Simplificate Part 2: The Big Cull of My Fly Fishing Gear

The first to go was the etymological paraphernalia. It was kinda fun to search out the little critters that trout feed on and learn about their appearance and life cycles. I once had the delight of watching nymphs hatching at home and a room full of mayfly duns. But I’m actually on the stream to fish, not conduct a scientific survey.

The second to go was the clerical junk: scales, measuring tape, fishing log, pencil and camera. I no longer care what a fish weighs or how long it or what its condition factor is. I no longer care to record detail observations or take photos while astream (I’d rather fish).  I do carry the mobile cell phone, so I have a camera if I am moved to take a photo.

I then followed the rule of the Boy’s Golden Book of Camping “When you get home from a camping trip, divide your gear into three piles. Into pile 1, put the things that you used every day. Into pile 2, the things that you only used occasionally. Into pile 3, the things that you didn’t use at all. Leave piles 2 and 3 at home.”


No forceps or pliers. This, for me was a Pile 3. I always mash the barbs down on my flies when I tie them. I almost always removed the hook from the fish with my fingers. Split shot, I hardly ever use .


“Lead’ (tungsten putty) or split shot. The putty is better than split shot. Very much a Pile 2, since mostly, I would use a bead-weighted fly to get to the bottom anyway. Although I’m now toying with idea of adapting the Paternoster rig for deep rocky bottom streams, using lead putty on the point.


Line floatant and sinkant. This was a bit of a toss-up. On lakes, these proved useful in really calm conditions to grease or degrease the leader. On streams they were never used. So I now carry them for lake fishing only.



Streamside fly tying kit. Pile 3. It was just a romantic notion caused by reading too much Skues.



 Spare reel/ spools with sinking and sink-tip lines. Only ever used on lakes or saltwater and then rarely used as a change-over. So I carry them in the car and decide whether to use a floating or one of the sinking lines on the day. Probably 90% of the time it is the floating line.


Hook sharpening tool. Pile 3! Make sure your hooks are sharp when tying the flies. If they get blunt during use, change the fly!



Strike indicators. Yes, I have used them. Yes, they are very useful when fishing nymphs. BUT, I’d rather have a two-for-one bet and  use a foam-based floating dry as an indicator.



Fly drying powder/patch of chamois/amadou  and fly floatant gunk, goo and glop. Pile 2.  Alternatives to these are treat your dry flies when you tie them with a waterproofing agent, false cast, dab the fly on your shirt or change the fly. Or if you must carry something, check this out  (Don’t worry if your Spanish isn’t up to it. Just watch it)

Leather leader  straightener. Used constantly until I discovered that just stretching the leader works about as good as anything else. That and not storing the leader on the reel in the first place.


Priest. Pile 2, because I mostly practise catch and release, and the finer art of the long distance premature release. If I want to kill a fish for the table, I use the back of the knife to administer the last rites.

Flashlight. I now have an LED on my key ring which works in an emergency.

Pipe smoking kit. I’ve quit.




Now, the BIGGIE—the fly boxes— from 9 down to 3 maximum (sometimes just 1!). I realised that, no matter how many flies I carried, I couldn’t cover all contingencies. I also realised that I would have to curb my enthusiasm for creating at the vice.  My boxes were full of weird and wonderful concoctions which I rarely ever used.  So I culled and culled. First of all, I decided on the flies I absolutely would not go fishing without. Then I figured out the “specialist” flies I really wanted to use in particular types of locations—small creeks, streams, lakes and estuaries—plus specialist flies for sea runners.

Next post: what fishing gear I now carry and how I carry it


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