I don’t think this is a hard topic to tackle. Most every angler I know has some way to carry their gear around with them. When I was a kid I envied the guys who wore the awesome fishing vests. My older brother got one for Christmas one year, then I wanted one very badly. I used tackle boxes, backpacks, and cloth school lunch coolers. My brother got really into bass fishing, so he eventually upgraded to a fancy tackle bag system that he saw the pros use, so I finally inherited the vest. I loved that vest and quite honestly I used it from about age 12 until I bought a new chest pack system a few years back. It served me well and best of all it was free.
The most important thing to know when it comes to gear bags or vests is that you need one! Especially as a fly fisherman. You spend a lot of time wading through rivers and walking the banks. It would be a pain in the neck to have to carry around the old plastic tackle box. Most of the time the re-rigging I do takes place in the middle of the river to change my flies, add more weights or fix the occasional snapped tippet. It wouldn’t be much fun if every time I needed to change something up I had to walk back to the bank and get into my tackle box. I know this might sound extremely obvious to most everyone, but I have seen newly converted fly fisherman who couldn’t give it up. Just let go, it will be OK.
Funny story: I held on to an old blue tackle box/bag for the longest time. I didn’t carry it with me on the river typically, but I had all of my power bait, weights, lures and spools of line inside it always. Even well into my fly fishing days, I kept that thing. I never used it but one day, I smelled a horrible smell coming from the closet where I kept it. I pulled out my tackle box which was the obvious culprit, looked inside to discover a rotting foam worm container. I had left it in there for months. I looked at my wife with a kind of frown and then threw the bag away, contents and all. It wasn’t too hard to get rid of at that point and it definitely sealed the deal on my being a fly fisherman for life!
When my wife and I first started fly fishing we only owned one vest. I would set her up in a good spot on the river then walk up or down stream a ways. Sure enough, she would tangle or snap off so I would have to stop what I was doing and hike down to her and give her the materials she needed to re-rig. Then I would get back to my spot and of course, I would snap off. So I would have to walk back down to her and get the tippet and weights to fix my rig. It got to be pretty terrible at times so we started just fishing one at a time. Finally, we broke the piggy bank and went and bought us two nice chest pack/hydration systems so we could be completely self contained. It was a great decision. Now my wife can go for hours without even seeing me on the river, which is a relief to her I’m sure!
What is out there?
There are a few different systems you can buy and all of them are equally nifty. It is totally personal preference what you purchase and use. Like I said, I used a free vest I inherited from my brother for almost fifteen years. The important thing to think about, at least as far as I’m concerned, is durability. I recommend spending a little bit of money to get what you want because you will probably have it for life. Of course you can then upgrade as conditions demand, for example I am looking at getting a nice 1,500 cubic inch back pack/chest pack to do longer day hikes or even lightweight overnighters.
So there are basically three options for you to choose from: a vest, chest pack, or lumbar pack (waist pack). I am a backpack nut, always have been, so I personally prefer to use the chest pack/back pack combination. The pack I use is nice because it came with separate neck and waist straps so you can detach it from the back pack portion. It is also compatible with hydration system, so we often use the back pack portion for day hikes where we aren’t doing any fishing.
If you choose a chest pack, when on the water be sure you keep it zipped up at all times. I have lost several valuable items in rivers and lakes. I once lost and entire box of three hundred or so flies I had just spent the weekend tying. I like to say I paid my tribute to the fly fishing gods, but it is frustrating to say the least. I can only hope someone picked it up and is enjoying all of those great patterns. I suppose I owed it to the river for giving some to me once.
There are really limitless possibilities when it comes to choosing your self contained storage method. But like I said, YOU NEED IT! It will make your life so much better on the water and you’ll never regret having one. In an up coming post I will discuss what types of equipment you need to have on your person when you are out and about. Different occasions call for different supplies but there are some generics we will discuss. Please feel free to leave your questions comments, or even stories for others to read.
Here are some great brands you will want to take a look at before making your selection.