglass cases, I would just cut the craft foam into different -size rectangles, round off the corners and stick my flies in. This worked fine. The only drawback was that my flies would occasionally fall out when they bounced around in my shirt pocket. I found myself using plastic reclosable bags so I didn’t lose flies. The eyeglass cases marry the loose craft-foam inserts with fly boxes.
If you use larger flies, you can just carry fewer flies or upsize to a larger plastic container. I found a clear- plastic travel-size first-aid kit with locking plastic snaps that works great. You can typically find these kits for around $3. They are a little larger, so they won’t slip as easily in and out of a shirt pocket, but they will hold larger flies. I usually transfer the first-aid supplies into a large reclosable plastic bag to keep in the boat or car. Add the foam inserts, and you’ll have a larger custom fly box for around $4.
The DIY Eyeglass FlY Case
Making a functional fly case from an empty eyeglass case is fast and easy.
STEP 1: Open the case and turn it upside down onto the ¼-inch craft foam, then outline the shape. I like to use a thin permanent marker for a clean line.
STEP 2: With a pair of fly-tying scissors or a single-edged razor, cut along the outline. Check the fit. You will more than likely have to cut about one-sixteenth of an inch inside so that the insert will fit tightly. Shave a little at a time until you get a snug fit.
STEP 3: Push the custom-fitted craft foam into the eyeglass case, and load it up with flies.
If you like viewing flies without opening a case, you can use transparent cases, such as plastic soap cases. I am sure you will find yourself looking for many other options and applications once you create a few of these DIY fly boxes for yourself. After discovering how easy these are to make, you will never be short of a customized place to store your flies — the options are endless.