The C&F Design Universal System

This is the fun, early season time every year that I go through and sort my many fly boxes. Based where I am in the Queenstown area I can’t get away with just a ‘one size fits all’ selection as day-to-day the areas I visit change. 

Within an easy day trip distance of home I have the gin clear rivers and streams of the Fiordland region, the lowland South Otago trout streams, the Central Otago high-country rivers and tussock lakes, the glacial Southern Lakes and surrounding alpine tarns, the northern Southland backcountry, coastal estuaries, blue mountain streams of the Mt Aspiring National Park, and of course the specific ’match the hatch’ fishery of the universally renowned Mataura river, right on my doorstep. 

Fly box sorting carnage

Keeping a large number of fly boxes and selections at hand to cater to these largely differing fisheries - visiting a new type of water on a daily basis and with the many seasonal variations of each - often ends up with misplaced boxes, forgotten boxes, and the never-ending topping up from various mothership boxes at the day's end. It's a lot of work!

So now it’s time to try something a little different and simplify things. Enter the C&F Universal System from C&F Design.


The tailgate set up of Chris Dore's C&F System

With interchangeable foam inserts and a conveniently sized storage box, I can now run just three or four boxes and switch out their contents as needed at the truck at the start of the day. The C&F Universal System features a secure, clip-in and pop-out foam insert system that is very quick and easy to use.

This is an investment in the next 10 years of fishing in my eyes. C&F fly boxes go the distance so I don’t have to replace my set-up every other season. Cards on the table. Yes, I work for Manic, but first and foremost I'm a passionate angler and professional guide who appreciates that every moment fluffing about is time not spent fishing, so am always looking for ways to minimise time wastage on the water and in prep the evening prior.


I've long been a fan of C&F fly boxes for a number of reasons. They’re surprisingly robust and drop proof which means you don’t need to switch out hundreds of flies to a replacement box when the inevitable happens. 


The micro slit foam is of the highest quality. Lesser quality boxes often feature foam which flares and loses its grip on flies, particularly heavier nymphs over quite a short period of time. I have C&F boxes several years old that still secure Uglies and other larger, top-heavy patterns like they did when I first bought them. 


The waterproof gasket is truly waterproof - and remains so. Simply give your fly box a squeeze prior to latching to secure the seal and lock it up. Waterproof boxes are great at keeping moisture out after deeper wades or rainy deluges but also great at keeping water in. If you have opened your box in the rain, remember to open your fly box when you get home to allow its contents to dry out.

Likewise, used, wet flies should be hooked into your C&F fly protector to dry rather than sealed in your fly box. 


The easy-to-close, and easier-to-open latch is convenient, even with frozen fingers, and holds secure time and time again. The hinge system both on the latch and the boxes themselves ensure there are no folding plastic joins to wear out and break. 


The way this works is you simply press the clip outwards to disengage the insert. To secure it inside your box simply angle it into the stay, then press it down into the latch. Within seconds you can switch out a nymph box to a streamer box, or a backcountry terrestrial box into a Mataura selection of size 18 emergers and spent spinners. 


A green C&F design fly box

Foam insert for the C&F design universal system

C&F Universal System foam inserts are not a one size fits all model. You can choose which foam best suits your needs. Attractor inserts are designed to hold your larger flies, your standard insert is the jack of all trades from size 10 through 16, and your midge insert holds all your minute Mataura patterns, and allows you to remove them with ease.

Your streamer and saltwater patches are well thought out to hold a variety of fly profiles. Standard C&F fly boxes also come in S, M and L so you can choose the size that best suits your vest, pack or pocket. 


  • I decided to go for large size fly cases myself to bulk up on guiding essentials, however individual fly boxes also come in medium, and a convenient pocket-sized small version for the ‘go light’ style of angling
  • I have chosen 5 boxes in total to cater to most of my needs, and these too can store additional foams of course, switched out with my boat box as required, negating the need for a second boat box. All up if I choose (and get my A into G at the tying bench) I can secure a total of 22 foam inserts between my boat box, and individual fly cases
  • I’ve selected four large universal fly cases and one compartment box with a dry fly compartment to permanently fill with parachutes, blowflies, emergers, and other dries I never want to be without, and an empty side for a foam insert of my choice. This way I know I will have enough of a dry fly range to cover many waters and I can select a lowland nymph sleeve, a backcountry fly sleeve, stillwater sleeve or whatever I need to get things done on the day 
  • The boxes themselves are still what you know and love from C&F. Tough, reliable and with options to suit your own personal carry system. Each box comes as a blank canvas so you can insert whichever foam sleeve you need on the day, and the handy compartment box fits all your favourite dries with the flexibility to add whichever nymph sleeve suits the season or location you are in


C&F Guide Boat Box

  • The C&F Trout Guide Boat Box really is the key to this system. It is the storage chest for walk and wade anglers to pick out which inserts they fit into their fly cases for the conditions at hand, or a rather compact but high-capacity boat box for those waterborne
  • Mine will live in the back of my truck so I can switch out boxes easily and quickly each morning depending on which waters we choose to fish and the conditions on the day. No more essential fly boxes accidentally left at home to save space or clutter
  • The easy-to-use, secure 2-way latch locks the boat box securely while remaining easy to open single-handed. It is waterproof and shatterproof to protect your flies in the back of the truck or out in the boat
  • The large Trout Boat Box comes with 3 streamer patches, 3 standards, 3 midge for smaller flies, and 3 attractor patches for larger dries and nymphs. Additional patches can be purchased for $17.50 per L sized patch, so you can mix and match, and switch them out as required
  • I've intentionally dropped a closed fly box from height and the foam inserts have stayed fast. Same too when dropped onto grass when open, so I have no concerns of losing an insert downstream

I still have a number of flies to switch out (and tie) and a few other projects on the go, but soon we will be back on the rivers and testing out the C&F Design Universal fly box system where it all counts.

It is certainly a game changer for me personally and reduces the disorganised clutter of carrying a dozen or so fly boxes in my truck and the necessity to check through everything the evening prior to ensure that a specific seasonal selection is not left at home.

Everything now is in a handy, compact storage case, and always on hand. 


Chris Dore is a battle-tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever-changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.

In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.

For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?