Fly Fishing Accessories You Shouldn’t Go Without

While they might not be “essential”, the following wish-list items recommended by Fly Fishing Expert Josh H. can be incredibly beneficial to your fly-fishing game.

A man is standing near a river smiling. He is holding a fishing rod and various items of fishing gear.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon

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The overall complexity of fly fishing is only as in-depth as one decides to make it. Selected gear can be as little as rod, reel, line, leader, and fly while in pursuit of a hardy species, in comfortable waters, during enjoyable weather. Conversely, if you are pushing against a flow, where the water is near the freezing point, rocks and obstructions litter the bank and complicate the substrate, and the weather looks to be taking a turn for the worse; I have a few suggestions that will not only keep you comfortable but most importantly safe!

I have learned over time that being outdoors, fishing alone, and being miles from a heat source or transportation can present challenges. At some point I will fall, at some point, I will be caught off-guard by the weather, and oftentimes I did not prepare to have the required gear within arms reach to lessen the ‘suck’. So throughout my time on the water when presented with these challenges; I ensured to learn from my mistakes. Let me walk you through the items I find important to an enjoyable experience while fly fishing, wherever that may lead.

Waders

A man in waders kneels in a river holding a fish.

Photo by Joy Hoffman

Yes, you can fly fish without waders. “Wet wading” is a thing, and a lot of fly anglers do it. Additionally, you can fish from the bank if the conditions are right. Although, just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it has to be done. Having a quality pair of waders means you can maneuver within a body of water and you won’t be wet, obviously. See, I can pop on the waders to go fishing at 5 a.m., fish until 10 a.m., pop off those waders, and still arrive at brunch on time without getting in trouble for being soaked. It also means that you extend the season. As water temperatures cool, it is better to have waders than hypothermia.

Waders come in multiple variations and price ranges: knee-high or thigh-high boots, waist-high or chest-high waders, boot-foot (which are just formed rubber boots affixed to be watertight) or stocking-foot (which are neoprene booties sewn and sealed to the legs). Only you know what you will need for the places you intend to fish but having a couple of variations will ensure you are prepared and ready for whatever fly fishing scenario presents itself. Tell the Fly Fishing Experts on Curated where and when you are fishing and they will help you find the right fit.

Wading Boots

A pair of wading boots.

Photo by Josh H.

Wading boots are the ‘boot-foot’ to a stockingfoot wader; they can be used equally as well for wet wading. When you have stockingfoot waders, it requires you to have additional footwear, hence wading boots.

I feel as if wading boots give you a more tailored fit than boot-foot waders. There is more insulation, more stability, and greater adjustability, all of which allow you to stay out in the water for longer periods of time, more comfortably. The construction of wading boots reminds me of a well-made work boot: sturdy, strong, and comfortable.

Wading boots also allow you to pick a certain sole that will be beneficial to you for the water and the substrate in which you will be fishing. Simms and Orvis wading boots supply additional accessories, like studs and screws, that, when turned into the bottom of the boot, can really give you a sense of stability and balance. Some brands like Korkers give you the choice of switching out the entire sole of their boots for the same reasons, as you can see in the picture above.

There are brands that utilize laces, speed laces, and the BOA system to ensure a snug fit. The BOA system works with a ratcheting interlaced wire that, when engaged, really allows you to set your desired tightness level.

Fit can be tricky, and most manufacturers suggest sizing up at least a half-size (or even a full-size bigger) to accommodate the neoprene stockingfoot. If you are going to wear them with stockingfoot waders, take your time and don’t hesitate to consider a size change if the fit isn’t quite right. You’ll thank me later.

Pack / Vest / Lanyard

A fly fishing pack is laying in a kitchen with all the gear needed for fly fishing, such as a net, attached to the outside.

Photo by Josh H.

There are multiple things that make your fly-fishing experience better with them rather than without them. One of those is a pack or vest. Having somewhere to consolidate, organize, store, and haul your fly fishing paraphernalia will really simplify the process and increase the enjoyment of fly fishing.

I wear a Simms Headwaters Pro vest and feel it provides me with the right amount of support, pockets, storage, and attachment points for my gear. Some people prefer to wear a sling pack, waist pack, or a double-arm pack, with or without the combination of a lanyard. Whatever you decide, the decision requires gear, flies, and necessities be close at hand; if not you will spend most of your time fumbling around for something, rather than fishing.

If you decide to purchase a pack, there are waterproof and non-waterproof packs. Pay close attention. If you plan on getting in waist-level or higher water, ensure you get a watertight pack or everything will be drenched. There is nothing worse than having water in your dry-fly boxes or a change of socks that are soaking wet.

Polarized Sunglasses

A man wearing sunglasses kneels in a river holding a fish over a net.

Photo by Joy Hoffman

Get yourself a quality and reliable pair of polarized sunglasses. Trust me, you want to see that boulder that is about to trip you, the sunken tree your nymph keeps getting hung up on, or that fish of a lifetime on the opposite bank. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten mine and it resulted in me spooking fish out of their feeding lanes, stumbling and bumbling around on misshapen rocks, or missing fish eats due to glare. Polarized sunglasses, without question, make everything easier.

They make a style for every personal taste, so you should be able to find a pair that you like. Many manufacturers also make glasses that float. If you decide against this, I recommend you buy a sunglasses strap to ensure they don’t end up swimming with the fishes.

Wading Staff

A Simms wading staff.

For all intents and purposes, a wading staff will help you from drinking the water in which you are wading. When you are wading a river, you can only see as far as the water allows, and you can only feel what is beneath your feet; this lulls you into a false sense of security. The next thing you know, you are tripping over a submerged rock and falling into the deep washed-out hole on the other side of it with nothing to stop you. This will ruin your entire day, and I can speak from experience.

When I started fly fishing I didn’t have a wading staff, now I don’t leave home without one. There are several available on the market that put the stick you found in the woods near your house to shame. Most are retractable and are made out of lightweight, but strong, material. Carbon fiber, composite, or aluminum are the most common, but one thing they all do is help keep you on your feet.

My wife and I have the Simms Pro Wading Staff, and we both love it. It also doubles as a walking stick when we hike to our favorite spots. If and when the water flow changes unexpectedly, we need to probe the water depth in front of us, or if the substrate is just too challenging, we pull it out to keep us dry. It is definitely a handy piece of kit that you should consider investing in.

Rain Gear

A man is fishing in a river. He is wearing waders.

Photo by Joy Hoffman

Rain gear is another wish-list item that is smart to invest in. It never fails: you check the weather before you leave to go fishing, and there is a 10 percent chance of rain showers forecasted. You get to your spot, and the sky opens up with a deluge. A lightweight, packable raincoat and rain pants don’t take up much room in a sling or waist pack, and you will be glad to have them if it starts to pour.

The raincoat you see me wearing in the above photo is the Simms Waypoint. I wear it if there is even a hint of a sprinkle. I can’t stand being wet on a cool day. I am kind of a wimp like that.

The List Goes On

Some various fishing gear lies in a drawer.

Photo by Josh H.

There are countless gadgets, gizmos, and thingamajigs out there that will improve your overall fly-fishing experience, but I have covered what I believe are best of the wish list and I don’t want to steal all the excitement of the discovery away from you.

To review, here is a list of fly-fishing gear “wants” (as opposed to “needs,” which are explained in this accompanying Everything You Need for Fly-Fishing article):

  • Waders
  • Wading boots
  • Pack, vest, lanyard
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Wading staff
  • Rain gear
A river is running through a mountainous landscape with trees. In the distance you can see a fly fisher in the river.

Photo by Joy Hoffman

I encourage you to reach out to me or another Curated Fly-Fishing Expert as we’re all enthusiasts, too. We look forward to assisting you in finding the right gear for your future outdoor adventures!

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Written By
Fishing for over thirty years and being in the Military for nearly twenty, has taught me to remember that any wade and wet line is better than not being there at all. I would rather spend a day on the river, and a night under the stars than anywhere else. I have had the privilege of living in the mo...

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