by Levi Opsatnic
Upon deciding to pick up the hobby of fly fishing, you will almost immediately notice that possessing an arsenal of items is fairly necessary for preparing and enjoying an outing on the water. If you find yourself without something you need, whether it’s a fly, tool, piece of clothing, or even a small snack, you will quickly realize that the missing item in question is worth its weight in gold. Now, with the need to carry such a vast amount of items comes the need to store and transport it all, and nothing does this better than the reliable vest.
The fishing vest, usually khaki in appearance and loaded with as many angling memories as the fly fisher themselves, is packed with a wealth of storage compartments to carry your belongings. However, choosing what “belongings” to keep in your vest can be a daunting task since over-packing can lead to days filled with back pain and discontent. I’d like to fill you in on a few items that I have found make for an easier and more pleasant time on the water.
The first essential entry in my fly fishing vest is a simple Swiss Army knife. This device is packed with an array of tools and attaches to a retractor to stay out of the fly fisher’s way. Some of the more noteworthy functions of this gadget are its pair of scissors that cut everything from the occasional piece of line to any stray hairs or hackle on your flies, tweezers to pluck fibers free from a knot, and the toothpick that has saved me and my teeth from the stray piece of food.
The next item that I always have in my vest is a tube of superglue. There really is nothing worse than breaking something important while on the water, and having superglue on hand can really save the day. I have used this to repair a ton of my fishing essentials over my career as an angler, and I can truly say that it has gotten me out of a fair share of sticky situations.
Another liquid that I always tuck into my vest is some form of bug spray. A real buzzkill on the stream are the aggravating mosquitoes and other undesirable insects. (For a more in-depth look at how to beat the bugs, check out our Five on Friday post that tackles this in more detail.)
A water filter is an item that goes in my vest if I plan on fishing for longer than a day or so. A filter is easier to carry than lugging enough clean water to last you for a couple days. Plus, I can guarantee that all of your fishing buddies will think you’re the coolest cat around whenever you start pumping a refreshing drink from the same water they are fishing.
Since the weather on a stream can be as unpredictable as the fishing, I tend to carry a small, packable, water-resistant jacket to fight off any precipitation that may hit the area I’m in. I use Marmot’s PreCip Jacket since it is easily stowed and sheds rain quite nicely.
Another essential weather-related item often overlooked is a stream thermometer. Behavior of trout and the insects they eat are heavily affected by water temperature, so it is usually a pretty good idea to pay attention to the temperature of the water you are fishing. For ease of carrying and use, my thermometer is tied to a zipper on my vest, so when I want to know the water’s temperature I can let it hang in the water as I fish.
The last item that can always be found in my vest is some form of food. Fishing over the course of a day can usually lead to some hard work, and nourishing your body is vital to getting the most out of your day. Whenever it comes to choosing what food is best, there isn’t really a wrong answer, but obviously the lighter your load the better. I recommend bringing food that doesn’t take up too much room too. A few personal favorites of mine are nuts, sandwiches, granola cookies or bars, and any type of gummy candies. Also, in terms of food, over-packing isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have here. You never know how your day will go, but when the fish aren’t eating you may as well be.
While knowing what to put in your fishing vest is key, how you pack your vest might be even more important. It is a good idea to strategically place all of your belongings to minimize rummaging through every pocket just to find one item. Doing so is sure to payoff in the long run, and it won’t take too much time before you know exactly where everything is placed.