Little Fly Fishing Gadgets, Big Impact

fly fishing gadgets

Fly fishing gadgets are everywhere. There is no end to the number of little devices you can stuff into or clip onto your fly vest.

Beyond the obvious items like dry fly floatant and nippers, here are a few items which I always carry with me when I’m on the river.


This is a new one for me.

Last summer, I was trying to use my cell phone flashlight to tie on a size #18 Parachute Adams at dusk. It occurred to me that I either needed a third hand or a headlamp. Not surprisingly, the headlamp was a more feasible option. For less than $20, you can purchase a lightweight headlamp that lasts a long time and is hands free.

It works well when hiking into your fishing spot before dawn or walking out in the dark.

Drying powder

Is this truly a gadget? I’m not sure, but I’m calling it one.

Even though I use dry fly floatant, I still find drying powder to be the ticket for drying a dry fly after it’s been water-logged or slimed by a fish. For years I’ve used the Orvis Hy-Flote Shake-N-Float Renew. Or, if you want something with fewer syllables in the title, try Umpqua Bug Dust. Both brands use a combination of crystals and dust. You simply drop your fly in the bottle, close the lid, and shake it for a couple seconds.

It works like magic!

Magnetic net holder

Veterans know about this little gadget, but newbies may not: This item allows quick removal of my net, which hangs off of the back of my fly vest. The best part is re-attachment.

Since one of the magnets is clipped to the D-ring on the collar of my fly vest, I simply have reach behind my head with my net handle. The other magnet is attached to the end of my net handle, so that magnets quickly grab each other. There’s no yoga or gymnastics required to put the net back in place.

Believe it or not, there is a video with over 21,000 views. If you need to see how the gadget works, watch this clip. You can buy the Orvis magnetic net holder for $34 or the Scientific Angler one for $19.95.

Two-way radio

It’s nice to have a friend with two-way radios. That would be my podcast partner, Dave.

I often stuff one of his two-way radios in my vest when we’re fly fishing in more remote areas—like the back-country in Yellowstone National Park. We carry them for safety if we’re fishing different stretches of a river. We’ve also been known to use them to brag about the trout we just caught. You may be surprised at how many places you will have cell phone service. Yet it’s spotty at best in more remote areas, so we like the small two-way radios in case one of us needs help.

There are a million two-way radio brands, ranging from $25 to $300 or more. We like the Motorola brand, but frankly, almost every brand will do the trick.

GPS Tacker

For those of you doing more serious backpacking or fishing, you’ll want a GPS tracker. The major brand in GPS tracking is SPOT GEN3. You’ll want this device when you travel outside the bounds of cell service. With the simple push of a button, should the worst happen, you can alert emergency responders your GPS location. It’s small, pocket-sized, and can fit in your fly vest.

Of course, you can’t stuff everything into your fly vest, satchel, or front pack. Leave the fidget spinner at home. But there are some little items which really help with fly fishing and safety.

What’s in your fly vest?

Safety Devices for Fly Fishers

safety devices

Fly fishing is not an extreme sport. But it can be a dangerous one. Every year, fly fishers drown, break bones, and hook themselves. They get lost. Caught in storms. And stung by insects and bitten by snakes.

So the next time you head for the river, consider taking along some of all of these safety devices:

1. A first-aid kit

This is critical if you plan to fish very far up the river. I prefer a first-aid kit the size of a small fly box. You only need the basics—band-aids, antiseptic cream, pain reliever, and a couple larger bandages or gauze dressings.

You might include moleskin for blisters. In fact, this may be the most important element in your first aid kid.

2. Your smartphone

No, you don’t need your smartphone to check email or Twitter.

But you might be surprised at the places you have cell service — like on certain spots on the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park. Well, I should say I do, but Dave (my podcast partner) doesn’t. We use different carriers.

I have a flashlight app on my phone that I’ve used when hiking in or out of my fishing spot in the dark. The GPS might allow someone to track you if you break a leg and simply can’t move.

3. Bear spray

This is an absolute must in grizzly country.

Last fall, a couple was scouting fishing spots on the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park when they spotted a grizzly feeding on carcass. The bear was in no mood for competition, so it charged. It came within nine feet before their bear spray turned it away. It charged again, but retreated and ran away when it encountered the cloud of bear spray a second time.

Dave and I were fly fishing just a few miles away one week earlier, and we saw grizzly tracks along the river. Yes, we were carrying bear spray.

4. A wading staff

I’m a big believer in wading staffs. Their most obvious use is staying on your feet in the current. A wading can also help you walk if you sprain an ankle. And also serves as a means to ward off a rattlesnake.

5. Two-way radios

These are great for those spots where you don’t have cell phone service.

Dave, my podcast partner, and I regularly carry two-way radios when we’re fishing in the backcountry. Yes, we admit sharing fishing info (“Hey, they’re starting to take Caddis flies over here!”). But we take them along in case one of spots a bear or falls and twists an ankle. Even some of the places we fish in the Driftless (southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin) have limited cell coverage.

Must Have vs Nice to Have

The five items above fall into the “must have” category. But there are some “nice to have” items you might want to consider:

    A change of socks can help prevent blisters;

    A rain jacket can provide warmth as well as protection if you get caught in a fierce rainstorm;

    A fire-starter is an extra measure of caution if I’m hiking a few miles up river in the mountains of Wyoming or Montana. I’ll also thrown in a small lighter and some folded newspaper (in a plastic bag); and

    Water purification tablets might even be must-have if your destination is a lake or stream a few miles from the trailhead.

The next time you hit the river, don’t forget the devices that can help you avoid or deal with dangers. And of course, you always need to carry a good amount of water.

Episode 28: Fly Fishing Gadgets Galore

A River Runs Through It

Tis the Season. Every fly fisher wants either a gift certificate or two in his or her stocking. Or some crisply wrapped stocking presents from a spouse who knows fly fishing gadgets. In this podcast, we banter a bit about our love of fly fishing gadgets. Steve is much more of a gadget junkie than is Dave. But in this podcast, we identify several fly fishing gadgets that make us happy.

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