Largemouth Bass Lineup

Largemouth Bass Lineup

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gear Review: UPG Fly Box

Several years ago, I was at a fishing lodge with a friend.  We got up early one morning to chase some trout.  I had picked out the perfect place to fish but it was on the other side of the stream.  From where we were, we could see the trout rising but we couldn't reach them.  So, we crossed the stream.  Well, attempted to cross is what I should say.  I forged ahead and quickly found myself in water up to my neck.  As my friend stood laughing, he was kind enough to take a few photos of me struggling to make it back to dry land.  For those looking for a good laugh, you can see the photo here.  Needless to say, all of my fly boxes became soaked with water.  At the time, I was using a mixture of Plano boxes along with some cheap plastic and metal fly boxes.  I'm not even sure of the exact amount of flies I lost that day but it's safe to say a few hundred.  Why did I lose them?  Up to that point, I didn't think a lot about fly boxes.  It wasn't at the top of my list of things to spend money on, as they didn't seem as sexy as a new rod or as promising as new flies.  Funny now looking back on it.  I think this is a problem common to a lot of fishermen.  Fly boxes tend to be under-appreciated and often underestimated in their value among fly fishing gear.  Upon returning home, I was determined to never let that happen again.

While searching for a sturdy, waterproof, well constructed fly box, I came across the Umpqua Professional Guide (UPG) series of fly boxes.  These boxes had won several show awards including Best Flybox of 2010 from Field and Stream magazine.  A check of the boxes revealed that they were designed to be used by professional guides.  Although not waterproof, they appeared to be well constructed and sturdy with a tight fitting lid to help to keep moisture out and they had Zerust tabs for corrosion protection.  We all have had fly boxes that have allowed our hooks to rust.  This was something else I was trying to eliminate.  These boxes also have see-through lids allowing the angler to quickly determine which box or even which side of the box he needs. Each box comes with mega-slit foam with holes allowing for easy fly placement.  With eight different styles and three colors to choose from, it seemed like a home run.  I decided to purchase the Double Wide, Day Tripper, The Midge and the Weekender.  My hope for the Double Wide was to use it for my warm water fishing needs.

Mega-slit foam and holes for easy fly placement

Zerust tab on the inside of the box

See-through lid.  Even with the plastic protective cover still on it, you can see the poppers.

Having used those boxes for the past several years I am very impressed with them.  I am not easy on gear and as such I am always looking for items to withstand my abuse and neglect.  Recently, Umpqua was kind enough to provide me with two fly boxes, the Streamer and Flats boxes, for review.  A number of reviews have already been done on the UPG series so I wasn't looking to regurgitate old information.  My goal here was to see how these boxes did with warm water fly fishing, particularly with the storage of poppers.  I wanted to see if they would be able to hold my poppers and keep them safe and sound.  As far as I know, and I could be wrong, there currently isn't a fly box on the market today geared specifically towards poppers.  My concerns were that the boxes would not have enough head room for the larger poppers or that there wasn't enough space to carry a large assortment of poppers.

Upon receiving the boxes, I placed some poppers in sizes 4, 4 pencil and 8 in the boxes in various positions, on both sides.  I then let them sit for a while.  Something I did notice was that these boxes felt heavier then other fly boxes I have used before.  Handling one, the angler can clearly get a feel of just how strong and solid they are.  In your hands, you can tell this box can take some abuse... not that that's my goal.  So, while it may be off-putting to some, the slightly heavier feel is worth it in the end to ensure protection of your flies.  A check of the poppers and boxes revealed that there was most certainly enough head room for them.  The largest size I make are size 4 TCS poppers.  These fit nicely in the foam without a problem and had head room to spare.  Over time the hackle did bend some but this was to be expected.  It probably could have been lessened to some degree had I placed the hooks a little higher in the foam.

Even though these boxes are not waterproof, I still wanted to show how they do in the water. I decided to place one in the water for ten minutes.  During those ten minutes, I rotated the fly box around exposing each side of it to the water.  I then held in under water for a total of two minutes.  Despite not being waterproof, I have to say I am very impressed with the results.  Very little water actually got into the box.  There was some around the edges of the box but overall very little of it reached the foam.

The box laying in the water

The box being submerged

You can see where the water reached the foam in this photo

Water around the edges of the fly box

One thing I did notice was that if you are using a fly with legs, the last (or first depending on how you look at it) foam slit on each side of the fly box may not be able to be used.  I tried it a few times with my poppers and found that the legs of the fly actually got caught in the lid.  This could, over time, damage them.  Solution-pick a smaller fly or one without legs to be placed there.  I will say though that a large number of poppers can be stored in each box even at the bigger fly sizes.

Legs will hang outside of the box

So here is my pros and cons list:
Pros-   well constructed, sturdy, clear lid, easy fly placement, Zerust tabs, large head room, kept most of the water out despite not being waterproof
Cons-  can be pricey (ranges from 25-45 dollars), not waterproof, a little heavier than some other fly boxes

Overall I am very impressed and happy with these fly boxes. I think they will make a fine addition to anyone's warm water fly fishing arsenal.  They will last a long time.  As stated, I abuse gear and I have yet to have a problem with mine.  I would like to thank Umpqua for providing me with the fly boxes and allowing me the opportunity to do this review.


  1. Hi, Jeff. Really good review. Well written and product tested is what I wanted to hear. Unfortunately, for me on a senior citizen budget, someone would have to "gift" me these boxes if I were to own one. That is the con of it for sure. Otherwise, a very good fly box meant to be used often.

  2. Nice boxes. A little worried about that leak. I bought a Cabela's brand waterproof box and my flies have stayed dry when I have waded deep. If I ever move to large flies full time, I've got my eyes on a few UPG boxes at the fly shop.