By Jenny O’Brien
As with most outdoor pursuits, fly fishing can come across as a gear-heavy sport. There is definitely a diverse array of equipment that one needs to pursue fish of any species but I’m going to focus on five key pieces that I never leave the house without, plus a few others that I like to have on-hand.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to be able to fish year-round, whether it be chasing coastal steelhead and salmon or targeting trout on beautiful rivers and streams. But these pieces will come in handy no matter where you fish and what finned friends you’re targeting.
Essential Item #1- Waders
Waders are a necessity to protect you from the elements, whether it be chilly water or poison oak and pesky mosquitoes. During the height of summer, I love to wet wade, wearing shorts or pants, and leave the waders behind but more often than not, I wader up to stay dry. When evaluating wader options, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
Essential Item #2 - Wading Boots
A good pair of wading boots will provide you with stability, traction and dry feet at the end of the day. When scrambling over rocks or wading deeper runs with fast currents, you’ll appreciate having some solid boots that help keep you grounded and protect your feet. Depending on the type of water I’m fishing, I’ll choose a boot with a sole that is most conducive to the conditions. For example, I choose a boot with a Vibram sole that has metal studs or bars for most of the rivers I fish. However, if I’m going to be fishing from a drift boat or raft, I need to be thoughtful around how the sole of my boot could possibly scrape or puncture the boat. There are also options with felt bottoms which can offer stable footing but they may not be allowed in some waterways or states because of their propensity for catching and transporting small invasive plants or bugs. Always check your local regulations before you make a purchase. As with waders, there are a multitude of brands that offer great options at all price points.
Essential Item #3 - Durable Pack
Depending on the type of fish you’ll be targeting, you’ll need a pack to hold all your fly boxes, nippers, other gear and of course, snacks. There are several different styles you can consider: sling packs, hip packs, chest packs or backpacks. Some companies still make fly fishing vests, too. My preference is between a sling pack if I know I need to bring a few extra items, such as another layer and some food for later or a hip pack. Hip packs are typically smaller than a sling but you can still fit a good amount of fly boxes, tippet, leaders and indicators. It really is about your personal preference and what type of fishing you’ll be doing. When I am searching for trout, I tend to have more gear on me because I’ll switch up from fishing dries to sub-surface flies depending on the time of day and type of water I’m fishing.
A few things to consider when looking for packs:
Essential Item #4- A Fly Rod, Reel and Line
Technically, these are three separate items but they are all dependent on each other. I could write a novel on fly rods alone but for the sake of keeping things simple, we’ll group them as a package deal. It’s important that new anglers feel comfortable with the setup they’ll be casting and that they learn how all the pieces fit together. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to break the bank to get started! Fly rods can range from quite inexpensive to several thousand dollars for more specialty or custom-made rods. Here are some important factors to think about when selecting a set up:
Essential Item #5 - Sunglasses
Sunglasses are on my essentials list because they protect your eyes from accidents and also help cut down the glare on the water. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on glasses to get started, any shades tucked in the console of your car will work. As you progress in your fly fishing journey, you may want to invest in some higher-quality polarized lenses that will help you spot fish easier. Nobody wants to get an accidental fly to the eye so always wear your glasses when on the water. Also make sure that you have them on some sort of secured strap so you don’t lose them. I’ve had plenty of expensive sunglasses take a swim and be donated to the river!
I highly recommend bypassing the big box stores and head into a local fly shop to get solid advice on options, try on various styles of waders and wading boots, and make connections that will help you gain more information about your local waterways. You never know; you could make a new friend! Many of my good fishing friendships have been forged by connecting with folks in local shops.
Now for a few more underrated items I don’t leave the house without.
Hopefully you have found this to be a helpful guide to get started on the water. As you progress in your fly fishing journey, there will be more gear you’ll want to add to the collection. The most important thing is that you’re soaking up the outdoors and having a great time! If we missed any of your favorite pieces to take along, please feel free to post them in the comments below. Tight lines!