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.

What to pack for a Saltwater Fly Fishing Trip

It’s the time of the year where most of us around the shop are preparing for our Salt Water destination trips. Every year we do a variety of trips to warm places, from all inclusive guided trips to sleeping in a cabana on a beach with no fresh water. Besides the fish, the tropical weather, and the great people of the various countries we go to one of my favorite things about going salt water fly fishing is the simplicity of packing.  When I go up to Alaska or even Idaho I have bags of gear, waders, boots, tents, and who knows what else but you never know what your going encounter and must always be ready for it. With a Saltwater trip to Mexico, Bahamas, Venezuela, Belize, or any number of other destinations you really only need 11 items. Here is my list of 11 items we all take on any saltwater destination trip we do. If you have these items you’ll be set wherever you are.

1.     8 weight fly rod, there are a number of other rods you may want to have but it’s the perfect weight for a bone fishing fly rod.

2.     Saltwater fly reel that will hold an 8 weight line and 150+ yards of backing.

3.     Saltwater fly line, occasionally if you going to a destination where there is lots of coral a backup line is good to have just in case.

4.     Flies, a variety of shrimp and crabs.

5.     Boat Bag, we typically use the Patagonia Great Divider. It’s the perfect size; it’ll fit into an overhead carry on compartment, and keep all your gear dry.

6.     Flats booties, if your doing a guided trip a set up the Simms Zip it booties is perfect. If you’re going out walking on your own all day I would suggest a boot with a little more protection and support such as the Patagonia Marlwakers.

7.     Sun shirts, I like the Patagonia Sun Shade. If you prefer a collared shirt the Patagonia Island Hopper is a great piece.

8.     Quick dry pants, the Tropical Flats pants are the best you’ll find.

9.     Saltwater tippet, we like to use the RIO Alloy Hard tippet. The cool part is the bigger sizes work great for building trout leaders, plus it works for steelhead fishing.

10. Good pair of sunglasses, if you have lighter eye’s a darker lens, but we still love our copper lenses.

11. You never know what you may catch, and some of these salty critters have teeth so a good pair of long handled pliers. Rising has some and if you want the best you can find the Hatch Tempest Pliers.

There are little odds and ends that you will want to take, but if you have these 11 things you’ll be set for your trip. One of the other big questions we get asked a lot is how we travel with our fly rods. Some of us have travel tubes such as the Fishpond Overland Tube, but I prefer to just carry all my rods on in their socks duct taped together. I’ll tuck them next to the window or stow them in the very back of the overhead bin.

When traveling to most of your destinations you can carry all your rods, reels, flies, tippets, leaders, and everything else on except pliers. I recommend carrying on anything you can, including your flats boots. With so many of these remote destinations your gear doesn’t quite make it on time and you may be ¾ the way through your week without your luggage. Some of you may be luckier than others, but if I’m paying for a week of all inclusive fishing in the tropics I don’t want to be without my essentials. When I travel home I throw everything in my check bag except my luggage.

I hope you find this helpful, if you have any questions or are thinking of getting into the Saltwater game drop us a line we’d love to help you out.

Patagonia Rock Grip with Aluminum bars review

Patagonia Rock Grips with Aluminum Bars

Leave it to Patagoniato come up with a unique wading boot that offers incredible traction when fly-fishing on your favorite steelhead river or trout stream; the new Rock Grip Wading Boot w/Aluminum Bars.  These boots out perform studded wading boots by attaching a series of solid aluminum bars to the boots rubber sole.  It’s the best boot I and my customers, at least for those who have tried them, have used when it comes to traction.

To read the full review click here…

How we layer up for winter fly fishing in Utah

How we layer up for winter fly fishing in Utah

Base Layers; the Key to Winter Fly Fishing Comfort
Winter fly-fishing needs a little different mind set to enjoy what this time of year offers those who fish during these colder months. Getting the most out of your days on the water during the coldest part of trout season has a lot to do with being comfortable. If you aren’t prepared to deal with the elements this time of year, not only will your winter day be short, but you’ll miss out on some excellent fly-fishing opportunities that winters prolific midge hatches produce.
Here in Utah winter midge hatches produce consistent fly-fishing opportunities. Fortunately, generally speaking, these winter hatches occur during the most pleasant part of the day. That may be relative for January and February and pleasant might stretch the definition of some aspects of the word, however in reading Webster’s pleasant relates to comfort and that is one of the keys to enjoying winter fishing.
Although Utah may be known for the “Greatest Snow on Earth”, our winter fly-fishing doesn’t lag much behind. Similar to those who spend a day on the slopes it can only be truly enjoyed if one dresses appropriately for the elements. In either sport it starts with a good base layer. Of all the layers we use to fly-fish in, our staff gets the most use out of base layers like Patagonia’s Capilene 1 Silkweight. These light layering pieces come in tops and bottoms and can be worn just about any time of the year, however as your base layer during the winter it not only adds that first layer of insulation, but it also helps transfer moisture from your body to other heavier layers of insulation extremely fast. This is one of the keys to staying warm during a winter’s day on the water.
The colder the day the more layers you should consider. One of the keys is minimizing the bulk associated with layering, that is why thin multiple layers allows you to regulate and adjust to winter fly-fishing conditions as they change. After starting with Patagonia Capilene 1 Silkweight Crew and matching Capilene 1 Silkweight Bottoms there are a number of good options for a second or an additional layering piece of insulation depending on the temperature range you will be dealing with. The key is managing moisture whether it’s summer or winter conditions.
Another staff pick for base layers in tops and bottoms is Patagonia’s Capilene 3. In tops we prefer either the Capilene 3 Zip Neck or the Wool 3 Zip Necks.  On those trips where a shower isn’t part of the equation, wool layering pieces are not only comfortable, but you won’t smell like you’ve slept in them for an entire week; trust us we have. That is what sets Wool apart from Capilene. They both are excellent layering materials that wick well, but wool doesn’t smell after repeated use without washing as do the synthetic materials.  Patagonia’s midweight layering pieces in combination with a base layer of Silkweight on those cold days is an excellent foundation for helping you to stay comfortable even in the worst of weather.
Another very popular layering piece is Patagonia Regulator tops and bottoms. The bottoms incredibly warm for their weight and wick incredibly well. In tops, they offer several styles that we wear when fishing, but also around the shop and around town when the thermometer starts to drop. Patagonia’s Regulator R1Pullover or the Patagonia R1 Jacket is the warmest layering piece for their weight that we have found. If there were just two layering pieces of insulation that we couldn’t live without and that get used the most, it would be theSilkweight 1 Capilene Crewand R1 Jacketor R1 Pullover. Both pieces either in combination or by themselves are incredibly versatile and will add to your comfort when fly-fishing year round. We also find ourselves layering with these while hunting or any other outdoor activity.
Finally, an area that doesn’t get much thought, yet has us leaving the water in winter when midge hatches are beginning to peak is your feet. Depending on how much room you have in your wading boots we prefer either a Patagonia Midweight Merino or Expedition Weight Sock. 

Some of our favorite fly-fishing occurs in the winter. We can enjoy winter midge hatches fly-fishing this time of year because we understand how to layer and what to layer with. We feel that for the money, Patagonia makes the best insulating fabrics available to us today. If there was something better, we’d be wearing it.