Fly Fishing List

The Ultimate Fly Fishing Gear List

Over 80 fly fishing gear list items to check-off before you head out to the river.

Ughhh!  I forgot my line nippers!  Have you ever been standing in the middle of a river and realized you forgot something?  Or you’re 2 hours from home and remember you forgot the oars to the drift boat?  Great stories can come out of forgetting something, but I want my stories to be about fish.

Half way down this post I’ve attached what I’m calling the ULTIMATE FLY FISHING GEAR LIST.  It can be conveniently downloaded as a .PDF and printed off.

I’ve broken the checklist down into three sections “Essential Fly Fishing Gear List”, “General Fly Fishing Gear Checklist” and “Optional”.  In the Essential Fly Fishing Checklist, I’ve included some reasoning for packing it.  Some items will seem obvious, but maybe I can give you some tidbits to think about when filling your fly fishing vest backpack.

Essential Fly Fishing Gear List

  • Fishing license or permits.  You should also check to see if the regulations have changed where you’re intending to fish.  I know one of the rivers I fish has 6 different sets of rules as the river empties into Lake Huron.  Luckily  in the age of the interweb you can quickly look up changes.
  • Rod, Reel and appropriate line for your targeted fish.  If I’m exploring “mystery water” that I’ve never fished, II grab my trusty 9’, 5 weight rod with floating weight forward line.  I think of this fly rod as my Michigan 80% rod.  It can handle 80% of anything I might find in my home state.  A little light for steelhead and to stout for bluegills but most fish in between are fair game.
  • Waders, belt, boots and a wading jacket.  I carry a light weight packable wading jacket every time I go out.  Fishing always seems to be better when the weather is a little bit nasty.
  • Wading Staff, this is essential if you wade fast water or rivers with cobble bottoms.  Nothing ruins a day faster than being wet.

wading staff

  • Flies, this could be a long list, but I’m going to make a short statement.  If you usually fish dry flies only, I’d recommend mixing in some old stand-by streamers and nymphs.  It has saved the day for me a couple times.
  • Leaders,  A couple of each in sizes 2X to 7X. They are small and light so extras are easy to pack.  Remember to check them over nicks and knots.
  • Tippet, A 25 yd spools in sizes 2x through 7x.   Some days it seems like you just eat tippet up.  If chasing Salmon add some 1x.
  • Clippers and a nail knot tool.  I use a combo tool with both on it, which I’ve forgotten before.  If your smart you’ll have a couple of these, your dentist will appreciate it.nail knot clipper
  • A smile and good attitude – I’m mixing this in to see if your reading.  Fishing and even reading about fishing is suppose to be fun.  Enjoy
  • Fly floatant, is essential for dry fly fishing.  Apply it to your flies and let it dry before your outing and they will be read to go straight out of your fly box.
  • Stream Thermometer, understanding water temperature and changes in temperature can mean the difference between catching or not.  2 or 3 degrees can make the difference!

water thermometer

  • Line cleaner and dressing, your line will last longer, float higher and cast farther.
  • Split shot, beads, swivels and indicators.  I’ve even started bringing a 4 foot section of T11 sinking line.  That little section has allowed me to switch over to streamer fishing in a pinch.
  • I like a using a combination fly fishing vest backpack.  I’ve tried just a vest or bag in the past, but always come back to the combo.  I can carry all the essential gear with ease.

fly fishing vest backpack

  • Polarized Sun Glasses, vital to see fish and protects your eyes from flying hooks.  If you wear glasses, Cocoons are a a great alternative.
  • Hat – protection from the sun and flying hooks.  Look for a hat with a dark underside it helps cut down on glare.
  • A hook hone or a diamond hook sharpener.  “Sharp Hooks Catch Fish” should be a slogan.  A hone is cheap insurance,  keep it handy and touch up your hooks often.sharpening hook
  • Sun Screen – To much sun can be dangerous, protect yourself.  Wash your hands well after applying sun screen so you don’t contaminate your flies.
  • Insect Repellent – In Michigan, black flies and mosquitoes can drive you off the water.  Carry a small bottle and apply to exposed skin.
  • Small first aid kit with tape and ointment, this is always a good idea.  An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
  • Multi-tool aka Leatherman ™ useful for reel repairs.  Tightening screws, bending hooks, cutting… get the idea.
  • A safety pin or two, a quick fix for zippers, ripped clothes and cleaning hook eyes.
  • Ziplock Bags – To fish, you need to be by the water.  Eventually you will fall in, a waterproof bag will keep your wallet, phone and camera dry.
  • Water and a snack, a little food and water will extend an outing.  Stay hydrated and keep your strength up with an energy bar.


General Fly Fishing Gear Checklist

  • Net
  • Back up rod, reel and line
  • Hatch chart
  • Fly desiccant
  • Assortment of strike indicators


  • Knot guide
  • Stripping basket
  • Camera
  • Lip balm
  • Forceps
  • Wader repair kit
  • Fishing buff – Keeps the sun and wind off your face
  • Sun gloves
  • Leader straightener
  • Alternate fly lines, sinking, intermediate

DOWNLOAD Get a fly fishing checklist  Fly Fishing Gear List

Fly Fishing Gear List


Optional or to consider taking

  • Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Bandanna
  • Small roll of tape
  • Paper and pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Day pack
  • Bug tube
  • Reel oil
  • Layers of clothing, fleece, stocking/ski hat that covers your ears,  extra socks
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • TP or disposable wipes
  • Parachute cord
  • Hip waders
  • Neoprene gloves
  • Finger less gloves
  • Medicines
  • Assortment of float indicators
  • Knife
  • Trash bag
  • Two way radios
  • Pliers
  • Towel
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Chemical hand and foot warmers
  • Cooler
  • GPS
  • Benadryl for insect bites
  • Pain Killer, Tylenol, Aspirin
  • Sandals
  • Binoculars
  • Maps
  • Spare keys
  • Candles
  • Space blanket
  • Water proofing spray
  • Whistle
  • Scissors
  • Headlamp
  • Extra SD card, have the guide take pictures on your card.
  • 5-minute epoxy or super glue
  • Tip top and guides
  • Needle, thread and bobbin
  • Swim bag – extra clothes in a waterproof bag.
  • Life jacket or inflatable life jacket
  • Float tube, fins
  • Drift boat and all the goodies that go with it including the oars!
  • Spare glasses and repair kit
  • Extra batteries

Send me a note if you see something I should add to this list.  Here is my CONTACT info.