There are some essentials when it comes to fly fishing like a fly rod, reel, and fly line however there are some other items hat can really make or break your day. Below you’ll find 9 different items that can enhance your angling experience day in and day out.
1. Strike Indicators
This may seem like a real no-brainer but having the correct size and type of indicator to use in a day or even a given run can make a huge difference in the way that your fly is presented. A large, heavy indicator in calm water can easily spook trout so downsizing and going to a smaller, lighter profile can be advantageous. Other times, such as high water or choppy riffles, you may want an indicator that floats higher and can support a heavy nymph rig with 2 or 3 weighted flies. Some of the major industry offerings have been outlined below.
The new for 2020 biodegradable Airlock Strike Indicators are my choice when fishing subsurface. Air Lock indicators are designed to prevent kinking your line (one of the biggest downsides of Thingamabobbers) and can easily be adjusted as you navigate varying water depths. These come in ½” and ¾” but I prefer the smaller ½” for most of my trout fishing.
Many anglers turn to wool strike indicators when dealing with wary trout. They can be trimmed to your desired size making them the most versatile option. Choppy water? No problem simply cut a larger piece of wool for the day. A popular choice is the New Zealand Strike Indicator Kit.
No introduction required, Thingamabobbers float all day and are relatively cheap. I have found that this style of indicator will kink leaders, break often, and can be difficult to adjust up and down your leader. Lastly, if lost, these indicators will pollute rivers and streams for generations to come. Not my first choice as there are better options out there but I certainly have a few in my pack.
The Pinch-On-Float Strike Indicators from Palsa are just about the cheapest, smallest, and lightest indicators available and are perfect for extra spooky trout. Some of the downsides are that they don’t support a ton of weight (maybe a bead-head or two), are single-use, and tend to leave residue on your leader if you need to adjust your depth.
2. Flotant/Dry Shake
This may seem like another easy one, but many anglers are unsure of the way to properly apply floatant and dry shake or misunderstand the need for both products. When you are dry fly fishing, liberally apply your choice of floatant before you ever get your fly wet. I’d recommend Loon Aquel or George Gehrke’s Gink however there are a number of different options available.
Floatant will get you started but your flies will inevitably sink after several drifts. When this happens, you can blow it dry or use an Amadou Patch to quickly draw the water from your fly. Lastly, apply dry shake or your choice of powdered desiccant, like Loon Top Ride or Tiemco Shimazaki Dry Shake, to the fly and you’ll be ready to fish again. You can repeat the process of drying your fly and applying dry shake/desiccant until you can no longer revive the floating properties, at which point you should change out flies. Summer may be fading but there are plenty of dry fly fishing opportunities out there so be sure to put your best effort forward by properly applying floatant and dry shake.
3. Leader Straightener
Nearly all commercially available tapered leaders come tightly wound in convenient packaging. This is great until you’re trying to deliver a size 26 Trico to a picky trout with a leader full of coils. Enter leader straighteners. Once you have unwound your leader from the packaging, simply pull the leader through the straightener (butt end first) while applying pressure to both sides and you’ll quickly see the coils fade. This will leave you ready to make the perfect presentation to that rising lunker. Sure you can stretch a leader out by hand, but leader straighteners will give you the best result.
Thermometers, while not necessary, are a valuable tool to any angler, particularly if you pursue cold water species. Thermometers are critical for trout anglers in warmer months when water temperatures rise. As cold water species, trout thrive in water below 65 degrees, and fishing in any warmer water can be lethal for the fish. Check out our Water Temperature Guide to Trout for more detailed information.
In addition to letting anglers know when to give fish a break, thermometers can also help identify where fish will be feeding in a given body of water. Optimal feeding temperatures for trout range from 52 to 64 degrees and fish will be found distributed throughout the entire river or stream. When water temperatures take a turn south, look to target fish in shallow areas like sand bars and in slower currents as they try to preserve energy. When water temps rise, look to target fish in deep pools and in shade covered water. The Fishpond Swift Current Thermometer is a durable choice.
Having the proper tools for the job is crucial. If you often find yourself fishing from the bow of a skiff or wading salt flats, you’ll want a pair of pliers that are rated for saltwater and capable of grabbing larger gauge hooks. Any study pliers will do but why not splurge a pair of premium, heirloom-quality Abel Pliers?
If trout and other smaller fish are your common target, a pair of cheap needle-nose forceps should do the trick. I’ve used $3 no-name brands that work well (though they tend to disappear) and recently have relied upon the moderately priced Umpqua River Grip Hemo/Forceps with built-in scissors. The key here is to have a fine enough point to grab any small flies.
6. Sunproof Clothing
No matter the species of fish you choose to pursue, the sun will always be a factor that you must battle. It’s important to minimize direct exposure to sunlight for extended periods of time to reduce the risks of skin cancer. Sunscreen is a must but can wear off with exposure to water and be bothersome to constantly reapply all over. Sun-proof clothing like the Flylords Sun Hoodie and an exclusive Flylords X Grateful Dead BUFF will help keep you protected all day, in and out of the water.
Nippers: If you have them, you’ll probably use your teeth, but leave home without them and you’ll be sorry. I was a long-time user of dollar store nail clippers and they all served me well however about a year ago I picked up a pair of the moderately priced Orvis Flow Nippers and have enjoyed a higher quality product. These nippers are sharp, not too heavy, and have a slim profile.
If $30 for the Orvis Flow Nippers seems like a lot for glorified nail clippers, Rising’s Nippa line clipper is a cheaper option that is still a significant step up over dollar store nail clippers. Coated in rubber, they’re easy to grip and squeeze. Like the Orvis Flow Nippers, the Rising Nippas come with a hook eye cleaner.
Quite possibly the industry standard, Abel Nippers are one part tool, one part mechanical masterpiece, and another part art. While they come with a higher price tag, the Abel Nippers have a 2-year warranty and have replaceable blades so you can use them until you lose them. Consider picking up a pair of higher quality nippers next time you need to replace those rusty nail clippers and you might just be surprised by the improved performance.
8. Tippet Tender/Holder
Managing your tippet effectively can help save time changing out flies and rigs. Tippet Ts and tenders help neatly organize multiple spools and sizes of tippet so you can easily cut the correct test and length. Often equipped with a clip, they can be attached to the exterior of any pack, bag, or vest for easy access. My choice is the Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder however other manufacturers like Orvis both make great products as well.
9. First Aid Kit
Whether you frequently fish from the banks, a drift boat, or even a skiff, you don’t want to get caught in a pinch without medical supplies. A basic first-aid kit is a must as you never know when you’ll need it. Having a few bandaids, a topical antibiotic, gauze, and even some duct tape can save the day.
Many anglers will already have these items in their pack or vest however we wanted to share some of our gear essentials
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.