Essential Fly Fishing Gear

As summer is right around the corner, it’s an excellent time of year to evaluate the gear in your fly fishing arsenal.  To help you take stock of your gear, in this post we discuss some of the most essential pieces of fly fishing equipment that will optimize your experience on the water and take your fly fishing adventures to the next level!


It’s been said that there’s a tool for everything, and fly fishing is no exception.  Here’s some of the most essential tools to consider keeping handy:

  • Nippers.  Whether you’re cutting a length of tippet or changing flies, having a quality pair of nippers will prove invaluable.
  • Hemostat / Forceps.  Hemostats are super helpful for removing a well anchored hook and can even be used for tying knots. Don’t leave home without a hemostat!
  • Retractors.  Also known as zingers, this accessory enables you to keep tools like nippers, forceps and floatant carriers conveniently anchored to a vest or a pack for easy access.
  • Fly Boxes.  Fly boxes help keep flies dry and accessible so keep them well stocked with your favorite patterns.  Some fly boxes are made to float just encase you drop them in water!
  • Net.  Catching fish without a net can be done, but it’s usually less graceful and may put more stress on the fish.  Using a net promotes catch and release practices as you can easily remove the hook while keeping the fish in the water.   
  • Traveler’s Fly Tying Vice.  Ever lose a fly that is working great on the water and kick yourself that you only brought one?  A traveling vice will help you match the hatch and keep stocked up on effective patterns.

Polarized Sunglasses

For your best experience on the water a pair of quality, polarized sunglasses are absolutely essential.  Not only do polarized glasses protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but they are a key tool for reading the water and reducing eye fatigue.  Polarized glasses will help you see hatches, riffles, tailing fish, or subtle rises that you would otherwise miss.

The effectiveness of a pair of glasses is all about having the right color lenses for the light conditions.  If you’re going to choose one color that is versatile enough for most kinds of conditions, copper or bronze colored lenses are the way to go.  These colors function best on bright sunny days and are a great option whether you’re on a gin clear free-stone stream in Colorado or fishing for permit on the saltwater flats of Belize,  If you’re going to have a second pair, consider lenses that are specially designed for low-light conditions for use in the morning, dusk or on cloudy days.

Fly Fishing Packs and Vests

A discussion of essential gear just isn’t complete without mentioning the storage options for all the tools we’ve discussed.  Today’s tackle management systems have evolved to include a vast array of innovative products that utilize the latest materials and design technology.  

You may wonder, between hip packs, sling packs and technical vests, which is the best option?   The answer is, it depends. Each of these options has earned its place in the market and serves a unique functional purpose.  Let’s explore these storage options further.


The simple functionality of a fly fishing vest really shines on those shorter trips where you don’t wander too far from your vehicle to access your fishery.  Vests are a lighter, minimalistic, more comfortable option when you just need the bare necessities and aren’t toting a water bottle or a small lunch.

The best fly fishing vests have thoughtfully-placed pockets, are crafted with durability, and are designed intentionally with ergonomic function in mind.   When selecting a vest, consider when you will be using it most and look for features that make sense. For example, on particularly hot summer days, a vest with a mesh back can make a big difference in helping you stay cool while on the water.  Alternatively, if you’re often fishing from a boat or kayak, you might also want to consider a hybrid PFD vest as an option.

Hip Packs

If you lived during the 90s, you may instantly recognize the hip pack as a descendent of the fanny pack.  Fanny packs were cool at one time, but hip packs are much cooler! For those days when you need to wear lots of warm layers, a vest or a sling pack is going to be cumbersome to work with.  In these circumstances, consider the utility value of the hip pack.

The hip pack is a feature-rich storage option which won’t get in your way while your fishing, but provides convenient access when you need it.  While some designs have enough space for your water bottle and some snacks these packs are generally smaller in size than sling packs or full-sized packs.

Sling Packs

Sling packs have really been elevated to a whole new level in recent years.  With industry competition driving companies to innovate, the products keep getting better and better.  Sling packs utilize one over the shoulder strap which enables the angler to “sling”, or spin, the pack around so that it can be accessed.  

Sling packs are generally lighter and less bulky than a full-sized pack and are designed primarily with day trips in mind.  Packs that are fully water-proof are great if you wade in deeper water or fish from a boat. I prefer a sling pack that has a built-in tippet holder, offers ample storage options for, tools, water and a small lunch, and an internal pocket that is waterproof to protect electronic devices.

Enjoy the Adventure

At the end of the day, having great gear that you can depend on is all about enhancing your experiences on the water.  So now you have a starting point to evaluate your gear and can make ready to embark on new fly fishing adventures!