Lee Wulff once told me his fully loaded fly vest could weigh 20 pounds or more. He was tougher than I am. Mine comes in at 12 to 14 pounds, depending mostly on what’s for lunch, and it’s literally an entire fishing expedition ready to grab-and-go. The contents are lessons learned the hard way, by trial and error over the 45 years since I first bought a vest. (There’s generally a side for dry flies and a side for wet flies, which makes it easy to reach the right way.) Then there’s the cost, which I’d hate to add up. Above all, an angler’s vest is intensely personal. I feel about mine as Carl Perkins did about his blue suede shoes: “You can burn my house, steal my car,” but keep your cotton-pickers off of my vest!
Pack List: Loaded for Trout
John Merwin has spent 45 years learning what to carry in his flyfishing vest. Here are some of his secrets.