Sunday Classic / DIY Magnetic Fly Box

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Awesome and almost free! Photo by Louis Cahill

Awesome and almost free! Photo by Louis Cahill

There is one thing that all fly fishermen have in common. Whether we chase trout or tarpon, musky or bass we all carry too many flies.

For any given day on the water I select fly boxes from a stack in my office and cram as many of them as humanly possible into my pack. Not only do all of these fly boxes take up space, they eat into the budget too. This little DIY box helps with both. It’s cheap and tiny.

I love magnet boxes, especially for small flies. Getting a number 24 midge into and out of foam is almost impossible and dumping them lose into a bin is a disaster. The magnet box holds these tiny flies nice and tight and keeps them from tangling up in a ball. It’s easy to find the fly you’re looking for and retrieve it. The foam strips in the lid are great for dries and a few larger patterns.


To make this box I start with an Altoids box. This is basically free because I’m buying the mints anyway. I used a Yellowstone souvenir box for this one. The next step is to apply the magnetic sheet. This is cheap and easy too. These magnets are peal and stick. They are made for business cards and you can get them at any office supply or the Home Depot. They are the perfect size for an Altiods box. All you have to do is trim off the corners with scissors. Just peel off the backing and stick them down. You don’t have to put one in the lid but I like to.

Next you cut a couple of strips of 1/4 inch thick foam. I get mine from Michael’s craft store. I use it for tying flies so I always have some on hand. I cut the strips so they are about as wide as they are high and use super glue, also from my tying supplies, to glue them down. And there it is! A great little fly box made mostly from stuff I already have on hand. It literally cost me pennies, it’s a pleasure to use and it’s so small it fits anywhere.

You can dedicate these boxes to a type of fly, like midges or BWOs or you can organize them for specific streams for the minimalist approach. There’s no reason you can’t spend a day on a small stream, that you know well, in shirt sleeves instead of a vest with just a mint box in your pocket. I know at least one guy that pulls this off.

The only downside to this box is that it isn’t waterproof but commercially made magnet boxes aren’t either. It will rust if it gets wet, but if it does just throw it away and make a new one. Of course, you’re not limited to mint boxes. You could make a magnet box out of almost anything. In fact, do. Make a fly box out of something crazy and post it on our Facebook page.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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7 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / DIY Magnetic Fly Box

  1. One other thing you can do with an Altoids box is make a hook finder. I put a few rare-earth magnets in the box (probably can never get them out), and just brush the box over the floor and the hook just about jumps to the bottom of the box.

    • We have a half-dozen 1 1/8″ diameter magnetic steel balls that are left over from a project my daughter did in high school…they will work great for this…in fact…I think I’ll toss one in each sling pack I use for wading and a couple in the boat for picking hooks out of whatever I manage to drop them in.

      Fly tying bench would be another god spot…

    • I still use those telescoping magnetic mechanics wands in my fly tying room, but love the idea of carrying a few of those rare earth magnets (maybe just one?) for picking up flies that I drop while tying them to my tippet. I’m tired of retrieving them by poking my rod tip under water and trying to snag them in my tip guide.

      Was thinking I’d superglue a strong magnet to an old radio antenna or something like that? Anyone done this? BTW, I love that little fly box idea. We are cleaning our basement and have found piles of little boxes that might work.

      • Insert or screw a rare earth magnet into the top of a wading staff. Next time you drop your hemos in the water or dump a few flys,
        you can easily retrieve them.

  2. Another budget fly box for big flies (think musky flies) that works great for me is to buy the cheap plastic pistol cases at Cabela’s/Bass Pro, stick magnetic material inside both sides.

    They were $7 – $8 when I bought most of mine, might average a bit more now, and I have a source for larger sheets of magnetic material (we use them for mounting photopolymer print plates on press cylinders)…but this is much cheaper than the $30 – $40 we see for big fly boxes.

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