Ahead of the Pack | Fly Pack Breakdown
Ahead of the "Pack" | A Breakdown...
As fly fishermen and women, we are particular about the packs we take to the water. Whether you're slaying the panfish in Little Sugar Creek or competing against grizzlies along the Kenai River, the right setup is essential for keeping your gear organized, protected and convenient. This is our breakdown on the many different styles of packs on the market today.
The Chest Pack
The exact origins of the chest pack style are hard to track down but we think it's an adaptation from tactical pistol holsters stitched together by soldiers during Vietnam. Access during a shootout can be the difference between life and death making the chest an optimal location for quick drawing. Luckily, trout don’t shoot back but the tactical advantages of this style have made the chest pack extremely popular for river warriors in the last decade.
My chest pack has seen almost every trout I’ve caught or missed over the past decade. Rods, reels, lines, and footwear have changed often but the chest pack has been difficult for me to get away from as its convenience keeps my fly on the water longer. Hung from the neck and strapped around the midsection, the range of motion for either arm is barely inhibited.
The only disadvantage of the chest pack is its capacity. This style is perfect for a couple of hours in the creek and keeping everything you need close to the heart on a float trip but you might have to leave your lunch, rain jacket, and water bottle in the truck. Don’t let this discourage you as everyone here on the TSG Team runs a chest pack system for our occasional adventures into the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Here, at The Sporting Gent, we offer a few different variations of chest packs. For those looking for the basics checkout the Fishpond San Juan. The angler that gets excited to fish no matter the weather or water level should look into the Fishpond Thunderhead. Certified gear guys will find the Fishpond Canyon Creek the most versatile as the back strap doubles as a net holder or can be removed to clip onto Fishpond’s backpacks.
The sling style pack is the most recent style that has inundated the flooded fly fishing gear world. The sling became a popular pack style in Europe in the 70’s but didn't catch on across the pond until recently. Several fly gear manufacturers recognized its advantages for fishermen and set out to create a crossbody crossover somewhere between a chest pack and a backpack.
The advantages include an increased capacity for a jacket, snacks, and water bottle as the pack can live on your back until you sling it around to the front side to rebuild the dry-dropper rig you just broke off in a rhododendron. The weight displacement and convenience of this style is very appealing for blueliners looking to get a couple of miles away from the nearest fisherman. I haven't had the opportunity to use a sling in the field so I asked Mike, our former Head Shopkeeper, about his experience. The baseball player turned fly aficionado didn’t like the pack hanging on one side as he found it inhibiting to cast with his high school shoulder injury. That being said, the additional capacity was enjoyed.
Here, at The Sporting Gent, we offer the Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Sling. This pack is completely waterproof for days when the bites are coming just as hard as the rain. The strap is fitted with several attachment points for nippers, tippet, or fly patches to be accessed without having to sling the pack to the front.
The Lumbar Pack
The lumbar or hip pack is the fisherMAN’s version of a fanny pack. Strapped around the waist, the weight is almost unnoticeable with the range of motion completely unhindered. This style has become increasingly popular with guides helping clients land their dreams on a daily basis. Similar to the sling, the hip pack will stay comfortably on the small of your back until rotated in front of the gut to switch flies or adjust leader length. My concern for the low riding hip pack is rooted in my tendency to put myself in highwater situations. Marc, Chief Shirt Folder and Owner of The Sporting Gent, assured me that Fishpond’s Thunderhead Submersible Lumbar Pack would not only keep all of my gear dry but also act as a flotation device after a clumsy step. With a capacity between a backpack and a sling, the lumbar is advantageous for anglers hiking the big rivers out west or wading through saltwater flats. Fishpond just released a new series in their Elk Horn Lumbar (PRODUCT NOT ON WEBSITE YET!) and it might be the upgrade I’ve been waiting for. The lightweight construction with two water bottle holders is perfect for any Appalachian adventure.
The vest will always remain KING in classic fly fishing imagery. Wearing more like a shirt than a pack, weight is distributed evenly on both shoulders. You might look like your grandfather out there but modern adaptations will make you feel like Brad Pitt if a river ran through it today as the capacity for gear and gadgets seems endless. Few pack styles offer easier accessibility to as much gear as the vest keeping all of your fly boxes organized, together, and in reach. Vest guys are an extremely loyal bunch and they might be onto something for those looking for simplicity in construction and tons of pocket options. Our newest Shopkeeper, Michael, is a vest guy from Texas who swears by its utilitarianism. Unfortunately we do not offer a true fly fishing vest but if you’re interested in this get-up you might want to check out Fishpond’s Ridgeline Tech Pack for a modern take on the classic style.
Just as the vest falls closer to the apparel side of the fly pack spectrum, the lanyard fills the opposite end closer. Lanyards are for the minimalist who only needs a few flies, nippers, floatant, and a little extra tippet for a fun afternoon. This style is perfect to throw in a backpack when the expedition is focused on the hiking rather than the fishing. During my boarding school years, I rocked the lanyard exclusively while targeting shellcracker and smallmouth on the river. This is the perfect gift for those looking to introduce a youngster to fly fishing.
The fly backpack that has capacity for days out in the wilderness or carrying the family picnic up the stream a little ways. A relatively new development on an ancient style, the backpack built for fly fishing is the companion you need to pack-in all your gear no matter the weather or terrain, designed with two goals in mind: maximum comfort and maximum capacity.
We really like Fishpond’s Ridgeline Backpack as the straps have compatible clips for the Canyon Creek chest pack creating the ultimate chest-backpack system for those who like to hike straight into the water and start fishing. Going a step farther, Fishpond introduced the Tech Pack variation of the Ridgeline which combines the advantages of both the backpack and the vest.
This is the gear pack I didn’t know I needed. Tired of wet waders in your car? Sick of getting your feet dirty when putting on or taking off your waders? Check out the Fishpond Burrito Bag. Built to not only be a bag but a changing surface you can step on without getting your socks muddy. Strip off those wet waders then roll them up into the bag, hence the name “Burrito”.In conclusion...
Whether you're deciding on your first fly fishing pack or doing research on a much needed upgrade like myself, keep in mind the water where you do most of your fishing. There isn’t a perfect fly pack out there that does it all but there is a style that is perfect for the waters you fish the most. Stop by the Brick & Mortar to test drive that pack style you’ve been eyeing.