How to Customize your Fly Fishing Gear

In the world of fly fishing it is easy to fall into line with your gear, only to look like the next wader-clad angler to stumble down the bank into the river. Some anglers strive for a cookie cutter approach to their gear often aiming to mimic their buddy. Or the latest decked out angler from the cover of a magazine. But it is the fly fisher who looks to stand out with a one of a kind appearance or to customize their gear for a specific technique or fit that really expands their game.

Function and Appearance

Function and attraction are the two main reasons for customizing your gear. When it comes down to function, fly anglers are often building a platform for targeting the toughest fish in the watershed. Those anglers who travel need to understand the demands of fly fishing for powerful fish. Customizing your gear is the best way to combat demanding fish like large trout, salmon, and tarpon.



Reels are a place for customization where the possibilities are unlimited. With a minimal amount of effort, the knowledgeable angler can create a rod and reel combination with a one of a kind look. Companies like Hatch and Abel have taken the custom reel game to a new level. Abel leads the way with numerous limited-edition fly reels with custom artwork and unique bold graphics. A variety of trout patterns, bonefish and tarpon colors and even the highly intricate artwork have adorned the side plates of Abel reels. A small edition of Colorado flag Abel reels and a highly desirable Grateful Dead inspired line are the cream of the crop in the Abel reels selection.

Hatch has a mix and match ability with a variety of spool colors and choices. The Vail Valley Anglers website walks you through the process to create a custom Hatch reel that is sure to stand out from the others.

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Backing and Line

Backing and fly line give anglers another area for customization again for both aesthetics and function or both. One of our guides had red and blue backing lined onto a limited edition Colorado flag Abel reel for his father, talk about aesthetics, Wow! Vail Valley Anglers provides six custom color choices for backing.

Utilizing different colored backing I have customized a blue water fly reel set up for off-shore fly fishing for billfish, tuna, and sharks. The functional choices are a change in color that indicates distance, the first 150 yards of backing are pink and the last 250 yards are chartreuse. This helps me to log mental notes during the battle. Brightly colored backing has helped Captains keep a visual during the fight on some of my past trips. The entire outfit looks pretty cool too. There is a multitude of color choices coming out these days for fly line colors as well. Scientific Anglers, Airflo and RIO all make clear stealthy line options to increase the functional factor for ultra spooky saltwater species like bonefish and permit.


Simms, the leader in functional fishing apparel, has offered a custom shop for perfecting the fit of their waders for a specific angler. With extended sizes, custom bootie choices, camouflage hardware, an upgraded suspender package and the ultra desirable zipper addition. Simms waders go above and beyond when it comes to custom choices for an angler to make. When you figure the hours spent inside your waders, swinging for steelhead, wading across rapids or hiking into a mountain stream. The choices you make before you buy payoff in the long run in comfort and riverside style points. Simms Custom waders deliver the ultimate in function, comfort, and style. Look no farther than the Vail Valley Anglers Custom Simms Wader page to begin constructing your custom Simms waders.

Wading Boots

Korkers, the highly adaptable wading boot company, has the ultimate in customization choices for wading boots. With nine different soles for every type of river or fishing condition imaginable. Korkers covers your wading with style and functional adaptability. The addition of a BOA system allows a custom feel around your foot.  Making an easy foot extraction at the end of a long day. Just give it a twist and a deep step to create enough wiggle room to easily slip off your feet. The ability to adjust how snug the boots tighten around your wader bootie is a big advantage.

Customization for function or aesthetics increases the pleasure factor in fly fishing for any angler. Customizing gear for fit and function increases the safety factor of your gear as well. Contact Vail Valley Anglers to create a one of a kind heirloom rod and reel or a custom fitting pair of waders and boots.