I have fly fished for 40 plus years and during that time I have wrestled with several different ways to carry all the “stuff” that is, in my humble opinion, necessary for a quality day on the water. When I first started I used a simple fly box stuffed into my shirt pocket and a couple of spools of tippet material and I went out and had fun. As I progressed in the hobby I accumulated more “stuff” and eventually bought an inexpensive cotton vest that was soon bulging with fly boxes, floatant, rain shell, leaders, tippet and an assortment of other things that I was certain I couldn’t live without. By the mid 80s I was getting back and neck strain from the accumulated weight that I was carrying around. I decided I needed to try something else and got a really nice chest pack from JW Outfitters, whittled down my payload and still seemed to catch just as many fish with half the stuff. Six years ago I retired the chest pack and got a new Simms vest that certainly was a pleasure to wear compared to my old cotton piece. About that same time, however I found myself fishing more and more locally and for many other species besides trout. This necessitated major planning before each outing. Taking out boxes of surf flies and replacing them with boxes of carp, bass or trout flies and the corresponding leaders and tippets was a chore that inevitably resulted in boxes that had that “killer fly” being left at home.
Eventually the whole mess evolved into different gear storage for different species.
For trout, I still prefer my Simms Guide vest. It has a ton of storage, I still can’t leave much behind, and because of the way the vest is designed the weight is distributed well and I can carry a ton of gear in comfort.
Simms vest is well designed and comfortable.
For boat fishing I use an Umpqua Famous 2500 Boat Bag, which will hold 5 or 6 big fly boxes, rain shell, pliers, sunscreen, granola bars, camera, Boga Grip, extra Buff and a whole pile of other stuff too. It has a hard bottom that will withstand the abuse that is unique to fishing from a boat. The top is an excellent worktable that is connected by a waterproof zipper that keeps everything inside dry. Best damn boat bag I’ve ever owned. Umpqua video shows some of the great features of this piece.
Carp and surf fishing have a lot of similarities other than the flies (there are some flies that will work for both) and you need to be very mobile and unencumbered. I finally decided on an Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack. It is very well designed, everything is accessible quickly and easily, and it swivels out of the way for easy casting.
The Orvis sling in use at Annini Beach, Kauai