The Essential Nonessentials

By Suzana Haertzen

Every good fishing trip requires packing things that are essential to catching fish: fly rod, flies, waders, and a net among other key items. An even better fishing trip, one that is more comfortable and convenient, requires packing a few nonessentials, ones that don’t directly assist with the catching of the fish but make my overall experience better. In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of essential nonessentials – things I always try to remember to pack even though the ultralight enthusiast may deem them unnecessary. 

  1. Foam hiking seat pad: Even though my husband and I may be out on the water most of the day, occasionally we need to take a break to eat lunch or tie on a new fly. During those times, I appreciate the added level of comfort these lightweight, compact, accordion-style folding seat pads offer. There are several brands to choose from, they are inexpensive, and I never mind throwing one in my pack because they are so light. Essential for my downtime enjoyment. 
  2. Walkie talkies: Obviously, these are only necessary when you are fishing with a buddy. Because fly-fishing requires us to be moving along the water, constantly working our way to the next fishy hole or bend, walkie-talkies make communicating much easier. Whenever my husband and I forget to pack the walkie-talkies, we always regret it, and instead try to come up with other more complicated and less effective ways to communicate (two whistles means let’s eat lunch, three whistles mean big fish on!). Walkie talkies allow us to more easily meet up, keep track of Rudy (our dog), help each other in case of an emergency, or just take advantage of a photo op. Our favorite brand is the Rocky Talkie. Essential, for enhanced marital communication harmony.
  3. Pocket-sized water filter: It’s always important to hike in with water but also throwing in a compact lightweight water filter offers reassurance that we will have enough water to drink. We like the MSR TrailShot Pocket-sized water filter. I wouldn’t rely on it for longer backpacking trips, but for a day trip just-in-case back-up to refill a couple water bottles, it fits the bill. Essential, particularly when your fishing partner doesn’t like to walk away from the stream when the fish are biting. 
  4. Micro trash container: We’ve all been there – you tie on a new fly or tippet and snip off that little end of the line.  What do you do with it?  Usually, we are shoving it into a pocket somewhere, hoping it doesn’t drop out at some point throughout the day and that we remember to throw it away before we toss our pants into the laundry. A better solution is to pack in a micro-trash container from fishpond for helping to safely and securely dispose of fly line that we would never want to accidentally fall out of a pocket and into the stream. It is inexpensive, clips easily onto a fly vest or chest pack, and at three inches long, easily fits in your pack to help you do your part for the environment. Essential for taking care of our essential waterways. 
  5. Dry bag: Whenever I use waders or water shoes, I like to bring a dry bag for packing them out without dripping all over my pack or me. Lightweight and compact, there are many brands to choose from. Essential for a comfortable hike out. 
  6. Microfiber towel: For drying your feet after wet-wading or your hands after releasing fish, a lightweight, compact, fast-drying towel comes in handy for a variety of situations. Essential for staying dry in an otherwise wet sport. 
  7. Lightweight hammock: Especially for a longer day, a hammock can come in handy for a good nap before the long hike out. Plus, it doesn’t get much better than swinging in a hammock in the wilderness taking in the scenery and reflecting on the day. Don’t forget to check beforehand that there will be hammock-worthy trees in the area before you pack it in. Essential to being completely pampered on your fishing outing. 

We only get a certain number of days to go fishing. My goal is to make the most of those days by bringing the things that will maximize my enjoyment of them. I’m guessing many of you have the same goal. These are my essential nonessentials – what are yours?  Leave a comment and tell us what you always bring on your fishing trips that doesn’t catch fish but makes your day better, nonetheless.

Bio: Suzana lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and dog, Rudy.  She retired from teaching full-time in 2022 but continues to work part-time from home, teaching online college classes and working in accounting and tax.  In her spare time, Suzana likes to mountain bike, hike, camp, ski, read, write, and tie flies.

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