GET A SMILE! These three words should be the foundation of many outdoor fishing expeditions. When you start fly fishing, someone will inevitably ask, “what should I bring?” a question still discussed without definite rules. Remember that everyone is different and many of us simply seek a nearby trout stream as a safe haven from the daily hustle and stress of life. That being said, don’t let fly fishing stress you out! Instead, keep it simple! I have compiled a list of things that I consider essential for my fly fishing outing.
*For this article, we will assume that you already have a rod, reel and fishing license.
A comfortable bag
Now, when deciding what bag to use or get, keep in mind that you will be carrying this all day; even when you are tired and hot, you will need to carry the bag, so make sure you choose something comfortable for you. Personally, I like to use Fish Jumping Instruction Pack. This is a great example of a lightweight device that can hold everything you need and even limits you from carrying too much, as the bag is on the smaller side. Be aware that with a larger bag, you will find yourself taking more and more due to the high capacity of the pack. The last thing you want to do is use extra gear all day that you don’t even need! There will be no spikes in that little trout stream; leave the wire guide at home and keep it simple! Remember, find something comfortable, light and that works for you.
Oh boy… a book could be written on what fly to bring when fishing for trout; with luck, we’ll skip reading a long and somewhat tedious book and tackle the topic in this article so you can spend more time on the water! Now, when I use the term faith flies I am referring to your selection of flies that suit your style and match the working patterns for your area. In all honesty, the flies you need can all fit into a single box. Yes, you read that correctly, a box. This may be a little hard to imagine, but given how big boxes like Double adhesive flight case it can be, it shouldn’t be a mystery why I say you really only need a single box. Now, this can change when you fish more technical waters and want to bring a small box of muskies, or if you fish from a moving boat, you want more strips. But for the most part, on regular fishing outings in local waters, only one box is needed. A great resource to help you find working flies is to visit local fly shops that can help you find flies that will work; then it’s up to you to get out and try your luck with those flies and see what gives you confidence and produces bites. For me, it’s always one Adams, size 16-20. I carry a few of these whenever I visit a stream because I know I can count on them and trust that they will work! Don’t overlook simple designs; they still work!
Tippet and Leaders
It’s easy to go all out with tippets and buy different sizes from multiple brands, but I’ve found that I only carry a few sizes of tippets. I like to use 5x almost 60% of the time for dry flies. However, it would be wise to have a few different sizes. Usually 4-6x is the perfect combination. I would highly recommend Fluorocarbon as it can help catch pesky fish and give you extra strength when nymphing. I would recommend you Rio Powerflex or even Cortland Ultra Premium; several reels of these tips will be ideal for almost any fishing situation. Considering the leaders, I recommend getting a pack of three Rio Tapered Leader. It’s always wise to keep extra leaders in the water if you get tangled or disconnected and can’t add tip. Match the leader to the length of your rod. For example, I use a 9ft 5x taper leader for my 9ft and 8ft rods. It is standard to get these in 4x, 5x or 6x sizes. If you’re not sure what would work best for you, talk to your local store; those guys are there to help! Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a standard 9ft 5x taper leader.
Scissor Forceps are ideal for many different reasons; you can bend the barb on the hook, take the hook out of the fish’s mouth and cut the tag ends off the flies! Yes, instead of carrying around fishing pliers AND a pair of nippers to cut the ends of the tag, you can get a nifty pair of nippers that will do it all for you and limit the gear you take. I hold Loon Outdoor Rogue Quickdraw Forceps; however, Umpqua and Dr. Slick also make a quality pair that is well worth the money and will save you time on the water! Forceps are a great tool in the water and it’s worth the money to get a good pair with a nice grip to ensure you can use them effectively in any situation that calls for their use.
Depending on when you’re fishing, you can’t forget you’re floating! If you spend a day just nymphing with an indicator or euro nymph, you won’t find yourself reaching into your bag for this product. But, if you are using dry flies, this is a must! This will help keep your fly floating on the water, leading to better movement and hopefully more fish. I always carry a container with me Protect with me, but I often take Loons Aquel Premium Floatant. There are a ton of different floats so use what works best for you and gives you confidence when fishing.
Indicators play a vital role in many situations. If you go out on the water and can’t find a limpet or just don’t know what to fish, a nymph pattern can work in your favor. There are many types of indicators that you can choose from. However, I personally stand by Airlock shock indicators AND Oro’s strike indicators. The benefit of these indicators is how easily they can be adjusted and how quickly you can take them off and put them on. If you find that you are not getting as deep on the run, you can easily adjust your pointer to allow your flies to land deeper. All this can be done without having to interrupt anything.
Additionally, if you notice a hatch has started, you can quickly remove the indicator and easily switch to a dry fly. A good tip is to choose several color indicators, with a certain necessity in white. This will enable you to fish in areas of clearer water or when the fish can be a bit difficult.
Split shots can be somewhat “controversial”, depending on if you ask someone who has fished Euro style. Otherwise, they are a useful tool if you know how to use them. But, they are not always necessary. If you’re a Euro nymph, you won’t be using split shots to get into the water column, but instead, you’ll be relying on the weight of heavy bead heads and thin tips. If you’re not a Euro nymph, you might want to do some split shots. Typically, I get Loon Outdoor Camo Drop Split Shot 6 Division this will allow you to use six different weights that you can use to find the perfect depth.
Consequently, you can rely on weighted nymphs like Perdigons to achieve depth if you want to limit the number of split strokes used. I like to mention that split shots can tend to go off your line, so be careful when you go out so we can limit the amount of trash we throw into streams. It is wise to stay away from lead as it is toxic. The plumb bob will be more expensive, but it’s safer if you lose one in the water. Remember, as fishermen, we are reminded to be stewards of the earth, which means we must help protect the earth. Limiting the waste and toxicities we throw into water can help preserve the earth for future generations.
I have seen many anglers have mixed opinions about nets; they are either an absolute must or a gimmick as you can land fish without a net. I want to make it clear that a net is not just to help the fisherman! It is especially important for fish! With a quality net, you can land fish faster, keep them in the water until you’re ready, and limit the amount of hand contact with the fish. Limiting this contact will minimize the substantial mucus you remove from the fish’s body and produce a higher survival rate once you release it. A net is a great tool that can help contain fish and keep them safe. When it comes to nets, keep it simple and find something you don’t mind wearing for a day trip, a good starting point is Nomad Fish Network; a net with a smaller handle will be easier to carry along the banks of a river.
Water- When exploring new water, you must be prepared for the elements. Always hydrate before you water and pack enough water for the trip. It’s also a good idea to leave extra water in your car for later.
Sunscreen- It’s always a good idea to carry a small tube of sunscreen that can be applied after a few hours. Skin cancer can be common for anglers who forget to wear sunscreen, especially on their hands! Stay prepared and stay safe.
Snack- If you’re like me, you like to wander further than expected; because of this, I like to bring some energy bars. These are great when you notice you’re a little hungry but want to keep fishing through a hat, or you’ve just finally found what the fish are biting and won’t leave!
This is all!
I hope you enjoyed this article. I want to advocate that fishing should be personal. Feel free to use this list, add to it or remove things. The purpose of this list was to create a starting place for individuals who may not know what to bring. Enjoy! If you find yourself fishing alone, tell someone ahead of time, just in case, and remember, KEEP IT SIMPLE.