Fly Fishing Vests, Chest Packs, or Waist Packs: Which System is best for Trout Fishing?

Basically, fly fishers have three options for carrying the necessary accouterments on while on the prowl for trout.


Fly fishing vests are by far the most traditional option for carrying and storing fly gear. They are comfortable, roomy, and provide numerous pockets of various sizes for individualizing any means of organization.

Most vests brandish a large, deep pocket in back for stowing rain jackets, lunch, or even the catch of the day. Having this large pocket makes vests a natural choice for anglers who like to keep fish for cleaning and eating later.

Vests do have their limitations. Oftentimes vests require the use of both hands to open zippered or snapped pockets. Cotton vests do not stretch and can bind up an angler who climbs over and around boulders or stream banks. And if the vest gets submerged, most are not waterproof, so it may take hours for the gear and vest dry.

Chest Packs

Since chest packs arrived on the market, they have become increasingly more functional and technical. Chest packs are lightweight, sleek, and more durable than ever. With stylish designs and trendy colors, more anglers are choosing packs because they look great and make so much sense. Most are made of waterproof material, and they put the gear in the most convenient area, right under the angler’s nose. They many not have as many pockets as vests, but what they lack in pocket they make up for in other ways.

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For instance, many packs come with a hands-free hydration system. No more bottles of water bouncing around. Other chest packs offer a flip-out workstation that serves as a small “table,” making fly selection and knot tying rather easy. Some packs double as a fly box. Chest packs can also have waterproof zippers and pockets for keeping gear dry. They are also adjustable, so fitting them over just about anything an angler chooses to wear on the river or lake is a critical comfort issue when fishing in heat during one season, and in the cold during another.

The downside to chest packs-some models have a tendency to get in the way of the casting motion. An ill-fitting pack that’s too bulky may rub the inner arm, create an impediment when cross-body casting, flop around, or snag access line, all of which can be annoying when concentration is crucial. Find a chest pack that fits properly and doesn’t extend too far off of the body. There’s one suitable for every angler in any fishing condition.

Waist Packs

For some anglers, less means more. “Bare-bones” angling requires carrying essential gear only, cutting down on both weight and bulk. Waist packs or “fanny packs” are perfect for anglers who traverse great distances in a single day to fish rivers or alpine lakes in the back country. They’re great for wet wading as well. A small fly box, a single spool of tippet, floatant, extra leaders, water filter, a snack, and a license – the bare-essential gear for catching trout, and all of this will fit easily into most waist packs on the market.

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Waist packs are all about lightening the load, so most anglers find one made of the lightest material available with a very low profile. The pack can be worn in the front, on the back, or on either hip. Their no-nonsense characteristics make them the only choice for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles of vests and chest packs. Plus, they are very affordable.

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