KEEP IT SIMPLE! These three words should be the foundation of many anglers’ outdoor expeditions. When starting fly fishing, one will inevitably ask, “ what should I bring?” a question still discussed with no definite rules. Remember that everyone is different and many of us just seek a nearby trout stream as a safe refuge from life’s daily hustle and stress. This being said, don’t let fly fishing cause you stress! Instead, keep it simple! I have compiled a list of things that I view as essential to 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 bring, keep in mind that you will be carrying this all day; even when you are tired and hot, you will still have to take the bag, so make sure that you pick something comfortable for you. Personally, I like to use the Fishpond Waterdance Guide Pack. This is an excellent example of a light piece of gear that can hold all you need and even restricts you from carrying too much since the bag is on the smaller side. Know that with a bigger 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 lug around extra gear all day that you don’t even need! There aren’t going to be pike in that tiny trout creek; leave the wire leader 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 flies to bring when trout fishing; lucky, we will forgo reading a long and somewhat tedious book and cover the topic in this article so we can spend more time on the water! Now, when I use the term confidence flies, I’m referring to your own selection of flies that fit your style and match up with working patterns for your area. In all honesty, the flies you need can all fit in one single box. Yes, you read that correctly, one box. This might be a little difficult to imagine, but given how big boxes like the Tacky Double Haul Fly Box can be, it should be no mystery why I say you only really need a single box. Now, this can change when fishing more technical waters and you want to bring a small midge box or if fishing from a drift boat, you desire more streamers. But for the most part, on regular outings fishing local waters, only one box is necessary. A great resource to help you find working flies is to visit the local fly shops that can help you find flies that will work; it is then onto you to go out and try your luck with those flies and see what gives you confidence and produces bites. For me, it’s always an Adams, size 16-20. I carry a few of these every time I visit a stream because I know I can rely on them and have confidence that they’ll work! Don’t overlook simple patterns; they still work!
Tippet and Leaders
It’s easy to go all out with tippets and buy different sizes from multiple brands, but I have found that I only carry a few tippets sizes. I like to use 5x almost 60% of the time for dry flies. However, it would be wise to have a few different sizes. Typically 4-6x is the perfect combination. I would heavily recommend Fluorocarbon since it can help catch fussy fish and give you extra strength when nymphing. I would recommend Rio Powerflex or even Cortland Ultra Premium; a few spools of these tippets will be ideal for almost any fishing situation. Considering leaders, I recommend getting a three-pack of Rio Tapered Leader. It’s always wise to carry extra leaders on the water if you tangle or break off, and can’t add tippet. Pair up the leader to the length of your rod. For example, I use a 9ft 5x tapered leader for my 9ft and 8ft rods. It’s standard to get these in sizes 4x, 5x, or 6x. If unsure what would work best for you, talk to your local shop; those guys are there to help! Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a standard 9ft 5x tapered leader.
Scissor Forceps are ideal for many different reasons; you can bend the barb in your hook, get the hook from the fish’s mouth, and cut tag ends off flies! Yes, instead of carrying around fishing forceps AND a pair of nippers to cut your tag ends, you can get a sleek pair of forceps scissors that will do it all for you and limit the gear you take. I carry the Loon Outdoor Rogue Quickdraw Forceps; however, Umpqua and Dr. Slick also make a quality pair that’s worth the money and will save you time on the water! Forceps are a great tool on the water, and it’s worth the money to get a good pair with a nice grip to ensure that you can effectively use them in any situation that requires their use.
Depending on when you’re fishing, you can’t forget you’re flotant! If you spend a day only nymphing with an indicator or Euro nymphing, you won’t find yourself reaching into your bag in search of this product. But, if you’re using dry flies, this is a must! It will help keep your fly floating above the water, leading to a better drift and, hopefully, more fish. I always keep one container of Gink with me, but I often pick up Loons Aquel Premium Floatant. There are a ton of different floats, so use whatever works best for you and gives you confidence while fishing.
Indicators play a vital role in many situations. If you go to the water and can’t seem to find a hatch 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 pick from. However, I personally stand by Airlock Strike Indicators and the Oros 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 notice that you aren’t getting deep enough in a run, you can easily adjust your indicator to allow your flies to get down deeper. This can all be done without having to cut anything off.
Moreover, if you notice that a hatch has begun, you can quickly remove the indicator and switch to a dry fly easily. A good tip is to pick up a few color indicators, with a definite must-have in white. This will enable you to fish in areas with more transparent water or when fish might be a little finicky.
Split shots can be somewhat “controversial,” depending on if you ask someone who fished Euro style. Otherwise, they are a beneficial tool if you know how to use them. But, they aren’t always necessary. If you are Euro nymphing, you won’t be using split shots to get into the water column, but rather, you will rely on the weight of heavy bead heads and thin tippets. If you aren’t Euro nymphing, you might want to carry some split shots. Typically, I take the Loon Outdoor Camo Drop Split Shot 6 Division this will allow you to access six different weights that you can use to find the perfect depth.
Consequently, you can rely on weighted nymphs such as Perdigons to achieve depth if you want to limit the number of split shots used. I do like to mention that split shots can tend to come off your line, so be careful when going out so we can limit the amount of waste we put into the creeks. It’s wise to stay away from lead since it’s toxic. The lead-free will be more expensive but is safer if you lose one in the water. Remember, as anglers, we are reminded to be stewards of the land, which means we must help protect the land. Limiting the waste and toxicities we put in the water can help preserve the land for future generations.
I’ve seen a lot of anglers who have mixed opinions regarding nets; either they are an absolute necessity or a gimmick since you can land fish without a net. I want to make it clear that a net isn’t only to help the angler! It’s especially important for the fish! With a quality net, you can land the fish quicker, keep them in the water until you’re ready, and limit the amount of hand-to-fish contact. Limiting this contact will minimize the essential mucus you remove from the fish’s body and produce a higher survival rate after you release it. A net is a great tool that can help preserve fish and keep them safe. When it comes to nets, keep it simple and find something you don’t mind carrying for a day trip, a good starting point is the Fishpond Nomad Handnet; a smaller handle net 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 hitting the water, and pack enough water for the trip. It’s also good to leave extra water in your car for after.
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 to anglers who forget to wear sun protection, especially on the hands! Stay prepared and stay safe.
Snack- If you’re like me, you like to wander further than anticipated; because of this, I like to bring a couple of power bars. These are great when you notice you’re a little hungry but want to continue fishing through a hatch, or you just finally found what the fish are biting on and don’t want to leave!
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 take things out. This list’s purpose was to create a starting place for individuals who might 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.