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.
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.
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.
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.
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.