There’s no shortage of fly fishing back packs on the market. Oddly, nearly half of them don’t feature rod tube fasteners—not an acceptable omission, in my opinion. Of the models that remain, many have way too many compartments, pockets and zippers. I counted an astonishing 32 compartments (includes pockets) in and on one bag. While I’m aware that a “sufficient” number of compartments is required to keep everything in its place, 32 is a bit of a stretch. I’m not anti-zipper—any significant length of fabric is best fastened with weather proof zips—but I am pro-Velcro, and there is no reason to outfit small to medium compartments with anything but. Need speed on the water? Velcro wins, hands down, every time.
That might sound picky, but consider how often and how quickly some items have to be accessed during the course of a regular fishing day and you begin to understand why many backpack models just don’t stack up to the ones that are thought out, revised, then tested and retested on the water. The following two models, despite being very different, are star performers.
Minimalists (in practice and at heart) have no further to search than Patagonia’s Hybrid Pack Vest ($119). The designers of this item truly hacked away at everything that was non-essential, and the end result is a vest weighing in at an astonishing 388 grams.
You’ll immediately note that the vest features straps instead of side-panels; meditate on that for a few moments. Two lightweight, elasticized and adjustable pulls make up the mandatory rod tube holder. A poly mesh fabric is employed throughout the piece and it won’t soak up any water in the event of a downpour. There are interior zippered pockets for small- to medium-sized items like tippet spools, sunscreen, car keys, etc. On the outside: 2-tiered fly box pockets (4 in total) with Velcro closures. The side straps keep the fit tailored to whatever layers you may be wearing.
The rear pocket is large enough to swallow a lunch and a shell. It can also double as a hydration bladder, which has dual exit ports, one at each shoulder. The exterior also sports a large, elasticized tie-down that can accommodate an extra layer.
There are multiple nylon loop connectors and D-rings to accommodate hemostats, thermometer, snips, net and whatever other gear that needs to be reachable in an instant. The pack is constructed with rugged Nylon double-ripstop.
This hybrid pack vest is one of the more innovative designs to be brought to market in several years. It can accommodate your essentials, and then some.
If you’re not a minimalist but still like to travel light, Fishpond’s Bitch Creek Backpack ($150) hits the mark. At just over 1,400 cubic inches, it’s the perfect size for a full day’s worth of on-the-water activity. The designers succeeded in creating one of the most comfortable packs I’ve worn in the last 5 or 6 years (in that time, I’ve tested close to 30 models). The pack features a 3D sculpted foam back with an integrated mesh to keep you cool. Extra-wide, molded foam shoulder straps for extended carrying comfort are complimented by a large, heavily padded carry handle for extracting from a trunk or flinging into an aircraft stowage compartment.
This is a highly functional, no-fuss pack that has one large internal compartment (waders/boots/layer/shell), one mid-sized internal compartment (fly boxes/lunch) plus 4 small pockets cleverly placed at strategic points (floatant, etc.), making everything quickly accessible. What makes this pack a standout is the double rod tube carrying system, comprised of concealed zip-pouches (one on each side, positioned near the rear of the pack); the entire system is secured with compression straps. The pouches allow you to carry the rod tubes fairly low, which reduce your center of gravity and eliminate the need to duck and swerve to avoid branches when hiking. Pouches can be reduced, via the zips, to convert to water-bottle mode. There’s also a clever exterior elasticized net pouch for quick-grabs. Added benefit: no more net snags while hiking.
Water resistant YKK zippers at strategic points and requisite loops and D-rings to attach tools and gadgets round out the package.
The pack can also be configured with other Fishpond items such as 2L hydration bladders or chest/lumbar packs.
Bonus: the Bitch Creek Backpack is built from recycled commercial fishing nets. The finished item is a mid-to-heavy gauge poly with an extra tight weave that is snag- and tear-resistant.
This particular Fishpond item sets a new standard in back pack functionality, and it is highly recommended.