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.