How much gear is too much?

How much gear is too much?

What to bring and what to leave; circle hooks and more

  • By: Buzz Bryson
Although it      s tempting to pack your vest with every conceivable piece of gear  moderation is the key to an organized and li

Although it's tempting to pack your vest with every conceivable piece of gear, moderation is the key to an organized and light vest

"I carry too much stuff in my fishing vest. What items are essential to pack when fishing? I mean, am I really supposed to have something in every single pocket?"
Well, the bare essentials for fishing are a hook and a line, with a rod and reel being optional. I started out almost five decades ago with little more than that, along with a Prince Albert tobacco tin to hold some bait. In fact, when I began fly-fishing my setup wasn't much more complex-just a couple spools of tippet and a dozen flies. Since then, though, I've dabbled with the other extreme, too: carrying everything up to and including an extra reel, a small streamside tying kit, a bit of survival gear and a few other "necessities" in my vest. As with many aspects of life, I eventually learned that moderation is the best policy when it comes to choosing what to bring along.

I keep a duffle bag in my truck wherein I store all of my trout fishing gear. In it I keep two sets of waders and boots, several reels, rain gear, my vest, a couple of bottles of water and other odds and ends. I also bring along at least two rods. If I have a major disaster (torn waders, a broken rod or busted reel), all I have to do is walk back to the truck and change. Then, in or on my vest I carry:

But even with all of that, I have many pockets that remain empty. Ultimately, it is up to you to adapt your "stuff" to your fishing situations and needs.

"I've read about circle hooks being used for saltwater fishing and understand that they cause less damage to the fish when hooked. What is the advantage of circle hooks, and can they be used for fresh- and saltwater flies?"
The whole point with circle hooks is that, in theory, they reduce fish mortality by preventing the hook from traveling to potentially lethal (and hard to extract) locations such as the gills and gut. In contrast to traditional "J" hooks, you don't "strike" the fish with circle hooks. Instead, the angler waits as the fish takes the bait/fly/lure and turns to swim off. Then, as the fish moves away, the tightening line causes the circle hook to roll into the corner of the fish's mouth, where it gets hooked, and once hooked, it's almost impossible for the fish to throw the fly.

A fundamental question one has to ask is whether he has experienced any hook-mortality issues with flies tied on standard hooks. If not, then there is really no particular benefit to using circle hooks in place of standard hooks. Actively fished or tended flies (streamers or dry flies where anglers react immediately to a fish's take) rarely result in a deeply hooked fish.

Although any fly pattern can be tied on a circle hook, I don't think the final or definitive word has been written (or tied) on this.

"What is the deal with fleece? What is it exactly and why is it ubiquitous in fly-fishing?"
Before fleece came onto the scene, wool was the standard-issue wear for fly anglers. Although heavy and scratchy, wool would insulate even when wet (as opposed to cotton), which made it the fabric of choice for anglers for obvious reasons. Then, in 1979, Malden Mills introduced Polarfleece, which quickly became known as "fleece," and things have been downright comfy for anglers ever since.

So what is fleece exactly? Well, it's basically synthetic wool produced from a polyester resin known as PET. The resulting fabric has a structure that insulates just like wool, but unlike wool, fleece is lightweight, hydrophobic and compressible, which makes it perfect for activities where you stand a good chance of encountering water…

Fleece is a very open fabric structurally and wind will blow through it when worn alone. But combine it with a wind barrier, either within the fabric itself or in a shell garment, and it's hard to beat. And since fleece retains very little moisture, if you get rained on or dunked you can wring or shake out the material and still keep warm.

Fleece is so well established and well regarded that there's an almost endless number of variations in design, insulating potential, features and price. You'll find it made into underwear, socks, hats, gloves, jackets and pants.