What Fly Fishing Accessories Do You Need?

Published on 06/20/2022 · 6 min readFly Fishing Expert Robert Levin gives a few suggestions for extras to bring along on your next fly fishing trip in addition to your rod, reel, and flies.
Robert Levin, Fly Fishing Expert
By Fly Fishing Expert Robert Levin

Photo by Paul Wolke

There are many fly-fishing accessories on the market. But which ones do you really need? And as you sift through the choices, you think to yourself, is this better than what I own already? Or what benefit does it bring to me? If you’re confused about how to pick through the accessory minefield, I can help streamline the decision-making process. Let’s jump in!

The Nipper

Probably the most common accessory hanging on retractors in the fly-fishing world is the ubiquitous nipper. For trimming the tag end of the knot on the mono tippet, nothing works better. I still have the first pair I bought. But today, one stands out among the many brands on the market. Read on.

The Abel Nipper

At the top of the price category comes the American-made Abel Nipper. Abel Automatic, the manufacturer of this nipper, is best known in the fly-fishing trade for their reels. The company had a long history of making precision, computer-controlled machines before setting their know-how to reels.

Their products aren’t just assembled, they’re engineered. So you won’t be looking for a replacement soon just because they wore out. Damage doesn’t happen from cutting mono or fluorocarbon lines but occurs when accidentally nipping into wire or a hook. But don’t worry! The machined, stainless steel jaws on the Abel Nipper, the only part that eventually wears out, can be replaced. Thank you, Abel!

Hook Removal

The next accessory on the checklist is pliers, or its lightweight version, the hemostat. They’re available in many shapes, sizes, and materials. If you fish in saltwater, verify the ones that caught your eye are made of stainless steel or aluminum to prevent corrosion.

Fishing for larger species, say steelhead, pike, or saltwater species like barracuda, requires flies with big hooks. Larger pliers are required to handle them safely and are the tool of choice for their removal. For smaller species like stream trout, panfish, or young saltwater species under 12” in length, a good pair of lightweight hemostats is perfect for smaller hooks.


Photo by Robert Levin

When out on the water, take care of your eyes by wearing polarized sunglasses with a hat or cap to shade your peeps from the sun’s rays. Don’t consider eyewear an accessory, but a must-have. As the years go by, tying small flies becomes an additional eye strain.

When #22 hook eyes disappear, give your eyes a boost. A good choice is a clip-on magnifier, available in single and double lens models. As their name suggests, they clip onto the brim of your hat or the frame of your glasses. I find them less troublesome than a second pair of eyeglasses, and they conveniently flip out of the way when not in use.

Tying the Knot

Photo by Robert Levin

Out on the water, especially when wading, you shouldn’t need any knot-tying tools. Some swear by them, others less so. If tying a knot for you is a chore, perhaps more practice is in order? A few basic knots should be in every angler's repertoire, particularly the surgeon’s knot.

If the fish are biting, the wind is blowing, and the rocks are slippery, the last thing you want is to check every vest pocket for your knot tool. However, I make an exception for one item. It’s a tapered pin held in a pin vise I hang next to my nippers. With it, I fish out the tag end of the mono from a knot’s loop. It gets used most on winter days when I can’t feel the materials I’m tying together.

Spare Spools

Photo by Robert Levin

If you fish at different locations and times throughout the year, it’s good to invest in spare spools for your reels. Trout anglers should have one spool with a floating line and another with a sink tip line. A second sink tip line on a third spare spool is even better. Depending on where you are fishing, consider having one slow sink and one medium-to-fast sink tip on hand too.

Getting the fly to where fish feed is the goal. When fishing in a new area, be prepared. A spare spool for your reel is easy to bring along. Even one spare spool opens new doors out on the stream. And if nymphs or streamers work, you might not have to wait for the next hatch.

The Staff of Life

I spent a few days once in a drift boat on the Madison out of West Yellowstone. The guide came to a spot he liked to wade and pulled the boat onto a shore opposite a small island. We got out and worked the shore toward a squeeze nearby. As we progressed, it gradually got deeper, and I felt the water move faster against my thighs as my feet sank deeper.

The guide was confident, but the experience felt very different from the waters and bottom I was used to. Not feeling comfortable, I headed back to the boat. If you intend to wade in a new area, consider bringing a wading staff along. It breaks down thanks to a spandex cord laced through the telescoping sections.

Most even come in a holster that fits on your wading belt. If you pull out the handle, it springs together and you can use it to steady yourself in the current. With fast water and slippery rocks, it can be the staff of life!

Patch Kits and Closed Foam Cell

Photos by Robert Levin

We like to fish in remote spots, but they can be riddled with underwater traps set by Mother Nature. A perfect example is a pointed submerged branch that once caught my waders. In minutes, I felt the cold sensation of water flooding my foot. I left the stream and headed back to camp to repair the damage. But what’s the best way to do that?

I use a product called Aquaseal. It works so well that I was fishing in the same waders the following day! They have improved their formula to introduce Aquaseal FD, which gets you back fishing in minutes and not hours. Wader repair kits are not expensive. Keep one with you, especially when the water is cold.

It is an undeniable fact that you’ll drop something when fishing. If you have a cherished fishing gadget valued as irreplacable and it cannot be fastened to you or your garments, secure it to a piece of closed-cell foam. Should it go in, you can retrieve it.

I hope this guide helped clarify what accessories you might want to bring along on your next fly fishing outing. If you have any questions or want to find some of these items for yourself, reach out to a Fly Fishing Expert here on Curated. Tight lines!

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