It’s no secret that fly fly fishing is a gear-intensive sport. Just take a look at any angler’s gear room, and you’ll find stacks of fly boxes, multiple fly rods and reels, and piles of fly tying materials. And while all that gear may seem excessive (and some of it most certainly is), a majority of it is critical for success for the variety of fishing scenarios an angler will encounter throughout the season.
From flies, fly boxes, split-shot, floatant, tippet, leader, and spools, there’s a lot to carry—and try to keep organized—whether you’re going out for a quick few hours on your local river or venturing out for a week-long fly fishing trip. And what does appear to be a secret is that having a few (and often overlooked) fly fishing accessories will not only make your time on the water more efficient and enjoyable, but also help reduce the amount of gear you have rolling along the bottom of your pack. So without further ado, here’s our list of overlooked fly fishing accessories that every angler should seriously consider adding to their repertoire.
1. Bottle Holder
We’ve all either dropped our floatant or just left it in our shirt pocket or somewhere else completely random—gear ends up in weird places when you’re frantically dressing a dry fly after spotting a trophy trout sipping dries. The beauty of the bottle holder is it keeps your floatant and/or dry-shake within reach and secured to your vest or pack, so it’s always there and you don’t have to worry about it walking away or falling in the drink.
I personally didn’t use a bottle holder for years, but now that I have one, I really can’t imagine going back to my previous system of having two bottles of floatant (one of which was almost guaranteed empty) loosely rolling around in my pack. At Jans, we recommend the Loon Large Double Caddy since it carries dry-shake and floatant and has a secure clip, but the Fishpond Dry Shake Holder is also an excellent option and even adds an extra bit of flair to your vest or pack.
2. Microtrash Container
There’s really no way around the fact that fly fishing produces a lot of micro trash. Spent flies, split-shot, tag ends of tippet, and sun-damaged leader add up quickly when you’re out on the water all day. And we’ve all come across a rat’s nest of fishing line on the river bank. I’ve found the best way to make sure I pack out what I bring in, and to help do my part to clean up after other anglers, is by keeping the Fishpond Microtrash Container clipped to my shoulder sling.
Fishpond specifically engineered this container to make it easy to stuff used tippet and fishing line in it, and it even fits cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, indicators, and whatever other bits of microtrash you encounter out there. Best part of this accessory, though, is the fact that it keeps all of that garbage out of your gear pack and pockets, so you don’t have to sift through it all to get to the gear you actually need to use!
A secure, reliable retractor is a must-have for your nippers and landing net. It may seem like a no-brainer, but given the amount of landing nets, nippers, and hemostats I’ve found through the years, it appears a lot of anglers aren’t employing this often overlooked fly fishing accessory near as much as they should.
There’s no shortage of retractors available to anglers these days, and really something is better than nothing, but I personally recommend going with one that has a secure, carabiner-style clip to ensure it doesn’t work itself free when you’re bushwhacking or wading deep. The Umpqua Retractable Carabiner checks all the boxes of what a reliable retractor should be, but there are also excellent offerings from Angler’s Accessories.
4. Tippet Spool Holder
If you’re a more experienced angler, this may seem like an obvious accessory you wouldn’t leave home without, but many beginners resist this one, opting to keep a few loose spools of tippet in their waders or pack—or, at least that’s what I did for longer than I’d like to admit. Point is don’t be like me and get a tippet holder. It keeps your tippet organized, so you don’t have to try and figure out which size is which when the labels peel off, and it frees up valuable space in your pack. The Fishpond Headgate XL Tippet Holder is a solid choice if you tend to fish with a wide variety of tippets, but the majority of anglers will be able to get by with one that has less capacity like the Angler’s Accessories Rubber Tippet Holder.
A good fly fishing lanyard is the be-all, end-all fly fishing accessory. They’re great for those times you’re fishing small creeks and streams, and you don’t necessarily need a pack full of gear. They’re also great organizers capable of carrying tippet, floatant, nippers, hemostats, line cleaner, you name it. Of course, what a lanyard will carry will come down to what lanyard you buy, but if you’re looking for one that will carry it all, the Sweetwater Lanyard from Mountain River Lanyards is an excellent choice. If you tend to fish from a drift boat a lot, you’ll find adding a lanyard to your setup is a great way to help reduce clutter and keep those small essentials within reach.
These are just a few of the overlooked fly fishing accessories we recommend anglers adding to their gear stash. There are, of course, any number of additional accessories you might consider a must-have. I personally know a few anglers that would argue a good flask or koozie should be the number one accessory any angler should have on them at all times. The point is what accessories you choose—or choose not to—to bring will vary on the river conditions, species of fish you’re targeting, and time you plan to spend on the river. Be sure you have what you need to be successful, and remember to pack out whatever you pack in.