It used to be there wasn’t many options for carrying fly fishing gear and the old canvas vest was the best and only choice. It was common to see old timers and youngsters alike sporting a tan or olive cotton or canvas vest loaded down with everything from fly boxes and tools to a can of soda and a smashed sandwich. If an angler needed even more carrying capacity, they might be seen with a bulging creel slung over the shoulder and a few flies stashed in a felt hat.
Times have changed and fly fishermen have a wide array of options that incorporate the latest in technology and materials. Below are just a few of today’s offerings available for storing and carrying the necessary items for a successful day of fly fishing.
The Minimalist: The Fly Fishing Lanyard
In this category, you’ll find anglers who want to keep things simple and lightweight. This group might include fishermen who will spend their day hiking up a small creek to a spot where they’ll camp overnight by an alpine lake loaded with cutthroats. Or maybe, with only an hour or two to fish, one might want to skip carrying all the gear they own. This is where a fully loaded fly fishing lanyard shines.
Modern lanyards are designed to carry pretty much everything needed for a minimalist approach. Tippet, zingers, a small fly box, weights and floatant, nippers and forceps will all fit comfortably on a lanyard. Most feature an adjustable fit and the best showcase padded neck collars, custom attachments and fittings and they have unique designs that look good and function well.
The Traditional Route: The Fly Fishing Vest
The fly fishing vest is still alive and well. It has simply had an upgrade from the old standards. There is no question that cotton or canvas becomes heavy and uncomfortable when wet. These days vests feature modern, high- tech synthetic materials that are lighter, quick drying and often have some type of water repellant DWR treatment. They are well thought out, with pockets specifically designed for certain items and are fitted with maximum comfort and wading in deep water in mind.
A good vest will come with a well padded neck collar. It will carry plenty of gear, with room to spare for a rain jacket and lunch. At the end of a day on the river, the best vests will not leave your neck and shoulders sore, even when fully loaded. There are still plenty of fly fishermen out there that prefer the traditional carrying capacity of a vest.
Newer Innovations: Backpacks, Hip Packs, Chest Packs & Sling Packs
In the last decade or so, the fly fishing vest has been joined and even overtaken in popularity by fly fishing packs. There are a plethora of packs in a variety of styles and designs available to suit any angling style. The best have their roots in good, modern hiking backpacks that began utilizing lighter and higher tech waterproof materials.
In fact some are backpacks that combine fly fishing specific features and hiking features like water bladders. These are great for carrying plenty of gear, extra clothing, food and essential fly fishing tools, flies and accessories. Backpacks are great for strapping on a rod tube and hiking into the best fishing that lies a few miles from the trailhead or parking area.
Hip packs, or lumbar packs, are one of the more common choices among fly fishing guides these days. They have diverse carrying capacity and features. Fly boxes fit easily into hip packs. Many have very specifically designed tool and tippet holders and even slotted foam fly patches much like an integral fly box. Look for one that has water bottle holders.
Chest packs are often chosen when deep wading is necessary. Gear and flies are easily accessed. Some are too small to carry much more than a lanyard. In this case, look for one that suits your storage needs.
My personal favorite is a sling pack. They carry plenty of gear and extra items like water and I like the fact that they are out of the way on my back while I’m fishing, don’t impede walking, and quickly swing to an easily accessed postion. Sling packs are perfect for flats fishing.
More and more anglers are realizing the benefits of float fishing for trout and steelhead or chasing bonefish, permit tarpon and redfish from a skiff. Because fishing from a boat allows for and often requires carrying more gear than is practical for wade fishing, a good tackle bag, or boat bag, is a must have item. Sizes and styles vary but look for one that is completely waterproof and suits your organizational style.
Some boat bags have a multitude of pockets and dividers while others are basically a simple container. Both soft sided and more rigid hard sided bags are available. Often they work well for the travelling angler also. Some even float.
The old school cotton vest may still work for some fly fishermen. However, for the modern angler, it is simply a matter of analyzing personal fishing styles and needs. Anglers can then choose a fly fishing lanyard, vest or pack that works best. For more information on these items, don’t hesitate to give the guys at Vail Valley Anglers a call. Or feel free to stop by the shop to check out the latest gear.
Brody Henderson, Senior Guide and Web Content Writer