Gear Review: Umpqua UPG Fly Boxes

UPG Boxes side by sideAs per the norm I wait until I’ve seriously put something through the ringer before I’m willing to review it. Since Aimee and I bought a few of these boxes about a year ago I figure its about time I did a gear review.

The Umpqua UPG Fly Boxes were touted by Umpqua as the next step in the evolution of the fly box. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’ve never spent as much on a fly box as I did for the UPG boxes. They are expensive, heavy and pretty bulky. They are also totally worth the money, weight and size. These boxes rule.

We bought three of these guys, I got the Magnum Midge and Magnum Dry and Aimee went with the Weekender. These boxes hold a ton of flies. I used to carry five or six boxes at all times, now because I can fit so many flies in each of these boxes I carry two. Sure they are each much heavier than the prior fly boxes that I used, but since there are less of them my pack is actually lighter now.

Magnum Midge 2

Beyond the capacity of these boxes, I also love that the super high quality foam is slotted. In the past I have used foam boxes that were not slotted and after a year or two of heavy use the foam has shredded resulting in flies falling out everywhere. Not awesome. The foam on the UPG boxes is very resilient and holds flies securely. Rather than needing to be careful every time I open a box, since flies could be loose and pouring out anywhere, I am confident that all the flies are in place and that I won’t drop them into the drink as soon as I open the box. The photos below are of the foam after a year of hard use, it still looks brand new. Awesome.

UPG Foam Close UpUPG Big Dry Close Up

Aimee and I like to quote our friend Cam who once said, “My life changed the day that I saw Tom McCall’s midge box.” For those of you who fish in the Rockies having a fully stocked midge box is a must. They work year round, they work when nothing else will and they pretty much always work. My midge box used to be a huge mess, it was a pain to put the flies in the foam, or if I was using a plastic box they would all get tangled up or skip from compartment to compartment so they were never where I expected. Basically having a super badass midge box was hard for me. No longer. In addition to the snug slitted foam, which holds midges really well, UPG added magnetic panels for ultra small midges. The magnets are strong enough that the midges don’t go flying all over the place and big enough that you can fit a ton of midges on it while still being able to tell them apart and find the ones that you want. Awesome.

UPG Midge Magnets

The other feature that I really like is the watertight seal. Those of you that have fished with me, or followed Tasty Takes for a while, know that I will to try to cross pretty much every river I fish. When wearing a hip pack this can be problematic – I often partially submerge, and sometimes fully submerge, my pack. Since I’m too cheap to spring for a fully waterproof pack that means that I dunk everything in my pack fairly often. With my old fly boxes I would have to remember when I got home to open all the boxes and dry them out in an attempt to avoid mildew and rust on all my precious flies. Since I picked up the UPG boxes this is no longer a worry. They seal super tight and I haven’t had any water in a fly box since I got them. Awesome.

Magnum Midge 1Magnum Dry - small driesMagnum Dry - Big Dries

Unfortunately, there may be a durability issue with the closures of the boxes. After about 6 months I broke one of the latches that keeps the Magnum Midge box closed. Not awesome. The other side still closes tightly and is completely waterproof, but the broken side no longer has that water tight seal. Because it’s tucked into in my pack it doesn’t flop open all the time and even if it did it wouldn’t matter since the flies are all held so well, but I do now have to worry about drying the box out after deep wading. To be fair I was fishing in sub-freezing temps when it broke so its possible that if you are 1. more careful than I am or 2. don’t fish in freezing cold weather you might not have a problem at all.

Overall I really like these fly boxes and am very happy with our purchases.

5 out of a Six Pack Scale ©

5 out of a Six Pack Scale ©

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