Basic Equipment

By Phil Magness.

I’ve heard fly fishing described as an “accessory sport”; a view that my wife would certainly agree with. Whether you follow that belief or not, there is some basic equipment that will make your life a lot easier. In no particular order, these include:

Nippers They look like nail clippers and are primarily used for trimming knots. Where possible get a good set and preferably one that is black in colour. Attaching nippers to your fly vest with an expandable zinger makes your life a lot easier.
Haemostat pliers These are pointy pliers that makes the removal of hooks from the fish a lot easier. They have the added benefit of being able to clip on to a pocket of your fly vest. As with nippers, connect these to your vest with an expandable zinger.
Gink A floatant that you’ll often refer to as “Gink”. Whilst Gink is a brand of floatant, it is probably the most common type around. It is essentially a liquid silicon that you apply to dry flies to keep them afloat. A couple of words of caution with floatant:(i) give it time to dry – a few minutes on a warm day and a few false casts should do it and (ii) Only use as much as you need. You don’t want to over-gink your fly as it will add too much weight and it won’t float as well.

You can buy a holder to put your gink in. I recommend buying one as you will use Gink a fair bit, especially if changing flies, and you’ll need it close at hand.

Sink The opposite of gink/floatant. This is particularly useful when fishing nymphs in fast and deep water and you need to get the nymph down to the bottom quickly. You apply Sink onto the tippet and leader and it sinks down a lot faster. You can buy a dual Gink/Sink holder that attaches to your fly vest. Just remember that the Sink is blue and the Gink is yellow. Don’t mix them up!
Desiccant This is in powder form and is especially useful after you’ve caught a fish and you want to remove traces of it from your dry fly. After giving your fly a good wash in the water, you pop it into the desiccant and give it a good shake. It freshens up in no time.
Fly Box Preferably a good quality one that is waterproof. If you are new to the sport, use a black pen and write details of the flies on the box so you know what to use and when (eg. hoppers, caddis, prospecting flies). This also helps you in knowing what flies you need to replace.
Zinger Use more than one. Used for attaching gink/sink, pliers and nippers to your fishing vest.
Fishing Vest A good vest or pack to hold all your “goodies”. Try to get one that provides some good lower back and shoulder support – you will be wearing it all day long! Ensure you get one with a loop at the back to allow you to affix a net keeper and a net.
Glasses You need two types:(1) A pair of clear glasses (safety glasses are fine) at times when it is too dark for sunglasses. I use mine in the early morning and late at night. These protect your eyes in the event that you, or someone else, flicks a fly into your eye. They are a must and I wouldn’t fish with anyone who doesn’t wear them. They are essential when fishing nymphs as you are often striking a lot more and the fly is leaving the water more often. (2) Good polarised lenses. They disperse the light off the water and allow you to see more clearly through the water (and hopefully see a fish or two). There are many different brands and lens types on the market so consult your fly fishing store for more details.
Fishing Shirt Preferable one that is neutral in colour and is quick drying. A light shirt will protect you from the sun and may help in preventing insects from biting. Some modern day fishing shirts have a pre-sprayed insect repellent. Most of them have a loop at the back to allow you to affix a net keeper and a net. This is less important if you have a fishing vest with a loop on it.
Hat Goes without saying – protect yourself from the sun, especially on water.
First Aid Kit At a minimum, you need to have two large pressure bandages in the event of snake bite.
Suntan Lotion A small roll-on bottle is always present in my fly vest. After applying it, ensure your hands have been well washed before touching your fly line/fly. Nothing washes your hands better than a little mud.
Insect Repellent A small roll-on bottle is always present in my fly vest. After applying it, ensure your hands have been well washed before touching your fly line/fly. Again, use a little mud.
Net and Net Keeper Landing fish in a net is a much safer way of handling them for release. It provides less stress for the fish by keeping them in the water for longer. This also applies to knot-less nets and those with smaller holes which are less harmful to the fish. A net keeper has a magnet that attaches your net to the back of your fly vest/shirt. I always attach mine so that the handle is at the lower part of my back. This makes it much easier to grab the handle and pull the net off the magnet. Make sure your net is also attached to your belt – if you drop it in your excitement, you want to get it back. Some nets come with built in weight gauges – perfect for measuring that trophy fish.
Wading Staff A wading staff is like a collapsible hiking pole. It fits into a scabbard and is affixed to your vest or wading belt. It does two things when extended:(1) Lets you assess the depth of water and (2)  Supports you when walking through the water – especially fast flowing water over slippery rocks. Anyone who has fished New Zealand will know the benefit of having a wading staff.

There is a third little known benefit – it can also help you get your flies out of trees!

Waders A wading belt is absolutely essential for keeping “most” of the water out of waders in the event that you fall in. Whilst most new waders will come with a belt, ensure you buy one if yours doesn’t. They are less than $20 and may save your life. Waders come in 3 basic types:(1) The rubber style with built in rubber boots. (2) Neoprene in booted or stocking feet. For stocking feet, you buy the boots separately. (3)  Gortex in stocking feet. You also buy the boots separately.

Gortex breathable waders are the best, however they are the most expensive as you need wading boots as well. This will set you back between $350 – $450 for a reasonable set up but will last longer and be more comfortable.

Our advice is please, do not buy until you go to a reputable store and get the latest advice and fitting. You will be wearing your boots all day in difficult conditions and this is definitely one item I would never buy online. Having ill-fitting boots will be one way to roll your ankle or give you blisters.

NOTE for someone just starting out the rubber style is OK provided you do NOT wade in waters that have slippery rock bottoms; you will have a very sore bottom and rest assured you will get wet.

If you buy boots to accompany waders with stocking feet, you may come across a few different varieties. Some have interchangeable soles (such as the Korkers); where you pick a sole based upon the terrain. Others have felt soles and studs that you screw in. The felt works very well on slippery rocks, however you cannot take them to New Zealand. So, if you are planning a trip to NZ, do not get felt soles.

Gloves I bought a pair of warm fingerless gloves some time ago and I will never look back. They are perfect on cold mornings in Tasmania and the High Country. They also prevent sunburn and protect you from all sorts of bitey insects.