Top 5 Fly Fishing Essentials

Every angler has certain pieces of fly fishing gear they can’t live without.  We’re not talking about the obvious array of stocked fly boxes, rods or waders. Certain tools, accessories,or pieces of fly fishing clothing, however, can make a day on the water more successful and enjoyable. After many years of fishing and guiding a few things have made it to the top of my list of essential fly fishing gear. If I leave the boat ramp or trailhead without these items I immediately regret it.

1.Mitten-scissor clamps

I’m not a gear head angler and take a seriously minimalist approach to my fly fishing and guiding so I appreciate anything that allows me to carry less gear. That’s why I love the Dr Slick Mitten Scissors. They perform the double duty of hemostats and nippers in one handy tool. Nippers have a way of getting lost. I used to fish a few out the bottom of my boat at the end of every summer.

Hemostats are favored by some anglers for debarbing hooks and releasing fish but I find the typical looped handles uncomfortable and hard to manipulate. Dr Slicks Mitten Scissors feature easily manipulated clamp handles that can be operated even when wearing gloves in the winter and the serrated scissor blades slice tippet or trim flies without having to switch to nippers. I keep a pair clamped securely on my boat bag or on my life vest at all times.

2.Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody

It may be sacrilege, but as a fly fishing guide, I’m not a fan of typical fly fishing shirts with dress shirt style collars and button-up fronts and roll-up sleeves with tabs. For rowing, hiking and casting comfort in a range of temperatures, I’ve come to rely on Patagonia’s Sunshade Technical Hoody. Not only do they look good, they’re a piece of technical fly fishing clothing that actually lives up to the hype. They wear comfortably, keep the sun off and breathe well.

Even on the hottest afternoons in August I never feel the need to take it off and in the cool of the morning in the fall they take the edge of the chill. Added features include UPF 45 protection, quick-drying fabric and a DWR water-repellant finish on the forearms and side panels.


At first I resisted the fly fishing world’s obsession with Buffs. Then I tried them and never looked back. Although I rarely wear them full-mask style since I use the Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody, I always have a Buff around my neck while wearing a hat. They keep the sun off my neck when it’s hot and keep me warmer when it’s a cold day on the water. When the temperature really soars I soak them in the river and then put them back on. Buffs have become a fly fishing accessory I always reach for before every trip.

4.Good Shades

Serious hikers know their most important piece of gear is a good pair of boots and they are willing to shell out a pretty penny for the best pair they can afford. I’d make the same argument as sunglasses being your most important piece of fly fishing gear and always using the best polarized sunglasses you can fit into your budget. I simply could not get by with a cheap pair of shades that don’t have super clear optics, a durable frame and high quality scratch-resistant glass or polycarbon lenses.

My two favorite pairs are the Smith Backdrop and Costa Del Mar Jose. I carry one pair with a light colored copper lens for low morning light or cloudy days and a darker amber lens for bright afternoons. I’ve used cheap glasses in a pinch and it always made for a miserable day on the water. For spotting fish, reducing eye strain and negotiating rapids or wading rocky streams, buy only the best.

5.Shimazaki Dry-Shake

I fish dry flies a lot, both with clients and on my own. Without Shimazake Dry Shake, dry fly fishing on the Eagle River in July when every trout in the river is gobbling caddis flies on the surface would be an exercise in futility. I’ve found nothing better for quickly treating a soggy, fish slimed elk hair caddis and getting it back on the water, floating perfectly high and dry. At the beginning of every float trip I hand my clients their own bottle of Dry Shake which I refill with the Shimakzaki Dry Shake Keg.

Of course I need rods, tippet, and flies to actually catch fish but with the items above I’m feel confident and prepared for a full day on the river. Check out our online store for all of these essential fly fishing items and everything else you’ll need for an afternoon on the Eagle River, a week in British Columbia chasing steelhead or the trip of a lifetime to Christmas Island.

Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer