Fly Fishing/Travel Bags and Luggage Tried and True: by Steve Schmidt

Having led fly-fishing trips, fresh and saltwater, around the world for a quarter of a century I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what essentials I’ll need and those random little items that can make the difference when traveling.  What to pack them in and getting them there is another issue.  As I prepare for an upcoming fly-fishing trip to Argentina it’s a perfect time to discuss the bags and luggage I’ve come to trust and depend upon to get my essentials securely to my destination and keep them protected once I get there.

So let’s go big for starters. It’s pretty rare on an extended trip that I don’t use one fairly good sized bag. With the complexity of travel these days and luggage restrictions the choice of what bag to take has gotten a little more complicated.  I have two big luggage pieces that I’ve come to depend upon over the years that I pack the bulk of my stuff in, the Patagonia Freewheeler Max and my old trusty Black Hole Bag.

Fly Fishing Gear Bags, Travel Luggage, Patagonia Bags, Simms Bags, Patagonia Freightliner Max, Patagonia Great Divider, Patagonia Black Hole BagIf I can stay within weight limits and a wheeled bag makes sense I use the Freewheeler Max. As I get older I find the convenience of a wheeled bag a nice option. Similar to the Black Hole Bag it’s a large but simple bag, not too many compartments and like all Patagonia bags, tough. Mine’s been through a lot, however sometimes a wheeled bag doesn’t cut it.  One consideration in comparing the weight of these two bags.  It’s about 10 lbs heavier.  That’s similar in weight to a set of waders and boots. Since this duffel doesn’t have wheels the back pack straps are very useful and come in handy when having to haul this particular luggage piece for long distances.  Another consideration that the Black Hole Bag has over the Freewheeler Max is the central divider that allows me to keep my wet stuff, or dirty cloths separate from the stuff I want to keep dry.   If I was to choose between these two pieces of luggage, Black Hole Bag would be my bag of choice; lighter, plenty large enough, wet/dry options and pretty darn waterproof.

The most versatile travel bag I own is also the smallest and lightest, the Patagonia Light Weight Travel Duffel. This bag is so convenient and compact I use it for many other things outside of fishing, cycling, going to the store, camping, day trips to the river, you name it. This super lightweight duffel will easily fit in an overhead, will second as a boat bag, and when not in use, won’t even be noticed tagging along in your luggage since it packs up so small and light.  My son just took the LWTD and hauled it for two month around Thailand and Laos.  It didn’t look quite the same upon his return, but one quick run in the wash and it was good as new.  My wife was happy about that!

I’m kind of getting carried away with Patagonia stuff here, but for good reason. I’ve used their luggage for years and have found no better substitute for traveling to the worlds fly-fishing waters. Their bags are sensible, durable and have stood the test of some very tough places.  Actually hadn’t really thought about who made the bags and luggage I use until I began writing this piece.  Although I have travel pieces from a number of other companies collecting dust in my basement or being occupied by my cats, it’s been a while since I’ve used them.

Gear bags are a challenge.  We’re all rather particular about this gear piece. For anyone who fly-fishes a good gear bag is an essential part of your stuff“Stuff”, can you tell I like this word! Fly-fishing gear bags you’ll find there are many to choose from.  Most I’ve used over the years with some level of dissatisfaction.  That is until I finally purchased the Patagonia Great Divider.  I state finally since the first time Patagonia came out with this bag I passed on it.  After they re-introduced the Great Divider a second time I didn’t hesitate picking one up.

Most fly-fishing gear bags aren’t waterproof and for my consideration have too many pockets.  You spend half your time trying to figure out what pocket you put your stuff in.  The Patagonia Great Divider is waterproof, has a few adjustable compartments, and is one tough bag.   After going through a number of gear bags I realized they were all lacking in some aspect of what I needed in a bag that I use to transport valuable fly reels, journal, precious flies, camera, lenses and other essential items, whether it’s for a day floating the Green River or a trip to South America.  This bag is a great carry on piece, but it’s even better out in the elements.  To validate how good this bag is, everyone at Western Rivers Flyfisher owns this gear bag, I’m not the only one.

Finally, the bag I use almost as much as the Great Divider, is yet another Patagonia bag, the MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-on).  From commuter business trips, to weekends in the Key’s, this unassuming piece of luggage is awesome.  I own three of them. Hidden backpack straps can easily be extracted for use when you need both your hands for other things: beer, quick slice of pizza, rods or something less enticing and heavier like your other bags.

I’m fortunate to travel a fair amount.  My arsenal of travel bags helps make my trips more enjoyable.  They allow me to have what I need when I’m getting to my destination, yet in a manner that is uncluttered and efficient.  Travel isn’t easy these days, it’s not going to get any easier either.  Although there are many great gear bags and luggage pieces on the market these day, I’ve yet to find bags and luggage for travel, especially for fly-fishing that will stand up to Patagonia’s stuff.


Sunshine Winter

If you haven’t been by the shop in the past few weeks, Asher Koles has joined our team. We are stoked to have him around, and we think you will too. His younger brother Eli will be out on the Green for us as well, this is a quick video these guys did over the winter.

Steve Schmidt of Western Rivers Flyfisher Sage “One” rod review

Fly rods are pretty amazing these days; they keep getting better.   Sage with their new  One Rod has raised the bar Steve’s recently tested his new  904 One Rod on Utah’s Green River.  Here are his thoughts on latest from Sage.

If you’re in the market for a new fly rod, you’ll definitely want to give this light, and accurate rod by Sage a try. You’ll find as others why this series of fly rods has been the most successful rod launch in the history of Sage and also at Western Rivers Flyfisher. If you haven’t cast one swing by the shop and see what the buzz is all about.

Used Product of the Week

Classic Hardy Fly Reels are not a common sight in our selection of used fly-fishing equipment.  This weeks Used Product of the Week is a Hardy Perfect 3 3/8.  At the shop we are all big fans of old Hardy Reels with most of us having one or several that we cherish and use.  Of those the Hardy Perfects are some of our more coveted possessions.

This Hardy Perfect is ideal for a 5 or 6 weight rod.  It does show some signs of use, but given it’s several decades old, that is no wonder, yet you’ll find it in perfect working conditions.  It is a new versions so it can be converted from right to left hand.    The agate is set up for a right hand wind, the traditional way to wind a classic reel.

One of the reasons old Hardy’s are still such sought after fly-fishing reels is they last and perform flawlessly for ever.  I have 3 from the late 50’s and although they are far more worn than this Hardy Perfect we are featuring here, they still keep on cranking.

Internally, the bearing are in perfect shape, so is the click and pawl system that makes that beautiful Hardy sound.  Nothing like the sound an old Hardy Reel makes when you got a hot fish on.  Not for everyone as we have found out, but for those who fish and enjoy Hardy’s, a screaming reel is music to ones ears.

Purchase this reel here.  It’s a great value, and if you are not totally satisfied, you can send it back after 10 days for a full refund.  $395.00.  You can purhase this reel on here, or call us at (801)521-6424. comes with it’s original reel case.

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Utah Fly-Fishing Reports

Fly-Fishing in Northern Utah has been quite good with the buoyed by the nice weather we continue to enjoy.  That’s coming to an end over the next 5-7dys as some moisture moves into the area. Midge hatchescontinue to create good dry fly, nymph and soft hackle fly-fishing opportunities.  We have also been enjoying some decent mayfly hatches.  Similar to the midges, springs Blue Wings have been early to arrive.  This upcoming weather pattern is more conducive to the mayflies than midges.  We’ll just have to see if it get things going on our waters closer to home and we see more consistent Blue Wing Olive hatches starting to appear.

To read more or fly-fishing on current fly-fishing conditions on Utah’s northern waters go here.

Upcoming Fly-fishing Classes

Fly-fishing classes have already started at Western Rivers Flyfisher with our first Winter Fly-fishing Class that took place in February.  Next up, is Early Season Fly-fishing Tactics.  This class will be held over the evening of March 15 and again the morning of March 17.  It will focus on hatches, patterns, techniques, reading water and the waters we fish in the early season.  For more information on this class go here. This class is $50.00/person.

Next up we have our annual Women’s Fly-Fishing School.  We are fortunate to have our good friend Molly Semenik: Montana Licensed Fly-fishing Guide, FFF Master Fly Casting Instructor, teach this class.  The class begins April 27 at Western Rivers Flyfisher.  This is an all day session that will cover, casting, equipment, entomology, knots, and other topics so that you can begin your fly-fishing journey. The second part of Molly’sFly-fishing School is April 28th and will take place on the the Middle Provo River.  There you’ll see practical fly-fishing applications put to use before you get the opportunity to put your new found skills to the test.  Molly’s class is limited to 8 student.  The cost is $195.00/person.   Go here for more details on the class.  If you’d like to sign up, call us at (801)521-6424 or stop into Western Rivers Flyfisher, 1071 E. 900 S., SLC.   Sorry guys, this is for women only!

Early Season Fly Fishing in Utah by Brandon Tillotson

Early Season Fly Fishing in Utah by Brandon Tillotson

Early season fly-Fishing in Utah on the Provo River, Weber River and other fly-fishing streams as they emerge from winters cold offers great dry fly, nymph and soft hackle fly-fishing opportunities.  Given the time of year to get the most out of the early season days you need to be prepared.

As Western Rivers Flyfisher’s head streams guide and staff member when I’m getting ready to do a fly-fishing guide trip or a day on the water to enjoy myself I need to prepare a little differently than during the heat of summer. Weather this time of year is tricky and the fly-fishing can be as well.  In order to make the most of my time and my clients time on the water I need to be prepared; dress appropriately and have the right equipment, from rods and reels to accessories to optimize time on the water.

Spring weather in Utah comes in many forms. It could be blue sky one minute, snowing or raining the next. First and foremost if I’m to enjoy the day, dressing properly has a lot to do with being comfortable, and getting the most out of what ever may come my way. To achieve that what I start with gets my first attention, and base layers are key.

First and foremost, I’ve tried all kinds of long underwear when fly-fishing when the weather is variable. Through trials and tribulations I’ve come to find the Patagonia Cap 3 is my preferred under wader wear. Check it out here. Over all for layering I’ve found Capilene by Patagonia to have the most affective and comfortable moisture management system. Staying warm and dry is what is critical to comfort. Early season spring mornings can still hover below freezing, with temperatures reaching the mid 50’s in the afternoons. Add some hiking around in the afternoon with a back full of gear and I can get rather hot. For these changing conditions I prefer Capilene 3 as my favorite layering piece.

As a fly-fishing guide my clothing is as important as my rods and reel. Over the top of my insulation I prefer a piece of outerwear that is super light, very packable, windproof and offers great warmth when you need it most. This is critical for those cold morning hours that can quickly transition into a balmy afternoon. As a guide having versatile outer layer to start those cold mornings out, yet one that has little bulk and can easily be packed out is an important consideration. My perfect piece, in fact the shop staff’s preferred jacket for outerwear is the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket.

Under my waders, for winter, spring and fall I wear Patagonia’s Shelled Insulator Pant because of their versatility. For starters they are a great cold weather pant even when you are not fishing; warm, fairly wind resistant and comfortable.  Under your waders, with the R1 inner liner, they have superior wicking capabilities, are warm and soft.  Another nice feature is the adjustable ankle cuffs. These prevent the pants from riding up your leg when you first put your waders on.  They look a little funny if you leave them that way while cruising your favorite watering hole after a long day on the river, but you’ll get over that. For fly-fishing, walking the dog, taking your kids to a soccer game on a cool spring morning, these pants are the bomb.

Often long underwear and socks for most that fly-fish are an after thought.  Can’t believe the number of anglers who still wear jeans under their $400.00 pair or breathable waders? Yet, similar to good under wader wear a good quality sock is as valuable and critical to me being comfortable as the other layers I wear when fly-fishing. My sock of choice is the Simms Heavyweight Wading Socks. They offer superior warmth and hold up to many hard fished days on the river, even when I don’t get a chance to wash them.

Finally, head and hand considerations. I never leave home in the early spring months with out gloves or a light weight beanie. I prefer to use a beanie with a wind stopper agent.  I don’t really care which one since none of them look that good, but they sure are warm on those cold windy days. I’m a little more particular about my gloves. First and foremost they need to keep me warm when they are wet like the Simms Wool Fingerless Gloves. With all the fancy gloves out there these have become my preferred glove for this time of year.  Wool fingerless gloves have been around for decades and still for my demanding needs are as good as they get.

Ah, waders.  It’s a love hate relationship. As a fly-fishing guide I’m not easy on waders. First my waders need to be dependable, especially as a fly-fishing guide, but for you they should be equally as important and critical to your fly-fishing experience. Personally two companies make good dependable waders these days: Patagonia and Simms. These companies are the driving force behind good fly-fishing waders today. With that said my choice is the Simms G4Z. They hold up better than any wader I’ve worn due to their 5 layer Gore construction. I’ve tested a lot of waders and this pair of Simms passes my discriminating test every time!

Fly-fishing the early season can result in some nasty days on the water. Spring storms come in a variety of forms; wet and cold, cold and snowy or just down right windy and cold.  Any of these conditions can make you downright miserable; winter, spring or fall here in Utah and the west. For those days when you are going to get weather a good wading jacket is a must have. I have tested many in this category and have to say that I prefer the Simms Guide Jacket; durable and comfortable with the water shedding abilities I’m looking for in a wading jacket for those days when the heavens really part.

Like waders, fishing wading boots are another perishable item.  Eventually they wear out and if you’re guiding and don’t have a good durable set of wading boots in the heat of the season you’ll be wishing you did. For me, the new Patagonia Rock Grip Aluminum Bar Boots are where it’s at as far as durability and the ultimate traction in a wading boot. Even without the bar system, Patagonia wading boots design makes them the most stable and best boot on the market. I have found this new Rock Grip wading boot takes posi-traction to a whole new level. After many years on the water and having worn many good wading boots this new innovative wading boot by Patagonia offers me that stability I need to help my clients be safe and enjoy their day. Check out the latest in new wading boots here.

Now let’s get into some of the fun stuff, fly rods.  I love a good fly rod and I’m fortunate to have a few in my quiver.  When fly-fishing in the spring you need to be ready for just about any situation on the river. There is an abundance of insect activity and variety of hatches.  One minute you may be casting tiny midge patterns, the next, early season caddis or stoneflies. Whether it’s fishing with dry flies, small streamers, nymphs or swinging soft hackles you need a fly rod that is versatile. There are a lot of tough choices these days, but my favorite go to rod for fly-fishing this time of year is theScott G2 885-4pc fly rod. It’s an 8’8” inch 5 weight that comes in 4 pieces that easily can do it all. If all you do is fly-fish from a boat or just fish nymphs you may want to consider the G2 905-4pc, but for those who mix it up, this rod is tough to beat; light, super smooth, powerful without being too stiff, and very good looking.  I find it a challenge not to want to fish this Scott Fly Rod all the time, I like it that much. Not a common length for most, but its length is just one of the reason it is so versatile.

Fly reels are another of my prized possession and I’m as picky about them as the fly rods they go on.  Like rods there are many good options when it comes to fly reels.  Most reels these days regardless of price will do a decent job, yet a fly reel for me needs to do more than that. I want a reel that will perform flawlessly regardless of the conditions, but fly-fishing in the cold presents some of the most challenging.  Regardless of the weather a fly reel must perform.  My time on the water is important, so is my client’s time. There’s nothing worse than hooking that trout of a lifetime only to have your fly reel go south on you. As a guide I see it happen more times than I care to.  I’m looking for a reel that can hold up to the elements and not fail in critical moments, especially when it cold out. Hands down Hatch Fly Reels are my first choice; machined to perfection, flawless performers, and they are beautiful. The simply make me want to go fish, and that’s exactly what any good piece of fly-fishing equipment should do for you.

There are a few fly-fishing accessory items that I can’t live without just about any time of the year.  My newest is the Abel Nipper. It was a gift from my boss, but had he not given me one I would have bucked up. These beautifully machined nippers are super sharp, cut effortlessly and have a great presence in your hand.  Most nippers I just chuck when they get dull, and by mid season that’s usually the case with most of the cheap nippers I’ve used. A great feature with the Abel Nipper is they have replaceable cutters. Although at half a C-note they are a rather expensive pair of nippers, they are worth it.

Another must item that is always with me is a Buff face mask.  From a practical standpoint they are a must.  Most importantly with skin cancer on the rise and my constant exposure to the sun they help protect me from the suns harmful UV rays.  It would be a rare day when I’m not on the water wearing a Buff.

The beauty of fly-fishing is it can be very personal; from the way you choose to fish, to the equipment you use to where you choose to cast your flies.  That’s what I like about it and I love sharing that with those I am fortunate to guide or meet in the shop. Although what I choose to use may not be for you, what I do know is the equipment, clothing and accessories I prefer has been put through the rigors and in most instances tested more than most will fish in a lifetime.

Remember the key to having success and fun during the spring fishing months is to layer and dress for weather. Be flexible in your fishing tactics and be willing to fish the conditions presented. This is a great time to fish Utah’s small streams.  I hope you find my suggestions helpful. If you have questions regarding some of my suggestion or other fly-fishing matters, or would like to book a day on the water with me, drop me a line at or better yet stop in, coffee is always on. Tight lines and happy fishing!