The Joys of Fly Fishing
Fly fishing is a very active sport. Many people think of fishing as sitting in a boat or standing on a lake shore with a stick in their hand and a line in the water. While that is a pretty good description of most forms of fishing, I like to think that fly fishing is a lot different. And that means that it is not for everyone.
But for those that “get” fly fishing, it can bring a whole different level to not only the sport of fishing, but can develop into a complete lifestyle that will define you as a person (in addition to defining you as a fisherman).
I have been fly fishing for many years. I remember tying flies and practicing casting as a Cub Scout. My dad taught me most of what I know about fly fishing, and I have my own gear, including a rod, reels – one of which I wound the line onto myself, and some flies.
However, having the rod, reel, and flies is only the beginning of what a good fly fisherman will need to be successful at catching fish and enjoying getting out there and spending time on the water.
Fly Fishing Accessories
What are fishing accessories?
When one thinks of accessories for fishing, it may be difficult to understand just exactly what they should be thinking of. Everyone knows the basic items that a fisherman will need in order to catch fish. These items are pretty standard, regardless of the type of fishing that you are doing: rod, reel, line, bait, etc.
So, when I refer to “accessories”, I am talking about those items that are not actually needed to catch a fish, but those items that enhance the experience of catching a fish. For example, a pretty common fishing accessory is going to be sunglasses.
You are out on the water, the sun is shining bright, and there is a reflection (glare) getting in your eyes. Sunglasses, a pretty common everyday life accessory, will block that glare and make fishing more enjoyable.
Fly fishing-specific accessories
When it comes to fly fishing, there are certain accessories that are going to be more appropriate. Of course, this list of accessories has been developed by myself over the years, so feel free to add to or remove items.
The whole idea is to give you a starting point of things to take with you when you go out fly fishing, with the intent of making the overall experience more enjoyable. Some things on the list are going to fit well into any list for fishing, while others are more specific to fly fishing.
So let’s jump right into the list. I have split it up into basic accessories that you may already have and use on a daily basis, what I call “level-2” accessories that will be good for fishing and being outdoors, fly fishing-specific accessories, and finally, nice to have things.
As with any list of things to enhance an activity, this list is based on my experience and is meant to serve as a starting point to guide other fishermen with figuring out what they might want to take with them when heading out onto the water.
There are some things that could be considered “basic accessories”. These are the things that you may already have and use in your daily life, so you probably do not need to go out and buy these items. However, having a separate set of items for use only when fishing could be helpful, as if something is lost, you do not need to replace your daily-use item.
- Sunglasses: As already discussed, sunglasses are going to cut the glare from the reflected sunlight. A good set of polarized lenses will do the trick quite well. If you have prescription glasses, either having prescription sunglasses or clip-on lenses to cover your regular glasses will work.
- Hat: I personally like a cowboy hat, but just about any hat will do the trick. The idea here is to have something shading your face. This will also help somewhat with glare, but will be more important for preventing sunburn.
- Sunscreen: Yeah, I know – a lot of “old timers” are not going to like this item. But slathering some SPF 30 on your exposed skin before spending the day being bombarded by UV rays reflecting off the water will give you more days on the water.
- Bug repellant: Depending on where you are doing your fishing, you may want bug repellant. You want the fish to be going after your flies, not the real flies going after you.
Having the following items will help to provide you with options when it comes to upping your fishing experience.
- Zip-off pants: These are those pants that convert from pants to shorts. Now, depending on how you do your fly fishing, i.e., if you have waders and what type of waders, swapping pants for shorts may not be much of an option. However, if you start your fishing on a cool morning that turns into a hot afternoon, being able to change from pants to shorts without having to completely remove an article of clothing will be nice.
- Moisture-wicking shirt: For some, wearing a full-sleeve flannel shirt is part of the appeal of fly fishing. That makes sense if you are fishing in the early spring or late fall. But if you ar fishing during a time when the sun is beating down on you and you start sweating, having your shirt wick that extra moisture away from your skin will help keep you cool, enabling you to spend more time out enjoying nature while trying to catch fish.
- Shoes/boots: When fly fishing, most fishermen use waders of some type. There are different types of waders, but when it comes to footwear, I have one important thing that I look for: comfort while providing support. You don’t want to go out fly fishing in sandals, and your everyday shoes are probably not going to be much better. Investing in a good pair of boots or waders is going to be essential for actually getting into the water, rather than just standing on the bank of the river. Footwear differences are one of the big differences in accessories between fly fishing and other types of fishing.
Fly fishing specific
There are some accessories that are specific to fly fishing. Some of these could be considered things that any good fisherman would take with them when they hit the water,
- Net: If you want to make it easier to land a fish while standing in the middle of a river, having a good quality net is a must. Especially when fly fishing, pulling a fish in close using your rod and reel is only going to get you part way. I have found that being able to scoop my catch out of the water is much easier than trying to grab a wriggling fish with my hands while trying to hold onto a fly pole.
- Line cutter: Whether you use something specifically designed to cut fishing line or an old set of fingernail clippers, having something to snip off the end of the tippet after tying a fly on or cut a tangled mess when you get the line caught in a bush on a backcast will prove invaluable. I hesitate to put this item under “nice to have”, but I realize that for some, something to cut the line is just an extra piece of metal that they have to carry around.
- Fly float: Depending on the type of fly fishing you are doing (whether you want the fly to float or sink), you are going to have to treat your flies in different ways. To make a fly float, you will want to apply something that repels the water so the fly does not get wet and sink. This could be anything from a specific product that you pick up at a tackle store, or an extra container of lip balm. Whatever you choose to use, don’t apply too much, as that will gunk things up and make the fly look unnatural.
- Stringer: If you want to take your catch home with you, having a stringer will let you hang onto those fish and keep them in the water. Also, hauling a stringer full of fish up and down a river is much easier than other methods.
- Vest: A good all-purpose fishing vest will serve you well for fly fishing. Most vests have a number of pockets for storing various accessories, and many even have a place to hang additional flies for easy access.
Nice to haves
As with all things in life, accessories are pretty much things we do not actually need. I have no problem admitting that I have things I do not need, but like to use. Fly fishing is no exception when it comes to things you absolutely do not need, but are definitely nice to have.
- Ruler: We all know about fish stories. If you are hoping to set any records, you are going to need some sort of proof. A good way to measure the size of that catch is to use a ruler.
- Camera: Being able to take a picture of your catch, even if you intend to eat it, can help you remember the joys of catching your dinner. And, if you are fishing with friends or family, the whole trip can be remembered with the pictures years in the future.
- Cooler: Whether you keep it stocked with drinks and sandwiches or use it to keep the fish cool on the drive back to the cabin, a cooler is a nice thing to have with you on any fishing trip.
Whether you are just getting started with fly fishing or you have been participating for years, you will find that there is always something that you wish you had out on the water. Through the years of enjoying fishing, I have continued to add to my tackle and accessories.
While there are certain things that I take with me regardless of the type of fishing I am doing, there are certainly things that I only take with me when fly fishing. Understanding the importance of having specific items for fly fishing has allowed me to cut down on the “stuff” I take with me on fishing expeditions.
When it comes to putting together your stockpile of fly fishing accessories, use this list as a guide. But adding those specific items that you know you need will be most helpful to your particular situation. Each time you head out on the water will be a unique experience. Having the right set of accessories is just as important as having the right fishing tackle.