If you haven’t used a particular fly in the last two seasons, leave it at home—you just don’t need it. It’s painful to acknowledge, but flies, as much as we all love them, are arguably the least important part of your entire set-up. To be sure, there are times when fish can be infuriatingly selective. But most of the time, most species we target behave like predatory, opportunistic feeders—if a fly is passably lifelike and well presented, a fish will hit it.
So, instead of carrying dozens of fly patterns, you’re much better off having just a few, but in a variety of sizes. For example, 90 per cent of my dry-fly box is made up of all-purpose Klinkhamer Special, Parachute Adams and Elk Hair Caddis patterns, in sizes 16 to 8. This reduces the option overload when picking a fly, but more importantly, it forces me to focus on what really matters: presentation.