To pull off a good float trip, you need a few critical items—but there’s also gear that, though not essential, is handy to have around. This is my list of both—the essential items for float fishing trip, and the ancillary gear you can get by without but is nice to have. This roundup focuses on new products, so everything should be easy to track down in time for your next adventure.
Smithfly Big Shoals Raft
The number of quality boats available right now is staggering. My three favorites at the moment are very different, but they’re each super versatile. For skinny water, check out the Big Shoals Raft from Smithfly. It weighs 150 pounds and fits in the back of a car.
Outcast Boats Pac 1300
Outcast Boats makes a boat called the Pac 1300 that will take you anywhere, from the monster waves of the Grand Canyon to a backwater slough on your favorite summer river. All told, this boat is one of the most versatile inflatables ever made for fishing.
Oru Kayak Bay ST
Want a boat you can literally fold into a box and check on the airplane? Check out Oru Kayak’s Bay ST, which weighs just 26 pounds. They are tough as hell and, unlike inflatables, retain all the performance of a hard boat. Some buddies and I took one down the John Day this spring and nailed smallies for three days with both spinning and fly gear; the Bay ST was more than up for whatever we could throw at it.
Boulder Boat Works Pro Guide
Looking for the best drift boat on the planet? A Boulder Boat Works Pro Guide might be it. It rows unlike anything else I’ve been in, it is insanely light, and it eats rocks like a raft, almost. These gorgeous polymer fishing vessels aren’t cheap, but they are guaranteed for life and are a pleasure to fish from.
Rising Lunker Boat Net
You’ll never buy another net for your boat. Rising’s American-made aluminum boat net is 59 inches long, sports a hidden flask in the handle, has a super-fast bag replacement, and comes in a multitude of colors.
Scott Flex Rod
Scott’s Flex rod is a fast-action blank that’s not overly aggressive. It is made with incredible attention to detail and comes in 16 different models. It’s hand down one of my favorite rods to come out in the past year, especially for the price.
Cheeky Limitless Fly Reels
Cheeky’s newest addition to their lineup is a giant improvement on their previous offerings. Available in five sizes and in a ton of color options, it has an all-new integrated reelfoot, tons of line capacity, simple left/right swapping, and a massive arbor for easy line retrieval.
Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan Sink 3 / Sink 5 / Sink 7 Triple Density Fly Line
This is quite simply one of the best fly lines I’ve ever used for throwing streamers from a boat. I don’t know what kind of pixie dust the people at Scientific Angler sprinkled over this line, but it works. It feels like casting a floating line when, in fact, it is a fully tapered sinker.
Mountain River Lanyard Tippet Tool
The Mountain River Lanyard Tippet Tool is one of the best-looking and functioning tippet keepers to come out in recent years. It holds seven spools of tippet, and it’s made in the U.S.A., easy to use, durable, and great looking. Ask your local fly shop about ordering.
Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader
Want a pair of waders that packs down into an 8-inch-by-13-inch sack and weighs just 1 pound 10 ounces? Of course you do. Patagonia’s newest offering is composed of a three-layer, 3.5-ounce 100-percent-recycled nylon upper, and the lowers are a four-layer, 4.5-ounce 100-percent recycled polyester with seamless booties. The best part: These waders will leave more room in the boat for beer.
Ino Weather Pro
This handheld device detects temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and, most important, real-time lightning strikes up to 40 miles away. This could literally be a lifesaver on a fishing boat.
Leatherman Supertool 300
Along with a patch kit and spare oar, every boat should have a multi-tool onboard. After all, you never know when you might need to tighten your frame or pull a huge streamer out of a buddy’s arm. The Supertool 300 is a beast, with 19 different tools and a 25-year guarantee that make it hard to beat.
Wildlife Acoustics Song Sleuth App
Let’s face it: Floating on a boat isn’t always about just fishing. Just as often, it is about enjoying being outside and taking in the local flora and fauna. Wildlife Acoustics Song Sleuth app is an incredible piece of technology that lets you identify the most common 200 bird calls in the U.S., so you can actually know what you are looking at.
Gillman Oar Grips
I’ve been testing a prototype pair of these grips for the past couple weeks and all I can say is that I’m impressed. Purportedly, it is the world’s first ergonomic oar grip, and I have little doubt that it’s going to change rowing for many, many folks. Gilman’s design keeps the blade near the surface of the water, eliminates unwanted oar-spin, and prevents missed strokes. They’re launching a Kickstarter campaign in August, so don’t miss out.
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Loon Rigging Foams
This little contraption is both incredibly simple and incredibly genius. These little pieces of foam allow you to pre-rig or store multiple nymph rigs or dry dropper setups, for quick changes on the move. It is a must-have for any boat, as far as I’m concerned.
Snow Lizard SLXtreme Solar Waterproof Case
Do you do multi-day float trips? Like listening to music? What about using GPS or maps on your phone? SnowLizard has you covered on the battery front. The SLXtreme Solar Waterproof Case is first of its kind combining a waterproof housing with integrated solar panels that will power your phone without need for a recharge in any kind of environment.
Kammok Roo and Firebelly Trail Quilt
The Kammok Roo is a super light, super comfortable camping hammock. It’s tear resistant and packs down to nothing. Pair it with the Firebelly down trail quilt, and you’ve got a perfect backcountry float lounging-and-sleeping system for chilly evenings.
Sven Can See Anti-Fog Gel
Sick of your glasses fogging up on chilly mornings or while you power through a big set of waves? Simply spray this biodegradable liquid on your shades and wipe off. Then bingo—no more fog.
Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror Sunglasses
Everyone should have a backup pair of polarized shades on their boat, and Costa glasses with Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses are the way to go. Not only are these lenses perfect for fishing in low light (hence the name), they also make for great all-day use. The lenses come in eight frame styles, but the lenses are the selling point for me.
My Charge All Terrain+ Waterproof Portable Charger
Getting off the grid is great. But, for better or worse, in this day and age, I often need some connection to folks back in civilization. That’s where a waterproof USB charger comes in handy. I’ve been using the All Terrain+ for months and have never given it a second thought when around water or in boats. It’s nice knowing that if I were to get caught in a downpour or fall overboard, I’d still be able to juice up my phone and call home.
Longtime contributor Tim Romano is a photographer and the managing editor of Angling Trade magazine. See more of his work here.