Pack Less Gear when Fly Fishing

The Most Essential Angling Gear

Don’t break your back carrying too many accoutrements on the river. Take only what you need. Go light. The trout only want your flies, says expert angler, Terry Dempsey from

Wearing a fully loaded fly-fishing vest to fish a step-across stream for an afternoon is like taking a tractor-trailer rig to the campsite. Sure, some could pack it full of gear, but why? Consider what is really needed and stick to it.

Filling up every pocket on the vest with gadgets and doodads is a great excuse to shop for the latest products. Owning and showing off all that stuff is like gasoline for the ego, too. But trout are, after one thing — flies! Most everything else one packs for fishing should be no more important, and all gear should be essential for getting the fly to the trout. Here are some important tips for lightening the load.

Ditch the Goofy Gadgets

Leave the extra weight behind. Several items can be eliminated simply by learning to tie successful knots. Fly-tying contraptions and line-to-leader connectors are two of them. They are both relatively expensive. Knot-tying devices can be handy but not essential. And line connectors are far less effective than a good old-fashioned, well-tied nail knot.

Other Non-essentials

  • leader straightener
  • tape measure
  • line basket
  • mosquito annoyer
  • creel
  • hook sharpener
  • water thermometer
  • net (unless fishing for large trout)

So, “fishing lighter” can bring about several advantages for anglers:

Downsizing from a trinket-laden vest or chest pack to a smartly designed waist pack to fish smaller rivers forces one to carry only what is needed.

Purchase ultra-lightweight gear, such as waders, boots, reels, et cetera. Every ounce makes a difference.

Less gear equals less weight, which translates to better coordination and less fatigue when wading the river.

Fewer tangles and messes with gear and gadgetry mean fewer headaches and less frustration.

Less time playing with gadgets yields more time with the fly on the water.

All of which leads to the payoff. More trout!

What is “Essential”?

So, what should an angler carry on those lighter days when the full-on arsenal is impractical? Here’s a checklist of trout-fishing rudiments.

  • licenses and permits
  • small, loaded fly box
  • One extra leader
  • Two spools of tippet
  • pair of nippers with eye
  • One strike indicator
  • floatant
  • split shot
  • lip balm
  • a small amount of flagging tape

You can find most of these essentials at British Baits.

Anything absent from this list might be necessary for fly fishing, such as sunscreen, a lunch, and polarized glasses. Some might deem their cigars, lighters, and flasks of Scotch as must-have items. After all, “essential” is a rather relative term.

However, many of these items can be used or applied before putting in the river, left in the vehicle, or don’t need to be stowed away, i.e., polarized lenses. Sunglasses are critical, but since they are worn, they are not necessarily packed.

Follow these tips and see if the hours on the river don’t become more comfortable and productive. “Packing light” simply allows anglers to reap results.