Ok, I just started tying a few weeks ago. I think I'm making too many of the same pattern/size. I know it is a good habit to tie the same fly over and over to get proficient, but in the grand scheme of things, how many of the same pattern/size should a person tie to fill out their box? (I think I have enough size 10 WB to last me through the next few years )
Well, the real answer to how many is - "enough". I have literally thousands of flies, but most are not in my primary fly box. For the flies I use the most given the time of year and the water I am going to be targeting, I keep five or six in the most popular sizes with me on the water.
I would have Parachute Adams in sizes 12, 14, 16, 18 - five each; BWO in the same sizes; Griffith's gnats in sizes 18, 20, 22; Elk hair caddis in 14, 16, 18, etc.
However, there are a few flies that I carry a few variations of - stoneflies, copper johns, midges, etc.
Then there are flies I only use on certain rivers - Bighorn, Gray Reef, Frying Pan. They get their own box as well.
Seasonal flies - salmonflies, hoppers, ants - other boxes.
Streamers - still another box.
I rarely lose/use more than five flies in a day, so that's where I get the five per pattern from. However, I always carry some extra fly boxes in my gear bag or truck just in case. Plus, I like to have a few extra to share just in case.
I carry a small box of midges and stonefly/mayfly/caddis nymphs most of the year - probably 300 of them in a variety of patterns. I also carry around a small box of dries and eggs and worms. And a handful of streamers as well.
Just keep tying. Keep getting better. It is a good idea to pick a few important flies and get really good at them. Develop your skills. It is a tough learning curve at first, but I know that my fly fishing experience is much richer now that I tie my own flies. Don't stress about numbers. When you see a pattern you like and works well, learn to tie it and tie up 20 or so in a few different sizes. They add up fast, but tying is a hobby of it's own. So don't worry about how many you need or how many you are tying, just remember that it is keeping you off the streets and out of trouble.
To each his/her own but for any new fly, if I tie one or two and like it, I'll tie a dozen before moving on. To be honest, I think I need to have tied a few that feel "right" to me before stopping and I usually put out the makings for nine or so after the first three "test" flies to sort out the ingredients and dimensions etc. It turns into a bakers dozen most times.
Fly tying is certainly a creative/artistic endeavor so a personal one in my opinion. Do what makes you feel good and keeps the "fun" meeter above 3/4.
Fishing in North Central PA. you could run into different bugs while out for a day. My answer was for many patterns 6 flies 2 of each in #14, 16, & 18. The two 14's gave you a big hook to get sharpened up on before tying the small stuff. Generally this was a good plan unless tying for a specific hatch where the size was already known via experience. In this case a dozen would usually last the season with a few for seed for next year.
Thanks for all the good (and quick) input. I think I'm going to shoot for 5 of each size per pattern as a start. I must admit after my 10th gold ribbed hares ear, I started to recognize what I was doing wrong and actually be able to fix it. Practice does make perfect. Thanks!
I'm not a tier (tyer?) yet, but it would seem to me that if it's a fly you use a lot then just put a few in your fly box and then get a plastic storage box like this. Then use it to stock your fly box.
You've kind of asked two questions here. As to tying, as futuramille said already, I tie a dozen at a minimum for a new fly. And usually there's a couple extra, as the first three or so aren't up to snuff. I'll still fish them, as you just never know, but I tie a pattern until I feel good about the result. I only tie one or two nights a week, and tie a minimum of one dozen and a maximum of two dozen on any one night.
As to filling your boxes, everyone does this a little differently. For myself, I have two different sets of boxes. The first set is storage. I have 6 large boxes for this, as follows:
1 streamer/clouser/wooly bugger box, approx. 6 doz. total
1 hopper/stimulator box, approx. 8 doz. total
1 copperjohn/zebra midge/PT box, approx. 8 doz. total
1 small assorted dry fly(P-adams, spinners, griffith's gnats, etc.) approx. 8 doz. total
1 emerger/nymph/c-mid box, approx. 4 doz. total
1 bass bugs/poppers/MOABs/mice box, approx. 3 doz. total
I've only been tying for two years and it took over 18 months to fill these boxes accordingly. So if you're just starting out, I wouldn't recommend buying a half a dozen boxes right away. I bought two large boxes and a medium box after I decided I liked tying and built up from there.
Then, I have four other 'fishing' boxes. Two are generic, the other two are specific to certain waters I regularly fish.
In general, I take two boxes out of the water, and one storage box that might be in my backpack or in the car. After a trip, I'll make a note of how many and what patterns of flies need replacing, and stick that on my tying desk. With any luck, within a week or two, I'll try to replace those flies.
Note: I dont tie all of my flies. At present, I have approx. 2500 flies and I tied about 1100 of them. I usually don't tie smaller than #18, especially dries, since they don't last long and I can get them for .50 to .60 cents a piece.
A couple examples of my fishing box loadouts:
Fishing box for Hurricane Lake, AZ
3 dozen hoppers (yellow, tan, olive)
6 doz. stims(#12-16)
1 doz. black ants
6 red damselflies
6 olive hares ears
6 black hares ears
6 black #14 CJs
6 red #18 CJs
1 dozen assorted emergers.
That pretty much fills one large box. I take a generic box in case I fish one of the small streams in the area.
My Lee's Ferry box:
2 doz. SJ worms various colors
15 doz. zebra midges various sizes and colors
2 doz. P-adams 14-20
6 rubberleg yellow stims #14
8 WBs #10
My generic fishing boxes are filled by fives; i.e., 5 olive WBs #8, 5 p-adams #16, 5 black hares ears #16, and so on. I like two-sided boxes so I can put dries on one side and wets on the other. My generic boxes are exactly that, flies that generally work anywhere, with a few 'exotic' flies thrown in just in case. As a result, those boxes are set up about 25% dries and 75% wets, in common colors.
So, the short answer to your question might be, tie them by the dozen, fill your boxes for fishing by the half dozen. If you decide to have storage boxes, in general, I'd say try to have at least a dozen of any one color/size pattern. That should give you the right ratio so that you tie your patterns at least two or three times a year.
To get good, most of us have to PRACTICE. So the more you practice, they better you get. After a while you will look at your old flies, and think they stink. They still make good fishing flies. Or you can give them to someone first starting out. I have a ton of flies, and I am in no danger of running out. I keep trying new things, new flies, new techniques. But I still have a whole lot to learn.