10 MORE Items for Your Fly Vest

items for your fly vest

I like to travel light when I fly fish. So instead of packing my fly vest tighter than a German sausage, I try to be a minimalist. Recently, I shared “10 Must-Have Items for Your Fly Vest.” But there are more items for your fly vest to consider clipping to your lanyard or packing in your vest or satchel.

The following ten items for your fly vest are mostly suggestions you (our readers) added to my initial ten:

1. Hook sharpener

Honestly, I’ve never carried one of these in my vest.

But our guide-friend, Glen, says they are a must: “Fishing nymphs and ticking the bottom can really dull your hook point.”

He argues that a sharp hook is a must if you want to catch large fish.

2. Thermometer

In the past I have clipped a thermometer (with a retractor) to the inside of my vest. Some fly fishers use a Carabiner clip to attach a thermometer to the tip of a fly rod for placing it in the river to get a reading.

Why bother with a thermometer?

Well, knowing the precise temperature might help you anticipate when a hatch is about to begin if you know a particular river well enough. Then, on any river, if the water temperature nears seventy degrees, it’s better to stop fishing. Temperatures this high will exhaust and endanger any trout on the end of your line.

3. Sunscreen

I’m all for protection from the sun, but I rarely carry it sunscreen. That’s because I always wear a long-sleeved microfiber shirt—even on a 90+ degree day—and a neck gator. I always wear a hat, too, and often one which will shade my ears from the sun.

But sunscreen is a great alternative and a “must” if you’re wearing short sleeves and don’t have a way of protecting your nose and neck.

4. Whistle and compass

A whistle is a terrific idea. It’s light, and the sound can be heard a long way off. I can see how a compass would make sense in certain situations, although it’s not really necessary where I fish in the west. It’s hard to get lost on a river or stream. Simply follow it one way or another — especially downstream.

But if you’re hiking a long way to get to a stream or a river, then a compass could help as long as you know how to use it. A GPS might be better.

5. Gloves

Yes, I always stash a pair of gloves in my vest when I’m fishing in the fall or spring. I like a thin wool pair for keeping my hands warm when I’m not fishing, and I’ll even carry a pair of waterproof gloves to wear when I’m fishing.

6. Lighter

I carry a small butane lighter if I’m hiking in a couple miles during late fall or early spring. Some kind of fire starter is a good idea, too.

I usually fold a piece of newspaper and put it in a plastic bag. Real cotton balls work well, and there are commercial types of tinder you can purchase at an outdoors store.

7. Two-way radio or Satellite Tracker

Dave, my podcast partner, and I frequently carry two-way radios when fly fishing in the backcountry — especially in bear country. Cell phones work in some situations, but if reception is not good, you’ll be glad you brought a set of two-way radios.

One of our listeners recently commented about carrying a satellite messenger tracker: “I subscribe to a relatively inexpensive satellite messenger system (SPOPT) [which] can ‘pop smoke’ [as well].” Trackers are especially important if you are fishing alone in remote places.

8. Zip-lock bags and a garbage bag.

I like to bring along a couple pint-sized bags to keep certain items dry — cell phone, key fob, wallet.

Of course, your waders will keep anything in your pants pockets dry. But in the summer, I often wet wade in nylon shorts or pants. That’s when a pint-sized plastic bag (which has a sealing lock) comes in handy. A small garbage bag or plastic grocery bag in a large back pocket of your vest can be handy for hauling out trash.

9. Light rain jacket

Alright, these final two suggestions are mine.

Even on warm summer days, I always stash a light Simms rain jacket in a large pocket in the back of my vest. It has saved the day a few times when I’ve gotten caught in an unexpected rain storm or when the temperature suddenly drops.

10. Hook threader

This is a sign of my aging eyes. These little hook threaders are amazing tools! They hardly take up any space, but they take a lot of frustration out of tying a size #18 Parachute Adams onto a piece of 6x tippet. Another option is a small pair of reading glasses or clip-on magnifying lenses.

I don’t want my fly vest to weigh as much as a flak jacket. But it may be worth a bit more weight to carry a few of these additional ten items.

Small Difference Makers for Landing Large Trout

landing large trout

My son, Luke, keeps sending me hurtful text messages. These texts contain reports and photos of landing large trout on the South Platte River in Colorado. He has caught several 19- and 20-inchers in the last two weeks. I’m hurt since I’m not there to join in on the fun.

But a comment in one of his text messages struck me. Luke talked about something that made all the difference in landing these big fish. His comment got me thinking about the “difference makers” that lead to success in landing big fish. Here are four that have worked well for me when I have large trout on the other end of the line.

1. Fishing with a heavier tippet.

Go as heavy as you can. I used to think that I always needed a 6x tippet (roughly 3.5 pound test) with a size #18 fly whether a nymph or a dry.

Anything larger risks looking like a rope.

But I’ve had success with a 5x (about 4.75 pound test) and sometimes even a 4x (about 6 pound test) tippet. You can get away with a heavier size if the water is a bit off-color or the current is faster. Choppy current is your friend, too, if you’re fishing dry flies. The trout don’t get as good a look at the tippet.

2. Fighting the brute from the side.

If you’re striking a classic pose for a photo, then I suppose pointing your rod tip to the sky and trying to pull the fish directly towards you makes sense. But if you want to land that brute, you need to try something different.

You want to pull the fish from side to side rather than directly towards you. It is the side to side pressure which works against a fish’s muscles and tires it out.

So, for example, if you’ve pulled the trout to the left for thirty seconds or so, switch and pull it to your right. Go back and forth and you’ll tire it more quickly than you might expect.

3. Setting the drag properly on your reel.

Your fly reel has an adjustable drag — a lever or a dial which determines how much pressure a fish must exert to pull the line out of the reel.

The basic rule is to set the drag’s tension on the light side. However, if it’s too tight, a sudden surge by the fish will snap the tippet. But if it’s too light, the fish will invariably run for cover and snag or snap your line on a submerged branch or other obstruction. I often adjust my drag even as I’m retrieving a fish.

With a larger fish, I will typically tighten my drag as the fish tires and is less prone to make a sudden run downriver. I want to get it in as quickly as possible.

4. Using a long-handled net.

For years I’ve used a small hand-made net by Brodin.

A couple years ago, generous friends gave me a Fishpond Nomad Emerger. I can still clip it to my fly fishing vest, and it doesn’t feel as bulky as it might look. But it has a larger basket as well as a longer handle.

This has been a difference maker when I’m fishing alone. I don’t have to pull in a big trout as close to my body — where bad things tend to happen — with a long-handled net.

This was the difference maker for my son, Luke.

I told him to go buy the same net I’ve been using since he was running into some big fish. He did, and he reported that he would have had a hard time landing those twenty-inch rainbows with his shorter net.