How to organize and store your fly tying hooks and beads

The best system for organizing your fly tying hooks and beads is the one that works for you. In the case of my ever-growing collection of such stuff, that means storage compartment boxes. But not just any boxes. They need to be adjustable, stackable, and easily transportable. Since I’m not fishing this week, I’m using the time to organize the disaster area that is my tying space. I thought I’d share my process of sorting and storing hooks and beads with you.

Let’s start with the storage boxes. I’m a big fan of the 3700 Series Plano Prolatch(TM) Stowaway(R) and 3600 Series Deep Prolatch(TM) Stowaway(R) bulk storage containers. I’ve been using them for years. You can find them at many hardware and big box retailers, and you can also order them directly from Plano. They’re very reasonable priced, and they’re a quality product. I like these boxes because they allow custom configuration; you can create numerous different-sized compartments within each box. The boxes stack neatly atop one another. And if I’m doing a show or a class on the road, I just latch the box and toss it into a larger container for transport. (Plano offers many more options in the way of fishing hardware/lure storage — it’s worth browsing their site if you’re looking for ideas.)

This is the Deep Prolatch: 11″ x 7.25″ x 2.75″. I’m using this one for my freshwater streamer hooks. Everyone will have their own system of organization; for example, I’ve got hooks of different sizes and makes and models in the middle two compartments. But all the 3x long hooks are on one side, and the 4x long hooks are on the other. Stingers and other shorter shank hooks are in front. Large jig and Atlantic Salmon hooks in the back. Works for me!

I can’t tell you how to organize your boxes –that’s up to you — but I can tell you how I organize mine. I have one box for beads and dumbbell eyes, sorted by color and/or material. For example, I have one compartment for brass copper beads and another for tungsten copper beads. But there’s only one compartment for gold beads, regardless of material, because I don’t have a lot of gold beads. There’s a box for freshwater streamer hooks, and a box for saltwater streamer hooks. My smaller hooks box is organized by hook type, with compartments for light wire hooks, heavy wire hooks, shrimp/scud hooks, heavy steelhead hooks, egg hooks, etc. Again, there may be many sizes and different makers within a compartment, but I can easily find the right hook for a size 14 North Country Spider (light wire hooks section) or a size 12 Dark Hendrickson winged (heavy wire hooks section). Easy-squeezy.

The Beads Box, a 3700 Series Prolatch Stowaway, 14″ x 9.13″ x 2″.
Saltwater Hooks, 3700 series. I use fewer types of hooks for salt than other endeavors, hence the extra space at the rear. (Those are spare dividers you see. Each Plano box comes with a set of dividers so you can customize your box.) To be fair, I sometimes use freshwater hooks in the salt, such as Atlantic salmon hooks, and those are kept in the streamer box.
My workhorse freshwater box, also 3700 series.
Stack ’em up! It’s also very cool to be able to grab a box, toss it into a large container, and hit the road without having to worry that I’ll open the box to find a thousand mixed beads rolling around. Everything stays in its own little space.