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Here’s another slice of sheer genius ingenuity, courtesy of my friend John Gribb from Wisconsin. John is one of the most innovative fly tiers I know; he uses things like fabric from the seat belts of junkyard cars and Christmas ribbons to make some of the most effective patterns I’ve ever fished.

Last week he hit me with another idea that made me slap my forehead. As most of you know, tiny midge and mayfly patterns can be just the ticket, especially in the fall and winter months. But if you’re like me, putting the bug on a strand of tippet in the first place is often as difficult as hooking and fighting fish on small flies. Seeing the eye opening is only half the battle. It’s difficult for me to twist and manipulate those flies in my cold fingers, especially after a morning cup of coffee or two. I can’t count how many midges I’ve dropped as a result of digital malfunctions.

John suggests making a “matchbook” for your midge patterns. Take a sheet of foam, and slice it with scissors to create match stick-sized sections, then staple it to a tab of cardboard or heavy stock paper. Stick the midge (or small mayfly, caddis, whatever) flies at the ends of your “matches.” The flies are protected when you fold the cardboard like a match book and tuck the tab under the stapled end, and this packet easily fits in your shirt pocket, vest, or pack.

The best part is, when you are ready to fish, you can thread the tippet through the eye with the fly still on the foam (you can either tear off the individual tab, or twist the whole booklet to help you tie your knot). Then simply detach the fly from the foam, maybe add a dab of floatant, and you are good to go. I’ve been monkeying around with this for a few days now, and believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. Fewer dropped flies. Better, faster knots. And the frustration factor decreases exponentially.

Give it a try, and you’ll see how a little pre-fishing system preparation and a dash of innovation can go a very long way, especially when you’re using small flies.