If you have just begun dipping your toes into the technical and exciting sport of fly fishing, there are a few important accessories and tools you will need. In this guide, we’re covering all the essentials for your tackle box, plus a few extra accessories to enhance your experience on the water.
Must-Have Fly Fishing Gear
Although fly fishing can seem like an intimidating sport, it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge or equipment to at least get started. Before you hit the streams for your first time, be sure to have the right gear for the occasion. The only absolutely essential pieces of gear you’ll need to bring with you include:
- Fly Rod
- Fly Reel (with backing, fly line, and leader)
- Waders (if in cold conditions)
- Wading Boots (if in cold conditions)
If you are a beginner fly fisherman, you’ll get a lot of value out of our beginner’s guide to fly fishing.
Without a fly rod, it would be pretty difficult to fly fish, which is why we’re mentioning this first on our list of must-haves. Fly rods come in various weights, but if you are a beginner, a 5-weight fly rod will serve you well as this is the most versatile weight rod. Rods can be purchased on their own or as a fly rod and reel combo. Choosing a combo can help beginners narrow down the options and save money.
If you purchase a fly rod without a reel, you will need to buy the reel separately. There are lots of elements to choosing the right fly reel, and many anglers enjoy being able to customize their setup, sometimes owning multiple reels for different occasions. Beginners are often better off purchasing a pre-made rod and reel combo since these are guaranteed to work together.
Waders are a type of waterproof overall that covers the feet, legs, and lower torso. Waders come in “stockingfoot” and “boot foot” varieties. Boot foot waders have boots built-in to the pants of the overalls but can have poor traction on slippery rocks. Stockingfoot waders can be worn with separate shoes, which can allow for more footwear options and increased safety/comfort.
Waders are essential for fisherman that need to wade into cold waters, but truthfully isn’t an essential piece of gear. Fisherman are capable of wading in water without waders, especially in summer conditions, and this may be preferred by certain anglers.
Wading boots are essentially lightweight hiking boots designed to be worn in the water. Wading boots make it easy for anglers to transition from in-water to on-land, and provide superior comfort, protection, and traction. Some waders come with attached boots, but primarily, fisherman go with wader systems where you purchase boots separately.
Must-Have Fly Fishing Tools
In addition to basic gear, there are a handful of must-have fly fishing tools and accessories that should be included on any fishing trip.
- Fly Box
- Fly Floatant
- Tippet Holder
Clamps (sometimes called forceps or hemostats) are used to handle small flies, remove flies from fish, tie knots, and do all the fine-detail work required of fly fishermen. Hands and fingers can get cold, stiff, and slippery while fishing, which can make it difficult to do delicate tasks. Clamps help to speed up steps like unhooking fish or tying small knots to save you frustration and give you as much fishing time as possible.
Clippers (line nippers) are used for cutting lines quickly and safely. Some clippers are designed using the same mechanism as a pair of standard nail clippers and can be used to cut through even the thickest lines. Orvis Comfy Grip Nippers are made from durable stainless steel and come attached to an extendable clip for easy access in a pinch.
In addition to clipping, these tools often have a point end that can help open up the eyelet of hooks on your flies.
Flies are easy to lose track of without a system for organization. Fly boxes are designed to securely hold flies in place without crushing their delicately tied bodies, wings, and tails. When filled to maximum capacity, boxes like the small Posigrip Flip Page Fly Box can hold more than 250 flies at a time.
This is our favorite style of fly box.
A fly box is essential for organizing and accessing your flies.
Polarized fishing sunglasses take the protection of standard sunglasses one step further with an additional anti-glare coating. Designed to keep the sun out of your eyes while allowing you to see your surroundings clearly, polarized sunglasses are a big help on sunny days out on glimmering water. Polarized lenses also help anglers to see fish lingering below the surface, reducing glare and clarifying shadows and shapes.
In addition to increasing the ability to see and read the water, glasses add a layer of protection. It is inevitable when fly fishing that at some point you will hook yourself. Especially if you fish in windy conditions. Always where glasses to protect your most vulnerable area, the eyes.
Read our guide on choosing the best fishing sunglasses to learn more.
Fly floatant is a waxy liquid or powder used to enhance the buoyancy of dry flies. Dry flies are designed to sit on top of the surface of the water but can become waterlogged after extended use. Fly floatant creates a water-repellent layer on the outside of dry flies, helping to prevent them from sinking. Using flotant can help protect flies, and may help beginners to find more success using dry flies.
Fishing indicators are used in conjunction with wet flies which, as opposed to dry flies, are designed to sink under the surface of the water. Indicators float and act as a sort of marker to show the angler where their fly is. When a fish strikes, the indicator gives the angler a visual cue. Some of our favorite fly fishing indicators include super buoyant Airlock Indicators and these colorful Thingamabobbers.
When needing to have sensitive and light presentations to fish, you’ll find anglers opting for more lightweight and delicate indicator solutions like the New Zealand Strike Indicator.
Tippet is an extremely thin monofilament or fluorocarbon line used as the final length of a fly fishing setup. Tippet is too thin to be seen by most fish and is small enough to be tied to even the smallest fly varieties. Anglers may replace the tippet on their line multiple times during a fishing trip, which requires them to carry spools with them.
Being able to change flies quickly, adjust your tippet length, add flies, and reduce or increase your tippet strength quickly will likely yield more success on the water. Tippet holders, like the FishPond Headgate Tippet Holder, can carry multiple spools at a time, and can easily be attached to a vest or bag for easy access while fishing.
Other Useful Accessories
Once you have all the essentials of a great fly fishing trip, you’ll be ready to hit the water! While the basics are all you need, there are plenty of other useful items that can enhance the experience. Here are a few non-necessary but helpful items to bring on your next fishing trip:
- Backpack / Sling / Chest Pack
- Hook Sharpener
- Nail Knot Tool
Backpack / Sling / Chest Pack
Fly fishing keeps your hands pretty busy, so you won’t be able to hold items like a water bottle, your phone, sunblock, sunglasses, a hat, your fly box, tippet, or anything else you might need while fishing. Wearing a backpack, sling, waist pack, or chest sling pack while fly fishing gives you easy access to your items hands-free. Available in seconds and secured to the body, a pack can be worn onshore or in the water as a secure means of keeping items organized and close at hand. Fishing specific packs, like the Orvis Sling Pack, include features like built-in tippet holders and easy access water-bottle pockets.
Here is another awesome sling option from Fishpond.
Over time and with use, fishing hooks can begin to become dull, losing their sharp point. Dull hooks are less effective at securing a catch and can cause damage to the fish. Trying to catch a fish with a dull hook can cause you to miss hook sets and lose fish. Getting caught on a log or rock temporarily can also damage the hook point, or dull it.
Hook sharpeners are small, easy-to-use tools that can restore hook sharpness quickly and with just a few strokes. Perfect to keep in your pack in case of a dull hook, hook sharpeners are extremely compact and just as useful.
Multi-tools are, for lack of a better description, tools that have multiple purposes! Often resembling pliers or garden shears, multi-tools include over a dozen tools including knives, saws, scissors, wire cutters, can openers, bottle openers, and more. Usable for a huge range of scenarios, having a multi-tool on hand can help you get out of plenty of tough jams.
Nail Knot Tool
Nail knots are some of the most common types of knots used by anglers to secure their lines, but making these knots over and over can be fiddly and time-consuming. A nail knot tool makes it possible to tie perfect nail knots in seconds. While you can tie nail knots on your own, using a knotting tool speeds up the process and helps to create consistent knots every time.
If you ever need to tie leader onto fly line, or backing onto leader, this tool is a lifesaver.
Water temperature affects fishing conditions, with different species of fish preferring different temperatures and types of weather. A stream thermometer is used to measure the temperature of a stream before fishing to determine what type of fly to use and to give the angler an idea of what they might have a chance of catching. Many anglers like to keep temperature charts of their favorite rivers and streams to analyze what temperatures yield the best catches. Fast and easy to use, a stream thermometer can save you tons of time and wasted energy.
In addition to this, there are many places where water temperatures rise to a point where you shouldn’t be fishing for trout. The warm water temperatures stress them out, and fighting an angler could kill them. Having a thermometer to check water temperatures is a great idea for anyone in warmer climates.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and sharing experiences with others. Max is a published author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about