Fly Fishing: Does Your Fly Patch Look Like This?

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Fly drying patches can get out of hand if you let them. Photo by: Louis Cahill

Do yourself a favor and clean out your foam drying patch on your pack, during the cold months, when you’re not going to be on the water for a while.

You’ll be surprised how much your fly boxes will fill back up once you’ve done a thorough cleaning, and also just how much trash you’ve accumulated over the past season in the bottom of your packs. I’ve got a horrible habit of leaving my flies on my drying patch day in and day out. I use my drying patch as a fly box in itself and although it saves me some time on the water when I’m guiding, it ends up destroying dozens of flies during the season. That translates into quite a bit of money thrown down the drain, and significant time lost at the tying bench that could have otherwise been avoided. Don’t let your fly drying patches get out of control. They’re not meant to be used as permanent fly storage, rather, they’re a place to organize flies for your day out on the water or for drying fly patterns out until you can safely put them back in the appropriate fly boxes.

If you’re like a lot of folks right now, your probably sitting inside staying out of the cold, tying flies and praying for a warm sunny day. Cabin fever has probably set in, and you’re finding that you’ve developed a chronic case of checking the extended weather forecast on your iPhone, in the hopes of seeing a warm break in the winter weather. While you’re waiting for a positive turn in the weather, make yourself useful, and do some much needed gear maintenance in the meantime. Doing so, you’ll feel much more prepared when you do find time to hit the water, and you might even find a couple of those deadly fly patterns that worked so well this past season that you thought you were long gone.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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21 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: Does Your Fly Patch Look Like This?

  1. I do this a few days after every fishing trip. Like you said you don’t realize how many flies you keep in that patch over time. I probably h ad 30 in the patch and 20 at the bottom of the pocket. It annoyed me because several were ones I had bought replacements for thinking I didn’t have any.

  2. I lost too many flies off my patch so I gave it up. I’m not a guide so I only have to worry about my own piggish self. Flies go back in the box when I change. The first thing I do when I get off the water is open my boxes to dry. If I’m really good, I’ll clean up the dry/dropper rigs I stuffed in there, too.

  3. Not only have I learn to be more organized, I have learn that you don’t need a gazillion different pattern to boggle your mind! I have found that culling down the patterns to the most effective (the work anywhere, any day flies) help with this also. You might keep a small stash of odd ball patterns to through them a curve if needed. I use the Umpqua Overlook 500 chest pack at this time, and it its a fly box based system which helps me to put flies back in the box or have a small manageable amount of flies on the docking stations that are being used. Great post! God bless

  4. I’ve had the same problem over the years with my fly patches. Tons of flies all over the place, in the patch or the bottom of the pack. They rust, they get stuck in the pack, and you tie more of the same thing because you think you’re out of a pattern when there’s actually 20 of them in the bottom of your pack.
    JSA, I’m fishing with the Overlook right now as well. It’s kind of solved this problem for me with the fly docks on the shoulders of the pack. I really like them because it’s easy to see what flies you have, and flies don’t get lost everywhere inside the pack. However, I went fishing yesterday and found an articulated streamer in the bottom of my pack when I got home….old habits die hard I guess.

  5. I am terrible about cleaning out my drying patch and pack in general. You are right on about how it helps keep your fly boxes full. Sometimes I will find a pile of RS2’s in the bottom of my pack that fell out without me knowing. It is something that I need to work on for sure.

  6. Great reminder Kent. So true. Organization of my fly-fishing and tying stuff is not my strong suit, and it costs me time and time again. The temptation to get out on the water and spend as much time as I can there limits the time I have for prep and for after-action organization. There are so many good reasons to change and so little commitment to do so for someone who is not a pro. Hard to explain. Maybe one of your blogs can be a checklist of what you do before fishing and after to maximize readiness, organization, and preservation of your flies and equipment.

    I prefer guides who are totally strac… clean, organized, and sufficient equipment and flies and a spotless boat. I admire their commitment and envy their ability to be that way.

  7. I was recently saved and screwed by my drying patches on separate trips. I have the Orvis Guide sling and had the patch stuck on the Velcro on the top of the pack, stuffed with flys from several months of fishing, some bass, some carp, some steelhead, some trout, some real beauties tied by friends, some store bought, some of my own ties and managed to pull it off the pack when I was in some thick brush. Major downer when i realized it back at the car in the dark. Fast forward to the day after Christmas, first day with decent weather in a couple weeks, super excited to hit the river, left my pack sitting at home. The drying patch on my jacket had 5 or 6 streamers stuck in it and I had left a spool of tippet in one of the pockets, crisis averted.

    • Patrick,

      I agree that a drying patch can save the day for an angler who may have not packed enough gear or ran out of the hot fly in the fly box. It has saved me more than once. That being said, I thought it was also important to bring up how many flies can be damaged or lost if we don’t at least occasionally clean it out every now and then. Thanks for the comment.


  8. It’s good to know I am in good company when it comes to leaving flies on patches – ha ha. Quite a few posters mentioned losing flies from patches. Planet Trout had a nice review of all of the different patches he has used over the years. The Simms Fly Patch Box works well for me with ventilation provided by 1/4″ holes drilled in the short sides. My next test will be the Finsport Bug Cage – an enclosed “cage” patch with ventilation. These don’t prevent the clutter, only the fly losses while bushwhacking.

    • Steve,

      The Waterworks Fly Trap has been on my vest since they came out many years ago. It works pretty well at preventing rust and keeping my flies safe if I remember to close it before bushwhacking, which I do not always do… But the convenience of it makes me lazy about cleaning it out after each trip to the river, which is why Kent’s post rings so true for me. I certainly agree with the blog about sheepskin patches… extremely non-functional.

    • James. Thanks for the pointer. For that kinda dough it better look good. Catalogs don’t show the front – is it good looking? ha ha

      • Steve,

        Yes, it is good looking…when closed, the top is also foam, with a small magnet insert to assist in swapping out flies…also has a couple different attachment options. Will try to find you a pic of one closed

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