Packing for Backcountry Fly Fishing, Part III - Other Fishing Gear
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
After figuring out the rest of your backcountry packing list (waders, boots, fly rods, etc.) there are a few other items to take into consideration. Some items I will always carry with me into the backcountry because, weight-wise, they are pretty light and have so much usefulness, others are a toss up.
Items Always in My Pack
It goes without saying, you need to pack flies in order to go backcountry fly fishing. But which ones are the go-to's, the all-arounders, the old reliables? So here is a quick hit of the fly patterns and general sizes that I will have in my backcountry fly box, for any season, on any type of water:
Parachute Adams, sizes 16-20. Used to generally match most small mayflies.
X-Caddis, sizes 12-16. Used to generally match most caddis and some terrestrial bugs.
Chubby Chernobyl (variety of colors), sizes 10-14. Used to simulate large terrestrial bugs.
Foam Beetle (brown or black), sizes 10-16. Used to simulate large terrestrial bugs and ants.
Wet Flies (like ones described in this guide to wet fly fishing), sizes 14-18. Used to fish as emergers and to swing downstream.
Zebra Midge (in black and pink), sizes 14-20. Used for nymphing.
Egan's Frenchie (fly pattern here), sizes 12-18. Just a great simple nymph pattern.
Brahma Buggers or Wooly Buggers (in a variety of colors, weighted and un-weighted), sizes 10-14. For some streamer options
Those fly patterns are my big hitters and can do the job most of the time. Trout in the backcountry are not as picky as front country and heavily pressured trout. However, I will always do my homework and check with local fly shops on any bug activity that is going on and will consider brining those fly patterns as well.
A fly box that I have really enjoyed using is one that has compartments for flies on one side and foam slots on the other (like a C&F Design box). I can stuff the compartments with most of my dry and wet flies and then have the foam slots reserved for nymphs, streamers, and larger dry flies. One box, that is all I really try to take with me into the backcountry, and this box has been my favorite so far.
Polarized sunglasses are essential for whatever fly fishing I am doing. I love my polarized sunglasses and the ability they give me to peer through the water's surface and spot trout. I will only bring one pair though and the lens color is amber since it is a perfect all-around color.
For fly reels, I really like click and pawl reels, especially the Colorado LT Reel by Ross Reels. This thing is bare bones and I have bashed it into so many rocks and logs without fretting about it breaking down. But really, most click and pawl reels out there will be robust and will not let you down while you are miles into a remote stretch of river. The thing with click and pawl reels is that the drag is typically set at one setting so playing larger trout (if you hook into them) just requires a little experience with palming the reel, but it becomes so much fun!
Time for some rapid fire: Nippers, I bring them, they are so light weight and useful while on the stream. Gink and desiccant is in my pack, they help to keep my dry flies floating which makes the fishing experience more enjoyable. Leaders and tippet, or maybe just the tippet. If I have a new leader on my line then I will most likely just bring a spool or two of tippet (of two different sizes). Example, if my leader is down to 5x then I will bring 4 and 5x tippet.
Other Items to Think About
These items may or may not be in my backcountry pack, but each has a useful purpose so they are worth thinking about. Having hemostats can be nice, especially if you struggle a little with removing flies from a trout's mouth (I did and still do sometimes). Quick pause...pinch the barbs down on your flies. It will not only help out to remove the fly faster from a trout it could also help you out. Nothing sucks more than getting a fly logged into your neck, not being able to remove it because of the barb, and being miles from the trailhead.
A net can also be good to have, especially if you want some fish photos. If I want a photo of a fish then I will keep it in the net, with the net in the water, pull my camera out, and then grab a photo. Less stress on the fish and gives you time to watch it swim around and recuperate.
Last thing is a thermometer. I occasionally carry this with me just because it can be interesting to watch temperatures rise and fall on smaller, more remote, streams. Also, when the temperatures bump up into the 70's then I put the fly rod down and go do some hiking, exploring, and photography. Trout get really stressed in those higher water temps so it is a good idea to give them a break.