The 80/20 Principal to Fly Box Organization

The Pareto Principal and Your Fly Boxes

According to Investopedia, The Pareto Principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, specifies that 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of the causes, or an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. This principle serves as a general reminder that the relationship between inputs and outputs is not balanced. The Pareto Principle is also known as the Pareto Rule or the 80/20 Rule, and if you pay attention throughout your life (on and off the water)-this principal is pretty spot on. 

As it relates to fly fishing (in this case-nymph patterns) this ratio continues to play out, as 80% of fish are caught with only a handful of patterns, despite the fact that I will carry hundreds (sometimes over a thousand) patterns. Every angler has their favorite 20% of fly patterns that catch 80% of their fish, which are also known as “confidence patterns.” Over the last five seasons, Spencer Higa’s SOS pattern has embodied The Pareto Principal-accounting for a countless fish for both my personal and guided days on the water and has become a current “confidence” pattern.  Although I knew about this patterns years before it became a mainstay in my box, I never used it until a client (thanks Josh Stewart) re-introduced this pattern to me five years ago, and it’s become one of my favorite nymph patterns since -no matter the conditions or time of year. I tie the SOS is a variety of color schemes and sizes, but the original black and modified dark olive (both shown in photo) are two of my favorites.

Confidence patterns are a personal choice-based on your previous experiences, and influenced by the waters your fish. This means everyone’s list will be different, but regardless of your selection-it may be wise to stock up heavily on the patterns that represent your 80/20 ratio. Reevaluating your 80/20 pattern ratio may also cause you to get rid of patterns you’ve never had success with or rarely put on the end of the line.  It’s good to have a few wildcard patterns in the mix, but my suggestion is to organize your box on the Pareto Principal-determine which patterns accounted for 80% last season’s success, and spend the time to tie or the money to purchase those patterns. And if I may make a suggestion, try Higa’s SOS (if you haven’t done so already) and you find yourself adding another confidence pattern to your quiver. Good fishing!

Confidence patterns are a personal choice. Higa’s SOS has become one of my core patterns, so my nymph box is heavily stocked with the SOS (along with color and size variations).

Confidence patterns are a personal choice. Higa’s SOS has become one of my core patterns, so my nymph box is heavily stocked with the SOS (along with color and size variations).

Two of my favorite SOS color schemes: original black (on left) and a dark olive (on right).

Two of my favorite SOS color schemes: original black (on left) and a dark olive (on right).