Fly Fishing Gear Review | Boat Bags

What Are Important Features in Fly Fishing Boat Bags?

Fly fishing boat bags are a crucial piece of equipment for organizing and protecting gear for any anglers who spend time chasing trout in drift boats and rafts. Memories of my first few gear bag encounters while float fishing down fast water rivers here in Vail, Colorado ranged from comical to humility building experiences.  Episodes of bags floating in the boat and bags sinking in the river come to mind.  Modern day boat bags are designed for float fishing specifically to avoid these pitfalls.

Gear Bags are Not Boat Bags

Gear bags are not the modern day boat bags, gear bags are for gear storage and tend to be made of soft dense water resistant fabric.  These padded, compartmented bags are fantastic ways to organize your fly fishing gear but do not have the ballistic durability features of boat bags. Gear bags are great ways to carry extra fly boxes, fly reels and terminal tackle. The problem is most fly fishing gear bags are not capable of resting in the bottom of a drift boat and keeping the contents dry.

Fly fishing while float fishing class two, three and four level rivers in the spring run-off, like the Upper Colorado River, Eagle River and Roaring Fork Rivers things tend to happen fast. Re-rigging fast is crucial when the fishing is hot and the water is moving quickly. Without the proper organization and protection offered by a good boat bag, this can be a tough situation.

One of the challenges with the early gear bags was that water would penetrate from the bottom of boat; water would infiltrate from splashing over the sides of boat or enter the bag from the top from natural rainwater. I can remember many times after floating for a full day having to bring my “boat bag” into the house at night to dry out and evaluate the condition the contents.

Believe me, before the first gear bag came onto the fly fishing scene guides were using an assortment of plastic tackle boxes.  These were good for storage but generally not large enough for all your gear.  Lots of small boxes tended to get misplaced or stepped on in the boat. Cheap containers break and fall over easy spilling their contents in your boat.Traditional tackle boxes were heavy, rusty, cumbersome, leaky and poor storage containers for a float guide.

Modern Boat Bags

Good boat bags from Simms, Fishpond, Umpqua and Patagonia overcome all of these setbacks. They allow anglers to customize how their gear and accessories are organized. Additionally, they offer unique features for specific pieces of equipment and can even double as luggage on a fly fishing trip involving travel to a remote destination.

Look for the following features:

  • Semi-rigid construction
  • Waterproof storage
  • Tough zipper
  • Gear pockets and dividers
  • Adjustable straps
  • Plenty of space

Patagonia “Great Divider” Boat Bag

We now know that a bag which is too light weight is not the optimum and a hard plastic is not the optimum.   Finally, what appeared to be no more than a cooler/carry-all bag  at first turned out to be my solution to finding a way to bring what I need on the boat, the Patagonia “Great Divider” boat bag. Several added fly fishing specific features like a space dividers, bombproof zipper, sealed pockets and durable materials, evolved to a very useful modern day float fishing bag, comfortable to use in a drift boat or a raft.

The Great Divider 2 is the ultimate way to minimize space and protect your gear while float fishing.  Patagonia’s award winning bag efficiently organizes and protects everything a fly fisherman needs.This tough boat bag is made from 840 denier double polyurethane coated nylon.  The molded top and bottom pans, allow for water proof protection up to the highly water resistant zipper with T-grip.  The molded pans also provide enough rigidity to allow the bag to stand on its own while providing grip so it will not float away. Welded seams eliminate leakage potential unless you submerge the bag.  This bag will float, if the zipper is closed tightly for. A high density foam gives the outer bag shape and protection.

Inside the bag, foam dividers which can be arranged in any configuration are there to separate and store gear for easy access. A transparent floating panel with hook and loop attachments and removable transparent end pockets are convenient storage hideaways inside the bag. The single shoulder strap has two sturdy areas on the bag you may attach straps to which will hold the Patagonia boat bag on board your float boat. Over the years of being on the river I have learned a quality river bag will save an angler a lot more money over the long run in equipment preservation than a cheap imitation or worse yet no storage bag at all.

Stop in to view the Patagonia “Great Divider” at our fly shop in Edwards, Colorado.  Vail Valley Anglers also has many other options for boat bags, fly fishing gear bags and luggage.

*Please note some of these products may no longer be available to purchase on our website*

Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Website Content Writer