Fly Fishing Gear & Tackle: Part 2

By Guy Turck •  Updated: 11/07/22 •  9 min read

Continuing our discussion (from Part 1) about the little things that make a big difference we turn to products ranging from sunglasses to fly boxes which taken individually, are perhaps not of great importance. Collectively, however, they represent the classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. By getting our equipment in order, we come closer to achieving our goal of fly fishing effectively, efficiently, and hassle-free.

How To Choose Fly Fishing Optical Gear

Typical Scenario: The angler is late on the hook set because they don’t see the fish moving to the fly before the take. Or, the angler doesn’t see the fish that just drifted up to take a look at their fly before rejecting the pattern. Or, the angler doesn’t see the fish nymphing deep in a pool.

Possible Culprit: Inadequate optics.

Yes, learning to see fish in their natural environment is a learned skill similar to the hunter who learns to spot game from large distances. But what I’m referring to goes beyond the power of observation. I’m talking about hats and sunglasses.

Rule number one is to use polarized sunglasses, which provide near  100% protection from ultraviolet rays. It’s amazing how many anglers don’t own quality sunglasses. They not only cut surface glare, but they allow you to peer deep into the water to spot trout which would never be seen otherwise. The color of your lens is largely a personal choice, though it is nice to have both a lightly shaded as well as darkly shaded lens for differing lighting conditions. The photochromatic lens changes its degree of shading to match the prevailing lighting conditions, but I still find it helpful to have two different pairs. The photochromatics don’t have a broad enough range to cover all lighting conditions, though they are the obvious choice if you can have only one pair of sunglasses.

Sunglasses, however, are only part of the solution. Couple polarized sunglasses with side-shields and a wide-brim hat and you will enjoy optimal optics. The purpose of the side-shields and wide brim are to prevent direct or reflected sunlight from hitting the back of your lens from the side or rear. Avoiding such reflections on the back of your lens greatly enhances vision and will help you get the most from your polarized sunglasses.

How To Choose A Fly Fishing Lanyards

Typical Scenario: You don’t change flies as often as you know you should because it’s too much hassle. Or, you fumble through a dozen pockets in your fishing vest before finally locating the strike indicator you were looking for. Or, your fishing partner can alter leaders, change flies, add or remove split shot, and so on, three times faster than you can (and then wins the “most fish landed” bet to boot).

Possible culprit: Disorganized fishing vest.

Not everybody likes them, but for me, it’s indispensable. It’s my lanyard.

What’s a lanyard you may ask. Think of it as a fisherman’s necklace from which dangles the essential doodads used by all fly fishers. Lanyards don’t completely replace fishing vests, but they are a valuable supplement. And no two fisherman’s lanyards are exactly alike.

Mine is constructed of 1/16″ twisted wire cable strung through a length of nylon webbing which serves as padding for the neck. The cable is preferable to an ordinary cord since it won’t collapse and tangle when not in use.

The various doodads hang from snap swivels for quick and easy changes, though once you get a system you like, you won’t be making many changes at all.

Items I Carry On My Fly Fishing Lanyard:

To prepare a film canister for hanging from a lanyard, poke a hole through the cap. Thread a stout cord through the hole and tie a knot on the underside of the cap so it won’t slip back through the hole. Now loop the other end of the cord to a snap swivel on the lanyard and you’ve got a handy waterproof container. I sometimes use a second canister for carrying extra flies. With this setup I need only throw my tippet dispenser in a shirt pocket and I have everything I need for a short fishing excursion, no vest required. Highly recommended on hot days.

Why don’t you just hang all that stuff from your fishing vest? Three reasons. First of all, it’s all much more readily available, no more fumbling through vest pockets. Second, I can choose not to wear the vest should it get too hot. Lastly, if it’s raining cats and dogs and I don’t feel like drenching my vest and all its contents, I can stow it in a dry place yet still have virtually everything I need at hand. Bottom line…a lanyard provides added versatility and efficiency.

One caveat about lanyards. Make sure you provide a way for the cord or cable to break apart should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being hung up under water by your lanyard. I’ve never heard of that happening to anybody, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Use two electrical alligator clips for this purpose, or perhaps the clips used to hang nets from the back of fishing vests. It just has to be able to come apart, but not too easily of course.

How To Keep Dry Flies Floating

Typical Scenario: An angler’s fly begins sinking so he/she reapplies more fly floatant, except now it sinks even faster.

Possible Culprit: Too much or improperly applied floatant.

What many people fail to realize, is that fly floatant adds weight to a fly. Use too much and you run the risk of creating the very problem you are trying to avoid. Fly floatant works because it is hydrophobic, that is, it has a tendency to repel water. As a dry fly lights upon the surface of the water, it’s hydrophobic floatant pushes the water molecules of the surface film away from the fly, aiding it’s floatation. Gobbing too much floatant on the fly increases it’s density to the point where it will immediately break through the surface tension and sink.

A very popular floatant with guides in the Jackson Hole area is Andy’s Poo Goo. Poo Goo is a lot tackier than the well know Gink, and consequently must be applied more judiciously. First, rub a bead of Poo Goo between thumb and forefinger to break it down somewhat. Then lightly rub it into the hackle, wings, tail and hook of the fly. The body requires a little more attention. If the body is dubbed with a natural or synthetic fur, try to work the floatant into the fibers a little more vigorously than you would the other parts of the fly, being careful not to go overboard. The goal is to work the floatant into the body fibers. Wipe or squeeze off any excess floatant.

Here’s a hot tip for when your fly inevitably begins to sink. Rather than immediately applying more floatant, squeeze the fly in a chamois cloth to wring out and absorb any excess water held in the fly as well as wiping off the old floatant. Now that your fly is relatively dry, go ahead and reapply some floatant. Using this method prevents excess floatant buildup while avoiding trapping water within the fly with a second coat of floatant. Drying crystals work fairly well too, but are more time consuming and not as convenient or easy to use as the chamois cloth.

Choosing The Best Fly Boxes

Has this ever happened to you? You open your fly box…the wind gusts…3/4 of your flies are blow onto the river creating a “hatch” whereupon the trout begin feeding heavily on your perfectly dead drifted artificials. Yeah, me neither. But I have lost lots of flies to wind gusts before switching to foam lined fly boxes, which anchor your valued fly collection in place and prevent the wind from turning them into “flies.”

Other fly box designs which attempt to anchor your flies in place include magnetized boxes and coiled spring models. But neither matches the foam lined box for overall for ease of use or versatility. Plus, should you drop your box in the river, guess what, it floats. And yes, that has happened to me.

Tippet Material Matters

If you find yourself snapping flies off a little too easily, ask yourself how old your tippet material is. Smaller diameters such as 4X through 7X should be replaced each year. The monofilament begins to break down over time and is especially noticeable in the smaller diameters. I don’t worry about this in the larger diameters unless the stuff is getting really old.

And get yourself a tippet dispenser, they make dealing with various tippet sizes much more efficient. My favorite is the “bull’s eye” style manufactured by a company in Germany. It consists of four separate but concentric rings around which you wind a given tippet size for each ring. Centered in the “bull’s eye” is a handy monofilament cutter. All this in a package about the size of a can of Copenhagen. Carry two of these and you have eight different tippet sizes in a very small space.

Get your gear working with and for you and you’ll be amazed at how your enjoyment of the sport increases. Observe how more experienced anglers handle situations which have always been a hassle for you. Whatever the problem may be, someone out there has put some thought into it and may have the perfect solution for you.