Fly Fishing Gear
Fly Fishing Vests Buyers Guide

Fly Fishing Vests - Buyers Guide

A fly fishing vest is a rather boring, yet undoubtedly crucial, piece of equipment that many anglers - particularly beginners - tend to overlook. Instead, beginners will load up on the fancy fly rod, titanium case and high-class sunglasses, forgetting about this piece of clothing.

Generally, what happens all to often, in an attempt to save money, new anglers to fly fishing frequently find the cheapest fly fishing vest they can find. Unfortunately, usually soon after purchasing these vests, the angler discovers why they were so cheap! Generally, these fishing vests break down quickly, unravel by the threads, are not terribly comfortable and have a pocket system on them that was designed by someone who doesn't even know what a fly rod is.

So, to help anglers, I've put together a buyers guide about fly fishing vests. True, purchasing a vest that doesn't work too well won't ruin your fly fishing trip to Montana or elsewhere. However, having a miserable excuse of a fishing vest will make your life on the river unorganized, cluttered and uncomfortable - things that all take away from the enjoyment of fly fishing.

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Let's start with what a fly fishing vest actually does. Basically, a fly fishing vest is what holds all of your streamside fly fishing things. Those things the fly fishing vest holds range from clippers, flies, leaders, tippets, various tools, line cleaners, fly floatants, weights and frequently a bewildering array of other little things.

Pockets, Pockets and More Pockets....

Since a fly fishing vest is nothing more than a piece of clothing designed to hold all the little stuff inherent in the sport of fly fishing, it's not particularly surprising that a good fly fishing vest should have quite a few pockets to hold it all.

Now, that said, while you should have a good supply of pockets on any vest you get, there is such a thing as having too many of them. After all, having a vest with 50 pockets will do you little good since you will be unlikely to find the stuff you need as your things will soon be lost among the jumble of pockets. The result is that instead of spending time casting towards a rising trout after quickly attaching an accessible fly, you'll end up on a fruitless search through your own vest for the fly you know you have but can't for the world find.

Another drawback of having too many pockets on a fly fishing vest is that you will soon find stuff to put in them. What's bad about that, you ask? Well, as any backpacker can tell you, the more space you have in your pack, the more you bring - even if you don't need it. As such, a fly fishing vest that has a ton of pockets will quickly weigh a ton, creating fatigue and discomfort for the wearer - not to mention an organization nightmare.

Remember, you don't have to pack away the kitchen sink in your vest. There is nothing illegal about heading into the water with just the bare necessities, leaving the rest in your car or truck should the event arise that you need it. Having just the bare necessities in your fly fishing vest will keep you more organized as you can readily find everything you need and will also keep your vest light.

So, how many pockets should you get on a fly fishing vest? Well, while it's open to debate, I suggest somewhere between 20-30 pockets on a fly fishing vest, give or take a few. This number of pockets will be plenty - probably more than plenty - to hold everything you could possibly need without going overboard and creating hopeless disorganization in your vest.

Size of Pockets

The next thing that needs to be taken into account on the fly fishing vest is not only the number of pockets, but the size of them, too. Having a bunch of pockets on your vest will do little good if the pockets are too small to hold your fly boxes. Conversely, having a dazzling array of little pockets will create lots of fun when you attempt to try to find things and forget exactly where you put it.

Personally, I'm not a fan of fly fishing vests that have a ton of little pockets on them. I've found that 6-8 relatively small pockets is just enough to hold the little things you need while out on the stream, including things like your wallet and car keys. For the medium sized to larger pockets, I've found 4-6 of them is generally enough to hold all the flies, leaders and other things you're likely to need while out fishing - at least if you're car is within easy walking distance. Obviously, if you'll be miles away from your vehicle and will be facing uncertain fishing conditions, a more spacious fishing vest may have to be used.

Mesh Vest or Traditional Vest?

The next thing you need to decide is whether you want to get a mesh fly fishing vest or a standard fabric one. A mesh fishing vest is basically a stretch mesh with fabric sewed on where the pockets will go. The nice thing about mesh fly fishing vests is that, since they are mesh, on hot days the angler will stay a bit cooler. I've also found that mesh fly fishing vests tend to stretch a bit more with the movements of the angler - but that's just me. Really, in the end, whether to get a mesh fly fishing vest or just a standard fabric one (get a good fabric one, though) is more a personal preference than anything.

Comfort is Everything!

Finally, let's move onto the comfort of the fly fishing vest. If you plan on fishing all day, an uncomfortable fly fishing vest will start feeling like an ugly monkey draped all over your body after a couple of hours. As such, it is highly recommended that any fishing vest you get have some sort of system on it to reduce the weight on your neck and shoulders. Several new fishing vests help distributes the weight of the vest around your body, preventing uncomfortable stress points from developing.

Hopefully, this short article about what to look for when shopping around for a fly fishing vest will help new anglers get the right fishing vest the first time - thus avoiding the need to get another one a year later. Remember, a fly fishing vest is worn, and as such, comfort is very important. Additionally, fly fishing vests take quite a bit of abuse - once off the stream, they are frequently hung up wet and forgotten about, often for long periods of time. Thus, if you are looking for a fly fishing vest, spend the small extra money now for a good one. You will save money and aggravation in the long run.


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