In flyfishing, there are certain items that are essential for success. Below are a few that will help you get started.
Breathable waders have been the hot ticket in recent years and offer extreme comfort for all-day wear. Boot-foot styles offer easy-on, easy-off access at the expense of some foot support; stocking-foot styles require the use of separate, lace-up wading shoes but give better support for all-day use. Either style should have felt soles for the best traction on slippery rocks. In really cold water, wear fleece pants underneath.
Flyfishing vests have been the uniform of flyfishermen ever since Lee Wulff sewed the first one for himself back in the 1930s. Now there are myriad styles in equally wide price ranges. You’ll get what you pay for, as with any garment; just make sure the design puts the vest’s weight on your shoulders instead of your neck.
Fly boxes range from pricey (but nice) British aluminum to inexpensive clear plastic. Foam inserts work well for organizing flies but will cause wet hook points to rust quickly, a problem averted with compartmented boxes that allow loose storage. Make sure the boxes you’re getting actually fit in your vest pockets before buying them.
Pin-on reels are spring-tension devices that hold small, frequently used accessories within easy reach on the front of your vest. I use two: one for clippers, a second for floatant.
Clippers are essential for trimming leader knots as you change flies. Use cheap, dime-store nail clippers if you like; specialized flush-cutting nippers sold by fly shops work better. Some also include a short needle for clearing out clogged hook eyes.
Floatant is applied to your dry flies to keep them floating longer. It comes in aerosol, liquid, or paste forms. I like pastes for ease of use.
Hemostats, sometimes called forceps, are essential for unhooking fish. Get the locking kind, so they’ll clip and hang from an inside-pocket flap of your vest-where they won’t tangle with the line as you cast. These are also useful for pinching down hook barbs as needed.
Tippet spools are small, supplemental spools of leader material that you’ll need to refresh the working end of your leader as it becomes shortened by fly changes or breaking off fish. I carry sizes 0X through 7X in an interior vest pocket. Sometimes you’ll also want to add weight to your leader to fish a little deeper, in which case split shot are useful. New styles of nontoxic shot mean you won’t be poisoning yourself or the river with old-fashioned lead.
A landing net allows you to land and thereby release fish more easily and quickly. Small-mesh catch-and-release nets work great and do less damage to fish. Remember to also get some device for attaching the net to the back of your vest; I use a magnetic-catch device from Orvis that’s easy and efficient on the stream.
Use sunblock of sufficient strength to guard your skin. Polarized sunglasses not only cut water-surface glare but also protect your eyes from flying hooks. A hat will likewise shade your eyes, enabling you to see better, and also protect your face from the sun.