You can only put so much stuff in your fly fishing backpack. Make sure you have these!
For most people, when they go fly fishing, they want to get away from the crowds. Unfortunately, some of the best fishing locations get the most pressure. Therefore, in order to one-up your fellow anglers, you often have to hoof it a good ways to find your own water. In doing this, you have to take your fly boxes, fly rods, fishing nets and other fishing gear with you. Having a high-quality fly fishing backpack makes a huge difference. Having the right stuff in the that pack is even more important.
So, what all do you really need to go on a fly fishing adventure for a few miles down a river bank? The last thing you want is to get a mile down the road from your truck and realize you needed something important you left behind. One mistake here and it could ruin your whole day depending when you notice you forgot something. Thankfully, there are many kinds of packs you can have that help you get the job done. Some packs can carry more than others, though.
With this in mind, here's a quick list of must-have items for any fly fishing trip. It doesn't matter if you prefer a fishing vest, a chest pack, a fly fishing backpack or a sling pack. It's really all about your own comfort anyway. A few words of advice, though: whatever pack you choose, make sure it is waterproof and can also carry enough stuff that you don't have to make decisions about what you really need or don't need. So, let's get to it.
1. More flies
I can't tell you how many times I'd been fly fishing someplace and quickly discovered I didn't have the right flies for the job. Yes, Orvis sells a ton of flies. Buy them all, or tie like your life depends on it, and find a way to take as many with you as you can. They make multiple-layered fly boxes for a reason. The reason behind this is simple, though, the fish may be eating something you don't have. Or, perhaps a different fishing opportunity might arise, which you'll want to be prepared for.
For example, on a stretch of water I fish, I use a Fishpond waterproof sling pack. When I'm fishing for smallmouth, I still take a box of carp flies just in case, and visa versa. Low and behold, on any day I forget one box or the other, multiple fish present themselves requiring flies I don't have. This is also true in trout water. Maybe you want to nymph fish but a dry fly hatch happens in the afternoon. It always pays off to be extra prepared. Trust me.
2. More tippet
What are you going to do if you run out of tippet? This is easy, just tie directly to the leader, right? Hopefully you don't have to change many flies because that leader is only going to get shorter and shorter. This is where a fly fishing vest can compliment a sling pack or fly fishing backpack. Carry that extra tippet and leader material in there. Personally, I just use spools of fluorocarbon and make my own.
With all this being said, I've bummed tippet material off fellow fly fishermen on the river. Sometimes you just forget, or grab a new hip pack and maybe forget you didn't have any left. It's times like those all hope is lost. This is especially true if you're a few miles away from your truck.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I can't count the times I've forgotten my hemostats at home or someplace on the river. Now, I carry multiple pairs and hide them in out-of-the-way places in my fly fishing backpack just so I have backups when I loose my backups.
Trout hooks are very small. Some flies are so small, you need maximum effort just to tie a knot. Without a pair of these things handy, it can be a nightmare to even get your tippet through the eyelet. Also, don't underestimate the necessity of a pair of hemostats to get your fly out of a fish's mouth. These also come in handy to pinch on a weight, and also get a hook out of your face should that happen.
4. Gel floatant or desiccant powder
How are you going to dry fly fish if your flies don't float? These two options are easy to forget, and even more easy to run out of on the water. If you don't have a couple of these in your waist pack, you're quickly going to be in trouble if the trout start rising. Gel floatant and desiccant come in small bottles. They don't weigh a whole lot and you won't even notice them in your chest pack.
5. Baby wipes
If you don't already know why you need baby wipes in your fly fishing backpack, then obviously you've never been in the situation where these were needed. Sometimes nature calls when you're out in the water. It doesn't matter how great the fishing is, when you gotta go, you gotta go. This is where disposable baby wipes will make or break your entire day. No matter where I go, these babies have a place in my fishing backpack.
The first time I discovered the necessity of baby wipes, I was fishing with a longtime friend in Colorado. We'd been drinking the night before and ate some serious breakfast burritos right before hitting the water. I think he saw the expression on my face when I was headed toward the bank. Thankfully, with little hesitation, he reached in his sling pack and tossed me a ziplock bag of baby wipes. The rest of the day went off without a hitch.
There are all kinds of fly fishing backpacks on the market. As long as you have these five things in your pack, you're going to be all right no matter what you're facing for the day. However, a water bottle is also a solid idea. It's important to stay hydrated. I admit, though, sometimes I'm too focused on the fishing to eat or drink.
Perhaps bringing an extra fly reel spooled with a different fly line than what you think you might use would be a good idea as well. There's a ton of fly fishing gear that can fall into this category as well, such as a net. However, the net doesn't matter if you don't have the fly line to cast to catch a fish.
In the end, you have to find the right combination of fishing gear that makes sense for you. However, the five items I mentioned above are always in my fly fishing backpack no matter where I'm fishing.