Among the many bags and packs available for carrying fly fishing gear while on the water, the time-tested fly fishing vest remains one of the best all-around options. And in this article, we introduce you the three of the best fly fishing vests for the money available in 2017.
1. Redington FIRST RUN Fly Fishing Vest
In today’s fly shops, you’ll find a wide spread of modern interpretations of the fly fishing vest, most of which only vaguely resemble the classic vests worn by legends like Lee Wulff in previous eras.
But what if you want a vest that pays homage to vests of the past but is made of modern materials?
Enter the Redington First Run Fly Fishing Vest. (link to Amazon)
At around $35, the Redington First Run is one of the more affordable vests around, yet is made of quality material and built to the high standards for which Redington is known. The majority of the vest is made of mesh which keeps the vest lightweight and about as breathable as it gets perfect for warm-weather fishing. The material is a 65/35 blend of polyester and cotton that’s very fast drying and durable enough to stand up to run-ins with stream-side brush.
With eleven pockets total, the Redington First Run has plenty of space to keep all your gear organized, but doesn’t have so many pockets that you’ll lose track of where you put things. There are pockets large enough to stash decent sized fly boxes, pockets for extra leaders and other odds and ends, and D-rings to clip zingers for your nippers and hemostats. There’s also a large zippered pocket on the back of the vest that can be used to store a rain jacket, bottles of water, your lunch and anything else you need to carry.
While the Redington First Run is a far cry from the fanciest or most innovative fly fishing vest around, it provides all the features you need to stay organized on the water. Plus, its classic-yet-modern aesthetic adds a few points in the style department.
2. Allen Gallatin Ultralight Vest Pack
If you’re looking for something a little more modern and technical but don’t want to pay a huge price, we highly recommend the Allen Gallatin Ultralight Vest Pack. You can think of it as a hybrid design somewhere between a vest and a chest pack, leaning more towards a vest since it has straps that carry the weight evenly between your shoulders.
The lightweight, open-back design of the Gallatin makes it ideal for fishing in warm weather and the straps can be adjusted to fit over heavy outerwear when winter rolls around. And although it’s designed to be ultralight, it has a surprisingly large capacity with many different pockets for organization purposes.
On the exterior, two large zippered pockets can hold your largest fly boxes or other bulky items. Smaller secondary pockets provide a great place to store small to medium-sized fly boxes or essentials like strike indicators, water thermometers, or your GPS unit. Tabs on the bottom of the vest provide anchor points for your zingers and a D-ring on the back gives you an easy way to carry your landing net with the addition of a magnetic net holder. On the inside panel of the vest are long mesh pockets trimmed with elastic for easy storage of maps, your fishing license, or a few granola bars.
Costing approximately $30, you won’t find a more versatile fly fishing vest or pack for the money.
3. Umpqua Swiftwater ZS Tech Vest
Now, what if you have way more gear than will fit in a standard fly fishing vest? Or, what if you’re marching deep into the woods for a full day of fishing and need extra space to carry food, clothing, and everything else?
In that case, you’ll want to go for a vest with a much larger carrying capacity like the Umpqua Swiftwater Tech Vest.
A lot of thought went into the design of this innovative blend of vest and daypack. Developed to provide a better pack system for competitive anglers on the U.S. fly fishing team, the Swiftwater Tech Vest can be completely loaded down with gear without placing excessive strain on the shoulders or neck. This is made possible by a cushioned waist belt that transfers much of the weight to ride on the hips instead of the shoulders. The backpack-style shoulder pads also feature a thick layer of foam cushioning to add to the comfort of the pack.
The front portion of the Swiftwater Tech Vest is what qualifies this pack as a vest. The many pockets of the vest are laid out in a logical and intuitive manner, allowing for easy access to everything. Two large vertical zip compartments are big enough to hold two large fly boxes each. Two more slightly smaller zippered pockets can hold an additional medium fly box each ? let’s just say you won’t be wanting for space to store your flies.
The back of the Swiftwater Tech Vest is a full-sized 800 cubic inch daypack, which should be more than enough space for long days at the river. If you find that you need more space, you can swap out the included daypack for one of Umpqua’s larger backpacks such as the 2,000 cubic inch Surveyor, for a seamless integration.
Perhaps the most defining aspect of the Swiftwater ZS Tech Vest is its “Zero Sweep” technology which Umpqua developed with the assistance of U.S. Special Operations veterans. More of a philosophy than a specific feature, the goal of Zero Sweep is to eliminate any points on the vest that might snag the fly line while fishing. Since anyone who’s ever attempted to cast a fly rod knows that if the line can get caught on something, it most likely will, Zero Sweep is a real game changer.
Here are a few of the areas Zero Sweep is integrated into the Swiftwater Tech Vest:
- There are four zinger stations tucked under sheaths to keep the tools concealed
- There are two larger tool stations with sheaths so your line won’t catch on your hemostats or other larger tools
- The fly patches are specially designed to reduce line snags in addition to being sewed on with the seams tucked under hems
- All zippers are closed foot and feature not-to-grab zipper pulls
- All buckles have their edges hidden
While all this might seem a little overkill, it results in a very efficient and highly functional vest pack that you’ll likely forget you’re wearing.
Carry Everything You Need and Stay Organized with a Fly Fishing Vest
Unless you’re a disciplined minimalist, fly fishing gear tends to accumulate quickly and keeping it all organized can be a chore. But with a good fly fishing vest like the three mentioned here you have a convenient way to keep your on-the-water essentials in good order so you can focus more on fishing.
Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:
- How to Fly Fish for Bluegills – These amazing fish are all over the USA. I like to call them the “Gateway Drug to Fly Fishing”
- How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout – Find the cleanest, coldest, most beautiful streams and I’ll bet Brookes are present.
- How to Nymph Fish – Step by Step details for setting up, presenting and catching trout with nymphs.
- How to Fly Fish for Salmon – Image hooking into a +25 pound King Salmon in a river and your Fly Rod breaks! Seriously this happened to me on my first trip.
Umpqua Swiftwater ZS Tech Vest