DIY Streamer Fly Box

Can't ever find the perfect fly box? Follow along and make your own streamer box for under $20 with Fly Fishing Expert Marshall McDougal!

A shot of the open and completed fly box filled with colorful and sparkly streamers.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Big boat-style streamer boxes can get expensive. Companies like Montana Fly Company, Cliff, and Umpqua make great streamer boxes for boat or truck storage but they come with a hefty price tag. Here’s how to use an art bin, some super glue, and foam to make your own for much cheaper.

Material List

There are three items you will need to complete this project. An art bin from your local craft store, a thick foam sheet, and some glue. A utility knife or scissors will be needed to make the cuts necessary to fit your foam in the box and make the slits that hold your hooks. I found all the items I needed at Hobby Lobby and my total cost for this project was under $20. If your local craft store does not have one of these items, check Amazon.

A layout of the author's art box, foam, stickers, glue, ruler, and knife.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Art Bin

I found these awesome little art bins at Hobby Lobby. They are clear in color and have the exact same locking mechanisms as most big streamer boxes. There are three different size options (10.5”, 14”, and 17”) that will accommodate flies anywhere from a two-inch Clouser minnow to 14-inch musky flies. You don’t have to buy this specific brand or size though. Any plastic locking box that is 3-4 inches thick will work. If you are looking for something smaller than these boxes, check out paintbrush or pencil storage bins. These will come in a smaller profile and will be something you can fit in your fishing pack.

Foam Inserts

I’ve found that the best option for your foam inserts is just a simple 6mm thick foam sheet. There are companies out there that make replacement inserts that would fit these boxes but I have had the best luck with just foam sheeting. You can experiment with the thickness based on the size of the hook you are using. If 6mm doesn’t quite hold your larger hooks, explore a thicker foam or try gluing two sheets together before inserting them.

Adhesives

Grab some sort of super glue laying around your house. For my box, I decided to use E6000 Plus. It has great adhesive strength and is also water-resistant so if I were to get water in my box, the glue would be rated for it.

Stickers or Paint

Spice up your box after you are done loading it with flies. Slap some of your favorite stickers on it to give it a personalized look. I have also seen people paint/draw on their boxes. If you happen to have some artistic ability, look into putting a custom work of art on your box.

How to Build the Box

Step One

The author has a paper cutout of the box shape sitting on a piece of foam with scissors sitting on top of them.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Take a piece of paper and make a stencil for your foam by tracing over the outside of the box. There is a raised side and an indented side. Both should be the exact same size so it doesn’t matter which one you use for your stencil.

Step Two

The box is laid out open with two pieces of foam sitting in each side. The image captures the author's whole workspace with the other materials nearby on the desk.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Now that you have your stencil made, move over to your foam. Trace the stencil and cut out inserts for both sides. I was working with a 10.5” standard box in this tutorial so I was able to get away with only using a single 9x12 sheet of foam. You will need multiple sheets if you choose to go with the bigger boxes. Once you have cut both inserts, make sure they fit and trim them to your liking. For the indented side of my box, I had to trim off some of the edges to get it to sit flush down in the groove.

Step Three

Image of one side of the open box with glue drizzled over it.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Once you have the foam fitting to your liking, glue them in. Something to keep in mind when applying your glue is that these boxes are clear, so you will see the glue streaks on the backside. I knew I was eventually going to add stickers so this didn’t bother me. If you don’t want to see the glue streaks, a simple way to combat this is to use a popsicle stick to smooth out the glue and evenly distribute it across the area where you are gluing the inserts in. Give your glue some time to dry after you get the inserts secured into the box.

Step Four

An image of one open side of the box with the foam glued in. The author is making slits in the foam with an X-Acto knife and a ruler.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

When your adhesive has cured and your foam is securely attached to the box, add slits to hold your hooks. This step will keep your foam from having chunks torn out by the hook barbs and will help it last longer. The slit spacing will vary depending on the size of your flies. I went with 1/2” spacing which is the closest I felt comfortable with, but spacing up to an inch can be cut depending on the bulk of your flies. Give yourself a half-inch on all of the borders of the foam. When cutting your slits, start a half-inch from the top and cut against a straight edge to a half-inch from the bottom. The easiest tool to use for this is an X-Acto knife but a razor blade will work just fine too. The biggest key here is to make your cuts against a straight edge so you don’t have wavy or crooked slits. Make a single incision to start the slit and then come back over a second time to get the depth you want.

Step Five

The closed and completed fly box sitting on the author's desk. It has decorative stickers and brand stickers on the front of it.

Photo by Marshall McDougal

Add stickers of your choice or get artsy and paint your target species of fish on the front of the box. Fill it up with streamers and go fishing!

For tips on how to organize your new fly box check out my article, How to Organize a Fly Box. If you have questions about what types of streamers or flies to fill your box with, reach out to me or another Fly Fishing expert here on Curated.

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Written By
I picked up a fly rod at the age of 10 and have never been able to put it down. Fly tying started shortly after and I have chased fish all over the US and Mexico. I now own a small fly tying company as well as run guided trips. My favorite area to fish is the Bitteroot River in Missoula, MT and my f...

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