What to Pack on Your Next Fly Fishing Expedition
Early forms of fly fishing date back thousands of years to the Roman Empire. This artistic way to fish is now enjoyed by anglers worldwide. Fly fishing is great for both your mental and physical health, while also allowing you to experience some of the most beautiful natural places on the planet up close and personal.
Fly fishing is not only challenging to master and requires a lot of patience, it can also be daunting for those just starting out when it comes to knowing what gear to buy. The market is now flooded with all kinds of tools and gadgets, some of which is essential and some of which you personally may not find very useful.
To help you navigate what gear you should pack on your next fly fishing adventure, we’ve created a list of things every angler should have whether you’re a first-time angler or seasoned expert.
Fly fishing gets its name from the fact you use artificial flies to catch fish. These flies imitate aquatic insects at different life stages and are of many types. The most common ones being:
- Dry flies mimic adult insects that you find on the water surface
- Wet flies imitate nymphs found underwater
- Streamers imitate minnows
- And poppers that imitate frogs and insects on the water surface. Bass often prefers these.
You might argue that you can choose any fly you want, but this isn’t the case. A study titled “Does the fly matter?” by B J Britton and J Grimley Evans found that the fly you choose significantly determines the level of success you’ll enjoy.
For example, a study that featured five anglers that spent five hours using five different allocated flies brought to light the fact that some fish preferred certain flies more than others. It often takes experience, research, trial and error, and local word of mouth to discover what flies will entice the fish you are looking to catch.
It pays to not only have a good selection of flies with you to choose from, but also as we said a bit of local knowledge to ensure you will not come home empty-handed. Whether you’re buying pre-tied flies or like to tie your own, there’s a lot that goes into choosing the right fly including size, shape, color, movement, and hook quality. Again, you want to be sure to have a good variety on hand with you to choose from.
The fly rod is of course one of the most critical pieces of equipment you need for fly fishing. You should be rather picky when buying one, as it’s usually a rather large expense and often dictates the level of success you’ll enjoy.
Fly rods are made from three primary materials: fiberglass, bamboo, and graphite. Most of the modern rods in the market are made from graphite and are known to be lighter than their counterparts.
Fly rods are rated by the weight of the fly line that they most optimally cast. The weights range from 0 being the lightest to 14 which is the heaviest. If a rod falls outside this range, it’s a specialty rod and may be unsuitable for fly fishing.
If you’re a beginner, stick to a six-weight rod. This rod is ideal for catching most pan fish and diverse enough to help you deliver small and large flies over long and short distances.
Good quality rods don’t come cheap, so if you are serious about fly fishing, it’s wise to invest in a quality fly rod. If you’re just starting out, you may want to consider borrowing a friend’s rod and test the waters first before making a big purchase.
To get the most from your rod, ensure that the rod’s weight is the same or one number lower than the weight of the line.
You can buy 2 or even 4-piece rods depending on the level of ease you wish to have when it come to packing and carrying. It’s also wise as a beginner to purchase your fly rod and reel as a combination set. This ensures the two will be matched appropriately in terms of weight rating and often saves you a bit of money as opposed to buying each separately.
Details to consider when purchasing a rod include finding one that is lightweight, has smooth action, a comfortable and durable handle, and good casting accuracy.
Like fly rods, you should also focus a lot of attention when buying fly lines, as they play a crucial role in successful fly fishing.
Fly lines come in different weights, and as mentioned above, you need to buy one that is the same weight or one weight level heavier than your rod to get the most from your fly line.
Besides the weight of the line, also pay attention to the category of the line. There are four main fly line categories you can choose from including floating line, slow sinking line, fast sinking line, and the sinking tip line.
Each line has its pros and cons, making each one a better choice in different situations. It’s up to you to choose one that works best for your environment. If you’re a beginner, the best fly line for you is likely going to be the double tapered 5-weight floating line.
It is the fly line’s weight which allows the angler to control where the fly is placed on the water. You will need to learn what fly line density, taper, and weight will be best for the fish you are targeting.
Strike indicators have two roles: they serve as floaters, where they help suspend the flies at a specific depth, and provide a more precise visual signal that your fish has struck your fly. To benefit from the strike indicator, you of course need to use it properly.
After you have determined the depth where the fish are feeding, set the indicator on the leader with enough line to reach that depth.
For example, if the fish are feeding at 15 feet, position the strike indicator 14.5–15 feet from the fly on the end of your fly line.
The bobbing up and down of the strike indicator will let you know what is going underneath. When a fish takes your fly, the indicator will move subtly and in a different manner than was caused by the flowing water. In some cases, the indicator will be pulled beneath the water.
You’ll find it quite difficult to organize all your flies without a fly box. You want your box to be large enough to carry all the flies that you are looking to use but one that won’t be a burden to carry. If you will be using a boat, you can then get away with using a more durable, heavier fly box from a reputable company such as Boat Outfitters.
However, if you work out of a float tube or are hiking along a river or creek then a smaller box that is easier to carry around may be more suitable. They make many fly boxes that are compact enough to be placed in a pocket or fly fishing vest.
As a beginner, start with a small, lightweight, and inexpensive box and once again test the waters. You can always upgrade later. That being said, features you should look for from the start include one that is waterproof and has features like silicone inserts which will protect your flies from rust and general weathering.
Fly Fishing Vest
If you fish most of the time out of a fishing boat, you’re likely using a tackle box to hold all your fishing essentials, but fly fisherman who often wade into rivers or use float tubes invest in a good quality vest.
The vest will keep most of your items safe and will be more practical to carry around since it’s lightweight and hands-free. A huge bonus of wearing a vest is that it ensures you have easy access to all your gear since it’s literally on you within arm’s reach.
Good fishing vests are ones that offer numerous storage pockets and ones that distribute weight evenly so as to not cause stress points for you. Having dedicated pockets for all your gear will help you stay organized and allow you to access items quickly which is often a necessity when fishing.
While having a lot of pockets is great, problems can arise from having too many pockets. Too many pockets can lead to confusion when trying to locate items and can lead you to filling up all those pockets with items you may not need, which will in turn just end up weighing you down and cause you fatigue.
If you tend to be fly fishing in hotter climates, a mesh vest which will keep you cooler may be a more comfortable solution over buying a cheaper traditional fabric vest. Vests are also great in that they are easy to maintain and can simply be thrown in a washing machine as opposed to many fishing backpacks.
These are some of the essential items you’ll need to pack with you on your next fly fishing trip to ensure greater success, but it’s of course by no means an exhaustive list. You’ll likely want to add waders, polarized glasses, a landing net, and more as you get into fly fishing.
Regardless of the items you find you may need, ensure that they are of high quality and that you obtain them from a reputable company. Don’t be afraid to ask your local fishing shop either for their advice and for more helpful tips for those just starting out we recommend checking out our Beginner Fly Fishing Guide.
As we stated early, fly fishing is great for both the mind and body, while also quickly becoming a great way to build friendships and network in business.