OK! Now that you know about a fly rod, reel, line and leader there are some other pieces of equipment that are needed to round out your fly fishing gear.
Let’s start with what you need to wear to keep you dry when wading in the water.
You could buy hip boots that go on each leg separately that will allow you to wade in water up to your thighs. They are fine if you will be doing your wading in fairly shallow water, but I would instead recommend investing in a good pair of chest waders that will provide much more flexibility in various situations.
The first pair of chest waders that I had back in the 1960s was made of canvas with rubberized lining like deep sea diver suits. They were stiff and hard to put on and they had boot feet without much protection in the toe or heel. Thus, they were prone to punctures that led to leaking when I came in contact with sharp rocks. Many a fishing trip was made very uncomfortable by wet feet and legs especially early in the spring when stream water was just above freezing. In truth, with no insulation, there were times when I couldn’t feel my toes the whole day.. Even without leaks, condensation on the inside made my pants damp and clammy. Fortunately, there have been major improvements since then.
One such improvement is in the design of neoprene boot or stocking foot waders. Made for fishing cold waters in cold weather, these waders will afford you the best protection from the cold. They come in thicknesses of 3mm or 5mm, and the boot foot models have between 200 to 1000 grams of insulation in the boot to keep your feet warm.
The only objection I have to neoprene is the difficulty of putting them on and taking them off. With very little if any stretch, it’s a bit of a struggle when you get to be my age. My neoprene waders now reside in their box and have for some time now.
Next are lightweight waders made of heavy-duty nylon with a PVC coating. They are great for taking on trips that have luggage space limitations. Although the least expensive, I wouldn’t recommend them for fishing in cold weather or wading in very cold water.
Finally, breathable waders are the latest innovation in comfort and affordability. Made of a tightly woven micro denier nylon shell with multiple layers in the knees for added protection against puncture they are light, easy to put on, and comfortable to wear. Some are made with a Gore-tex outer layer for added protection.
I love my breathable waders and wear them in all conditions; in winter with fleece long johns and in summer without. I recommend these waders for your first purchase. I would get them chest high (you can always roll them down to your waist) with built-in suspenders and in either boot foot or stocking foot. You can get a good pair of chest high waders with boot foot for under $200 and stocking foot for under $170. If you pick stocking foot, you can buy a decent pair of wading shoes for around $100.
Boot and wading shoe soles
It’s time to talk about the sole of either the boot foot or wading shoe. For years I’ve worn boots with a felt sole with later added cleats. I have these because many of the streams I fish in Pennsylvania have large algae covered rocks that are very slippery. Also, if you plan to use boots or shoes with felt soles in winter with snow on the ground, you should first spray coat the felt with a rubber coating (available in spray can). That’s to prevent snow from building up on the felt. It definitely works! One cautionary note regarding felt soles; many western streams and rivers have banned felt soles because of their propensity to absorb and thus spread dangerous fish disease bearing microbes. Check this out before taking felt soles to western streams or rivers.
Many boots and wading shoes are now made with tacky rubber soles that accept cleats. Depending upon where you will be fishing you can choose between felt and rubber either with or without cleats. Cleats can be bought separately to be added later. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in the heat of the summer it’s more comfortable to wade in shorts with just a good neoprene stocking and wader shoe. That’s how I do it in the Bighorn River in Montana in August.
There are a few other accessories that you should also consider purchasing. If you decide to go with stocking foot waders, you will need gravel guards or gaiters, as they are called, for around your ankles to keep gravel and dirt that can damage your wader from getting in between your shoe and stocking foot. Also a wader belt is not only a good idea, but in some cases a necessity to prevent your waders from filling up with water if you fall in. Here’s what Izaac says about the belt and falling in. Lastly, a wading staff comes in handy when wading in deeper or fast moving water to help you maintain your balance. I like the collapsible one that breaks down to 9 inches and comes with a holster that you put on your wading belt.
It is one thing to hook and fight a game fish, and quite another to land him. That’s where the landing net comes in. I like the kind that is designed primarily for catch and release since I release most of the fish I catch. With a shallower and finer mesh, the catch and release net makes it much easier to land a fish, remove the hook, and send him back into the water. If your catch is worthy of a picture, you can lay the net with the fish on the ground to measure and record your trophy. I carry my net connected to a tab in the back of the neck line of my vest and attach it to a net retractor that allows you to pull the net down to stream level for landing a fish without unhooking it. If you are not wearing a vest, you could also attach it to your belt.
One note about the release; when playing the fish results in the fish becoming exhausted when brought to net, don’t just place the fish back in the water. Hold the fish by the tail and gently push him back and forth to force water through his gills until he is fully revived before letting him go. He will most often let you know when he’s ready by trying to escape your grip. It may take several minutes but it will be well worth your time for the fish to survive.
Fly fishing vest, pack or lanyard
Once you are well into the sport of fly fishing you will soon realize that you need a lot of pockets for all the stuff you’ll carry.
Here’s a brief list of some of what I’m talking about:
- Fly boxes
- Leaders and tippet material
- Hemostats or clamps
- Strike indicators
- Clippers with a needle to clear clogged hook eyes.
If you click on the logo for the companies listed to the right of the page, you will find a large selection of all of the above items under “fly fishing accessories”.
This is by no means a complete list. As you can see there are many items that you must keep handy on your vest, chest pack, or lanyard. Once you get hooked on the sport you’ll accumulate quite a collection of tools and fly boxes.
Many a fly fisherman has uttered the wish that he could catch a fish as heavy as his vest. Vests range in price from less than $40 to over $200. As an alternative to a vest, some fishermen carry all they need in either a waist or chest pack. A lanyard offers still another choice. It’s like a long necklace with several clips in the front for your various tools.
There is nothing quite as miserable as fishing all day in the rain without good rain gear. While there are a lot of rain suits (jacket and pants) available at a low price, this is one piece of equipment that you don’t want to skimp on. If you need a rain jacket to wear with your waders, I recommend that you go with one that comes no lower than your waist. For walking the shore, you might want to also include pants with a longer jacket. I find that rain gear that is made with Gore-tex laminate fabric affords the most protection. The beauty of Gore-tex is its ability to breathe while being light weight and completely water proof. A good set will cost a little over $200 and a jacket around $150. There are other rain gear materials and treatments that boast of being fully water proof and breathable at much lower costs. You should check them out as well.
If you have as many caps in your closet as I do, head wear is not a problem. Whether a cap, or wide brim, covering up is a good idea in any kind of weather. It is really smart when it’s raining. If a cap, go for a long bill and don’t wear it backwards. Nuf said!