There are around 387 ways to ruin a day of fly fishing and I seem to have tried them all. Losing “the big one” because I don’t have my net? Yup. Dehydrated and angry, wondering why my water bottle is in the car? That’s me. Trout rising and my dry fly box nowhere to be found? Sadly, sadly, yes. Dog rolling enthusiastically in dead squirrel? That’s a smell I’ll never forget. Knowing now that fishing seems to divert all brain cell function toward trout stalking and away from basic life functions, I always have a fishing day bag prepped and ready. A day bag helps me get out the door in the morning and sustain long days of fishing without forgetting (too many) necessities.
The Bag: The NRS Expedition DriDuffel is the ultimate throw-it-on-the-bank-and-forget-it catch all. The waterproof zipper makes for easy access, webbing with aluminum fasteners over the top let me secure my net and the adjustable strap lets me sling it around my body as I fight through the brush. Being totally waterproof, I can drop it on shore or tote it along as I cross in places that are a little bit deeper than expected. And of course, it’s turquoise, my go-to lucky trout color.
Net: I hate lugging around a net, so the prettier and more functional the more likely I am to carry it…and not lose it. When I catch a fish, handling it as quickly while adhering to #keepemwet is important and a net with plastic rather than rope is the perfect tool.
Fishing License: Only an asshole would fish without a license. All profits from fishing licenses go straight back to protecting and managing the waterways you love. Plus, as a guide, fishing without a license can lead to losing my guide license—for good. (Friendly reminder: You need a specific license for each state that you fish in.)
Flies (Support your local fly shops!) Stopping in your favorite fly shop in the morning is a great way to get up-to-date infos on flows, hatch and what’s been working. My fly selection changes day to day but I always make sure to have a san juan and a rubber legs, just in case it’s one of THOSE days.
Leaders: My leader always looks like Frankenstein after a bad night at the lab. But I carry extras as if I’m ever going to take the time to attach a new one when I could just knot on some new Tippett instead.
Splitshot: To weight subsurface nymph and streamer rigs, split shot is key. Although a bit peskier to work with, I chose lead-free to keep my rivers and the animals that depend on them heavy-metal free. Not that I ever tangle up and lose my flies. Ever.
Indicators (Thingamabobber): It’s NOT a bobber. It’s a highly tactical, fly fishing specific tool that looks nothing like a bob…okay, it might kind of be a bobber.
Mitten Clamp: Forceps and scissors all in one!
Gink: To help give a boost to those big, foamy synthetic hoppers and chubby chernobyls.
A Rain Jacket & Headlamp: I don’t trust Montana weather. Even on 90 degree days. Wading in trout water always lowers my body temp and if an afternoon storm rolls in, I don’t want to be that “woman who got hypothermic on an 80 degree day” in the local news. Plus, since I always have my rain jacket, I’m warm enough to keep my line in the water longer. And you know “just one more hour” always turns into five when the fishing is hot.
Tampons and Ibuprofen: You will either be your own hero or another fly fishing gal’s hero with these emergency items. I pack my supplies in a pencil pouch including ziploc baggies, hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Clean and contained!
Water Bottle: My Hydroflask would keep my water REALLY COLD but doesn’t actually have any water in it at the moment, which leads me to the #1 cardinal rule of packing for a day of fishing: DON’T GET SO EXCITED ABOUT FISHING YOU FORGET TO PACK BASIC LIFE SUSTAINING ITEMS LIKE WATER.
Dog Leash: Your dog is not as well behaved as you think he is, especially when he smells decomposing squirrel flesh. Don’t let it ruin your day.
Not Pictured But Always Included: Top Float Dry Shake, which I use for flies made with natural fibers like elk hair and hackle. Sunscreen—Sorry, Mom, I promise I put it on in the car. And snacks. Trail mix and other bird food is for multi-day backpacking sufferfests. For the ultimate 12 hours of fishing fuel, I’m all about buying a fancy deli sandwich in town, extra Dijon mustard. I supplement with sour gummy worms, an apple and a cold beer…or two. I also throw in a rawhide for the dog to help lure him away from aforementioned squirrel flesh. Just don’t leave all your snacks in the hot car instead of bringing them along…like I did.