I have noticed that many fly guys are fully decked out when fly fishing. In some drift boats, there is only room for 2 anglers since the 3rd area is full of gear bags. When the fishermen are on the water, they are carrying a backpack that is fully packed.
Why do you need a backpack for so much gear when fly fishing? Maybe the school days have conditioned them to haul so much gear like when they carried so many books. Perhaps hauling a backpack is part of their CrossFit training plan.
Less is more when fishing. Flies are not heavy. Even split shots are relatively small and light. Navigating slick rocks, trails and currents is harder when you are wearing more gear.
It seems like the dedicated gear guy fly fishermen of today invest in a lot of great gear and they use it. I can remember fly fishing as a kid when I had a few flies in a Sucrets can. Maybe a spinner hooked on my hat, and an apple in my pocket. If I had some bait, it was in a can. My stringer was a vine or a length of cord. I may be a little jealous.
A fishing vest is a perfect gear alternative. There are plenty of pockets of all sizes to handle most gear needs. There is a neck hook to attach to the net. Weight from gear is evenly distributed over the shoulders. A small raincoat will fit in the large back pocket.
Generally, a fly fisherman uses maybe 6 different flies a day. There are the accessory needs of flotant, nippers, forceps, desiccant powder, leader, split shots, magnifiers, license, and other preferred gear. All this together will fit easily into a vest. You don’t need a pack to haul the basics.
I once asked a backpacked angler what was in his pack. He gave me a grand tour. If there was an emergency, he had a first aid kit, survival sleeping bag, snacks, a gallon of water, candy bars and beef jerky, a change of clothes, bug spray, towel, extra socks, a second camera, a spare hat, toilet paper/ handy wipes, rope, fire starting gear, knife, pruners, extra sunglasses, tool kit, and more. His pack easily weighed 50 pounds. We were less than 100yards from my truck.
Most fly fishermen also carry way more fly boxes than they need. Since weather, hatches, and conditions change, they want to be prepared. On any normal day, I have fly boxes with hundreds of various flies in them. The best and most confident patterns are in abundance. The truth is that I should be experienced enough to take one fly box with a dozen or so flies that I may need, not a thousand.
If the weather gets crappy, or it starts to rain, I look for cover or the truck. I will not be fishing in raingear. If it gets dark or I get hurt, too windy, snowy, I will be in my truck. If you are always hungry and thirsty, a pack would be useful.
At some point I may fall or have an accident along the river. I hope Mr. Backpack comes along to rescue me. Maybe he will have a cold beer and a sandwich in his bag of tricks.
Times have certainly changed. Today’s gear is better than ever. Gear guys must love it. More fish are also getting caught than ever. If they keep a big one, I hope there’s room in their pack.
Fish hard, fish harder!