When you traverse the globe in search of exotic fish species — and burn up all your PTO days to get there — gear should be the last worry on your mind.
Your gear needs to hold up to your adventure. Packing up for your first saltwater escapade chasing Belizean bonefish. Loading up the layers for Alaskan char fishing. Braving the gale-force winds of Tierra del Fuego for monster browns. Or simply heading to the state-next-door for a subtle change from your local fishing routine.
There’s something about new waters that makes anglers want to leave home and explore the unknown. I spend months out of every year on the road working at fly-fishing destinations around the world, and over the years have refined my gear list.
Rods, loaded reels, and terminal tackle are often the first items we pack. It’s easy to forget the less obvious yet ever-so-important items. Here are a few things that seem to always make it in the bag.
Fly Fishing Travel Gear
Bag: Patagonia Black Hole 120L, $169
This beast of a 120-liter (7,323-cubic-inch) duffel is lightweight at 3 pounds 11 ounces, enabling it to meet stringent baggage limits on in-country hops. The padded, removable shoulder straps make it more comfortable to lug as a backpack when needed.
Its water resistance means I don’t worry about afternoon showers, and bright colors ensure it’s easy to spot at airports. Available now for $169 in black and hex grey.
Budget alternative: Crafted of PVC, Cabela’s Boundary Waters Duffel Bag has sturdy, well-constructed handles and straps. The extra-large size accommodates 9,216 cubic inches, weighs 4 pounds 12 ounces, and costs $109.99.
Fishing Daypack: Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack, $319
The Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack summons the word “burly” to mind — and for good reason. Fully waterproof, welded construction and a submersible TIZIP zipper keep the water out while interior pockets ensure things stay organized.
Cushioned shoulder straps and a water-resistant foam back panel keep things comfortable on the go. It has a capacity of 1,770 cubic inches and is available for $319.99.
Budget alternative: Fishpond’s Summit Sling ($99.95) fits comfortably, stays out of the way, and holds everything you need for a light day on the water. Tool attachment points and a fly/cargo “bench” means every bit of the pack’s 549 cubic inches can be utilized.
Fly Box: Tacky Fishing’s Predator, $50
I’ve been using Tacky boxes for years now, and a few benefits continue to stand out clearly: (1) The design keeps the flies in place and allows me to spot them without opening the lid (important for windy or wet conditions), (2) the boxes are streamlined and pack easily, and (3) they’re durable!
The lids get scratched over time, but the integrity of the box remains. The new Predator ($50) accommodates larger streamers, saltwater flies, and bulky poppers.
Budget alternative: Orvis’ Ultralight Foam Box fits smaller flies, packs small, and floats if dropped in the water. It’s basic and easy for dry fly and nymph anglers on the go. The large size costs $18.95.
Rain Jacket: Arc’teryx Beta AR, $575
An old iteration of this jacket has traveled with me all over the world. The lightweight, packable Gore-Tex shell layers easily under waders or over insulation while taking up minimal space and weight in my bag. Its simple design and high performance mean I can keep a low profile when needed. It’s available in men’s and women’s in a variety of colors for $575.
Budget alternative: The Patagonia Torrentshell offers good coverage and lightweight packability thanks to its 2.5-layer waterproof-breathable N2No material. It’s easy to throw in your pack for afternoon showers, and the hood offers great face protection when teamed with a cap. It’s available in both men’s and women’s for $129.
Sunglasses: Revant F1L, $155
I recently got my hands on a pair of Revant F1L sunglasses and was, admittedly, skeptical at first. They felt too lightweight and too flimsy for an upcoming technical fishing shoot in Swedish Lapland. After hard use, however, I’m a believer.
The sunglasses adhere to my face yet don’t pinch or pull, and the wraparound design protects eyes from wayward flies. Choose a variety of lens options for $155.
Budget option: Suncloud, a subsidiary of Smith Optics, is known to produce quality sunglasses at a price that makes you feel okay (all right, less bad) if they go missing. The Pursuit model offers full eye protection in a comfortable frame for a budget-friendly price of $49.99 — and you can pick your lens color.
Sunscreen: Sun Bum SPF 50 Original Sunscreen, $9.99
Lately, the news has been filled with awareness for natural sunscreens that protect reefs and our fisheries. Sun Bum has been ahead of that particular curve from the beginning, ensuring its offerings are reef-safe while developing a cult following for product effectiveness and fun branding.
The SPF 50 Original gets the job done, smells good, and absorbs well. It’s a pleasant enough sunscreen experience that I even remember to re-apply throughout the day. Each 3-ounce bottle costs $9.99.
Budget option: Thinksport’s SPF 50 sunscreen also follows the reef-safe rules, is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and isn’t greasy once absorbed. Each 6-ounce tube costs $12.
Tools: Orvis Pliers, $249
Orvis has been making fly fishing gear since 1856, but the brand’s quality has seen a boost in recent years. Its Pliers ($249, in pewter or dragonfly) are one example of this increased tempo.
Ergonomic and crafted of machined aluminum, the pliers feature replaceable jaws and cutters for daily users. They’re a good, albeit very expensive, option for saltwater anglers.
Budget option: Loon Outdoors’ Rogue QuickDraw Forceps are one of my favorite new pieces of gear. Best for freshwater anglers, the forceps sport a carabiner to easily clip to straps of belt loops, are heftily made, and cost $24.95.
Jess McGlothlin sees her mission as a simple one: tell stories. As a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor industry, she works with national and international clients on both commercial and editorial projects. While on assignment over the past few years, she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, standup paddleboard down Peruvian Amazon tributaries, and barter her way through Middle Eastern customs.