Anglers, and fly anglers in particular, tend to place a lot of focus on gear. Flies, fly boxes, fly rods, nets, packs, vests, the list goes on. We all certainly have our preferences too. Over the years, I have come to rely on my own set of angling gear, however, I have also established a few pieces of non-fishing gear that I consider to be essentials and are a part of my everyday carry while on the water. The following items go in my pack on just about every fishing trip to ensure a comfortable and safe outing.
1. Thermos/Water Bottle
If you’re still using a disposable, plastic water bottle, it’s time to open your eyes. Not only are single use plastics bad for the environment, but they also limit you to drinking cold water. Insulated metal water bottles provide a number of advantages over single-use and reusable plastic bottles. The ability to effectively carry hot and cold beverages for hours is the number one reason that I rely on my Hydroflask, day in and day out. I’ve been using a few different Hydroflask bottles in a variety of sizes, primarily the 21oz and 40oz versions, with no complaints for the past few years.
The 21oz bottle with the standard mouth is my go-to as it conveniently fits in my Fishpond Thunderhead Water Bottle Holder. Best of all, my Hydroflask keeps my coffee hot while fishing tailwaters in single-digit temps throughout the winter and my water nice and cool throughout the summer months. Whatever your preferred bottle is, consider an insulated, vacuum-sealed metal bottle to meet your beverage needs year-round, on and off the water.
2. Water Filtration
Having a source of purified water is a must for long days on the water whether you walk/wade or float fish. Depending on where you fish, you may find yourself many miles from your vehicle or the next clean water source, a scenario I often encounter. If you’re a walk/wade angler, hiking and wading for miles can be tiresome, so minimizing the weight you are carrying is even more important. Walter filtration tabs and bottles are a great way to cut down on weight by allowing you to carry less water throughout a day and filter river/stream/lake water as needed, without risking dehydration.
Water filtration comes in many different forms from filtration tabs, to filter straws, and bottles with built-in filters, leaving anglers with plenty of choices. I personally opt for the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System due to the large volume that it can filter at any given time and the fact that I carry a reusable water bottle, more on that later. Whatever method you choose, be prepared with clean water is essential for a comfortable day on the water.
3. Toilet Paper/Wipes
I’ll cut straight to the chase, you don’t want to get caught outdoors without toilet paper when you need it. So be prepared. There’s no substitute for some old-fashioned TP when in need. Pull a few feet of TP off the roll, wrap it around your hand, and store it in a Ziploc bag in your fishing pack or vest.
You never know when it’ll come in handy for a bathroom emergency or even some fire kindling. Packable wipes are a great alternative however some wipes aren’t biodegradable and leaving them in the outdoors is a no-go. If wipes are your preference, consider a bio-degradable option like Combat Wipes. As always, leave no trace principles should be considered when recreating or relieving yourself in the outdoors.
4. First Aid Kit
Whether you’re backpacking to your favorite blue line, taking a float trip, or heading out in a skiff, being prepared with a simple first aid kit is a no brainer. If you have the misfortune of being hooked by an errant cast or rub your fingers raw from stripping streamers all day, having some basics like gauze, medical tape, band aids, neosporin, and even duct tape can save the day.
Stashing a spare shoe lace in your first aid kit isn’t a bad idea either, whether you need to make an impromptu sling, rig some gear, or simply blow out a shoelace, having some sort of string, shoelace, or paracord can go a long way.
5. Pocket Knife
You may have read my post on 7 Pieces of Gear to Enhance Your Camping and Fishing Trips and if so, you know a pocket knife is an absolutely essential EDC item for me. On or off the water, I always have my trusty pocket knife at the ready. I have been relying on my Chris Reeve Sebenza 25 since 2016 with only minor care/sharpening and it still looks and functions like new.
Most folding pocket knives will easily stow away in a fishing pack, vest, or boat bag and will surely come in handy for tasks like preparing charcuterie or to filet a fish on whim for a protein packed lunch. Worst case scenario, a pocket knife can be used for survival tasks like self defense or starting a fire with a flint. I prefer folding pocket knives with 3.5” blades however fixed blade knives are handy too, if space isn’t a concern. There isn’t a day that you’ll find me on the water without my trusted pocket knife and I’d recommend carrying one yourself.
6. Gear Straps
Gear straps, in their many forms, have been an unsung hero on my fishing and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re lashing a fly rod tube to a backpack, strapping gear to a raft frame, or using them in place of rope, duct tape, and bungee cords for quick fixes, gear straps are a must have. I have been turning to the shorter 14” Fishpond Lariat Gear Straps for strapping rod tubes to backpacks and my Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack for hike-in fishing. These straps are fairly stiff and don’t have a ton of stretch so they admittedly aren’t the most useful for other tasks but are great for fishing applications.
If you’re looking for a multi-sport strap that can cover your fishing needs but also span into other sports like bike touring and skiing, the Voile Strap are worth some serious consideration. Made in the USA for over 30 years, these straps are equipped with an aluminum buckle and are 20” long, capable of securely locking down just about any gear. Regardless of which brand or style you choose, consider leaving a pair of gear straps tucked away in your fishing pack or vest.
Having a lighter on me is something that I consider a must when I’m spending time in the outdoors and leaving one in your fishing gear is a great idea. In addition to whatever lighter I may carry, I also leave a Bic wrapped up in a plastic bag with my emergency TP in my lumbar pack. It’s come in handy for everything from lighting a cigar to lighting my MSR Pocket Rocket 2 camp stove whenever I forget my primary lighter.
While I’m personally an avid fan of Zippos and other refillable lighters, for aesthetic and sustainability reasons, there’s a reason that Bic sells nearly 6 million lighters a year: they’re reliable. While they may not be waterproof and can’t be fully submerged, you don’t have to worry about lighter fluid drying out in a Bic as you would with a Zippo while it sits in your fishing pack or vest for months or years. Riverside fires can be a real game changer throughout the winter months or even be a means of survival should things go really awry and that last thing you’ll want to do is forget a lighter.
8. Packable Rain Jacket
A vast majority of my fishing occurs in the Southern Rocky Mountains where the weather seems to change by the minute. Whether its high winds or a surprise snow storm, being prepared with a reliable rain jacket is a must. I have yet to find a rain jacket material as lightweight, wind, and waterproof as GORE-TEX PACLITE. This ultra flexible fabric is super packable and great for stashing in a pack or vest. Many brands including Simms and Grundéns make lightweight rain jackets in this performance material.
Simms released their Flyweight Shell Fishing Jacket earlier this year which features GORE-TEX PACLITE®. The Simms Flyweight Shell Fishing Jacket is surely worth some attention if you’re in the market for a packable performance rain jacket.
The Grundéns Charter Gore-Tex Jacket has been my go-to as of late and doesn’t hinder my movements while hiking, biking, or fishing thanks to the flexible GORE-TEX PACLITE material. This jacket has gone just about everywhere that I’ve fished recently from high alpine lakes in Colorado to Hawaii, and layers perfectly with my Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody.
What will you carry?
Being prepared isn’t a joke. Taking some time to think about the items you are carrying on your next adventure will not only ensure a safe but also a comfortable trip. We’d love to hear what you consider essentials for a day of fishing.
Article by Evan Garda on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing fish throughout the west with his trusty fly rods. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.