Last time I went over the gear that I feel is absolutely essential for all beginning fly fisher persons. This week I’m going to dive into the second tier of gear. These items are very helpful out in the field, but you can fly fish without them which is why they’ve fallen to my second tier.
First off, let’s cover tools. There are a bunch of tiny tools available to fly fisher persons that are incredibly helpful out on the water. The most helpful of these are nippers, leader strengtheners, pliers/forceps, and knot tying tools. Nippers look like finger nail clippers and are used to trim off excess line after you’ve tied a knot. Some nippers are even sold as a combo tool like this, which combines a knot tying tool with nippers. Knot tying tools are also sold as standalone knot tying tools, but you might as well get the combo since you’ll eventually use both. Knot tying tools do what their name implies; help you tie knots (most are designed to help you tie a nail knot, which is pretty hard to tie without the tool).
Leader straighteners are essentially two pieces of rubber or leather that you pinch together while you draw your leader through. And guess what, if you do it right, it straightens your leader, clever name right? Leaders can get very coiled and tangled if you don’t straighten them before you fish, so this tool can be indispensable.
Finally, pliers/forceps are very helpful when a fish swallows your hook. With these needle nosed pliers it’s a lot easier to quickly and safely remove a swallowed hook, and increases the likely hood of a deep hooked fish surviving. Most of these things can be bought in kits which include most or all of the aforementioned tools; this is quite convenient and will also save you money.
You can conveniently attach all these new tools to your person with a handy dandy retractor. Retractors aren’t really second tier, more of a novelty, but they are really helpful. They pin onto your shirt or vest and have clips which you can attach your tools to. The clips are connected to coils of line, maybe 12”-20” long which retract into the pin when not in use. I prefer the double retractor as it saves space and allows me to hang two tools right where I need them. Although not essential, they are handy.
Next up are nets. You’ll find them in all shapes and sizes. They aren’t essential because most trout are small enough to catch and release by hand, but when you get a big one on the line it’s comforting to know you have a net with you. If you get one, I suggest also picking up a magnetic release that allows the net to hang off the back of your vest and out of the way until you need it.
This brings me to vests. Now, a good fly fishing vest can be very helpful but like everything on this list you can live without it. You could also get one of these fanny pack gear cases which would do the same job, but the fly fishing vest just looks cool. When it comes to vests the more pockets the better, the concept of the vest is to keep everything you might need out on the water within arms reach. Try a few on and see if you like the layout of the pockets. Remember the vest is meant to help you not hinder you, so if the pocket layout seems weird to you move on and try a different vest.
If your intent is to fish streams and rivers, waders and boots are a good investment. Being able to move about in the water enables you to get into better casting positions and allows you to cast to locations you might not be able to reach from the shore. Like most fly fishing gear, waders and boots come in all shapes and sizes (knee high, hip high, full overalls, etc.). I fish with a set of neoprene overalls and felt soled wading boots. Felt soles give you tremendous traction on slippery wet rocks, but beware certain states have restrictions or bans on felt soled wading boots because they can aid in the transfer of diseases and invasive species. Be sure to check your state’s regulations before purchasing a pair. If your state does allow them, be sure to clean them between uses.
Everything listed above will give you a pretty good set up but there are just a few remaining items on my second tier. They include; fly boxes, strike indicators, polarized sunglasses, and floatant/anti-floatant. Fly boxes are almost essential but you could survive without them for a bit as a beginner. They are basically a way to conveniently store your flies, keep them organized, and keep them dry.
Strike indicators are important for all beginners when they learn to nymph. If you aren’t fishing a dry fly, your fly is below the surface and it can be very difficult to tell when you get a strike. Enter the strike indicator! And don’t call it a bobber (although between you and me they’re the same thing).
Polarized sunglasses can be very helpful on sunny days or for sight fishing on crystal clear water. They remove a lot of the glare off the surface of the water allowing you to see your fly better and also allowing you to see below the surface to fish and structure. Crystal recently reviewed her favorite pair of polarized glasses, you can checkout that post HERE.
Finally, floatant and anti-floatant. These could be classified as novelty but they can be helpful. Floatant is a waxy substance that is used to coat dry flies and help them stay afloat longer. Anti-floatant is the opposite; it’s used on nymphs and causes them to sink as opposed to float. The best know brands are Gink & Xink and Loon, and most fly fisher persons are pretty loyal to their brand. You can survive without them, but they are convenient to have.
So that’s my second tier of gear. None of these items are essential but man can they be helpful. The waders and boots will be the most expensive purchases on this list typically costing you over $200 for both. But the rest of these items are pretty affordable and won’t break the bank. So, start with the essentials from my first list and maybe the fly box from my second for organizational purposes. Then as you get out there and try out the sport, you can come back to this second tier and pick and choose the things that are right for you. I hope you found these lists helpful and informative and I hope you’ll give fly fishing a try. Until next time, happy fishing!
– A. Egli