Tom Rosenbauer’s Tip: 4 Things an Angler Should Never Be Without

Tom Rosenbauer making good use of three of the four items he considers must-haves on the water.

When I go fishing–no matter where I go or what I’m fishing for–there are four items I always have with me. None of them is technically fishing gear, but all make the experience of fishing better, more productive, and even safer. Of course, you won’t forget your rod, reel, and flies, but make sure you also pack Tom’s must-have items, as well.

Good Fishing Hat: I sometimes see anglers out on the river without a hat, and I wonder how they can do it. Not only does a hat protect you from the both sunlight and rain, but it’s also a valuable fishing tool. A good hat with a brim that’s dark on the underside helps reduce glare off the water, so you can see better–whether you’re spotting fish or trying to see that tiny Blue-Winged Olive floating on the surface. The hat also protects your head and face from flying hooks when it’s windy, and in a pinch you can stick a fly into the stitches on the hat to dry. 

Polarized Sunglasses: Both fishing and wading are much easier when you can see through the glare on the surface of the water. If you’re not wearing polarized sunglasses, your chances of spotting fish are greatly diminished, and even worse, you can’t see the rocks or debris you’re about to step on. Polarization on even the cheapest specs helps, but you definitely get what you pay for. The investment in good glass will pay dividends both in fishing and overall comfort. As an added benefit, sunglasses protect your eyes from hooks and other flying debris, so never cast a fly rod without some sort of eye protection.

Rain Jacket: Sure, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and the forecast calls for bright sun all day. It doesn’t matter: I never go out on the water without a rain jacket in my backpack–or in the truck if I’m not going far from the road. Especially in the mountains, a sudden storm can build quickly and catch you by surprise, and these weather events are often accompanied by a sharp drop in temperature. Not only does it stink to get soaked, but hypothermia is a real concern. A rain jacket also provides wind protection and a quick way to get warm in an emergency.

A Multi-Tool with a Good Knife and Scissors: You can turn a regular dry fly into an emerger or spinner with a few snips. Your Fly Fisherman’s Snips won’t do a very good job; you really need a sharp pair of scissors. A good multitool also has screwdrivers for fixing fly reels, a fine file for sharpening bigger nymphs and streamers (you still need a hone for smaller dries), and a blade that takes a nice edge. Mine is nicely packaged in a thin stainless steel tool that opens with one hand and fits in a pocket so well that I I use it as my everyday pocket knife.

16 thoughts on “Tom Rosenbauer’s Tip: 4 Things an Angler Should Never Be Without”

  1. I would add sunscreen to the list. I’m a lifelong outdoorsman who used to scoff at the stuff because of my ethnic background but after several surgeries to remove BCC and several melanoma scares, I am a firm believer. Nowadays, I ALWAYS use some kind of sun protection anytime I am outdoors.

    1. Yes, I agree most heartily, Ed! I am Caribbean-Canadian with dark brown skin and I wear SPF 60! Exactly, melanoma is serious. I would add sun protection gloves. Even when I wear sunscreen, being on or in the water, I don’t get as much protection on my hands.

  2. Totally agree on all of these. Not trying to fill up the boat bag, but I always have a hat that protects my ears and neck from too much sun. Even a bandanna that you can tuck under your hat will work in a pinch. A bright overcast sky can lull you into risking BCC or Melanoma.

  3. I agree with the four but would also add sunscreen as Ed mentioned. The multi-function knife is essential, but my Orvis knife fell apart fairly soon. It looked great, but didn’t hold up, which is rare for an Orvis product.

      1. 73 also, started fishing again after about 30 years. Wading staff a must (although it’s a real pain when the tip gets stuck in mud)

  4. Excellent addition, sunscreen, wading stick, buddy, and a written statement of where you are going to fish and aprox time for return (like a flight plan).

  5. My hat is a Tilly with dark green under the brim. The wide brim does a good job defending against speeding hooks too.

  6. The Leatherman Style ps as shown does not have a knife blade, as mentioned. A knife blade would be nice.

  7. I have a buff (neck gaiter) that I always have with me in my ORVIS sling pack to protect my face, neck and ears and I fish in Colorado where bears can hang out so I always keep some bear spray ready.

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