Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 62 - Fly Vests

One of the most often quoted lines in fly fishing literature in terms of starting out and gathering equipment is from John Gierach's book "Trout Bum". Not being above this, I will quote him too.
I began to suffer from voidophobia - the unreasoning fear of empty vest pockets. I didn't know exactly what I needed, but I clearly needed a lot of stuff, enough stuff to make me clank and rattle when I walked, to strain the single-stitched seams of my cheap vest, enough to put me in the same league with the guys who were catching all the fish.

To be honest, I think all of us have succumbed to that phobia at least once in our early stages of angling. We start out not knowing what we need, and if we aren't lucky to have a good friend or mentor to guide in our ways, we soon buy a slough of gadgets just so we have something to dangle from our vests. Given this fact, I think the guy who took the fingernail nippers and transformed them into "line clippers" is living it up large on some beach in Tahiti.

Two weeks ago, I took my wife fishing for the first time. For those of you in the know (and by that I mean having read my blog) you know that she caught her first trout on her first cast. It was quickly followed by her second, third and fourth cast. Having asked her what she thought about fly fishing afterwards, she replied that she'd like to do that again.

Tomorrow we are going to do just that. I've been tying up patterns for the last two weeks in expectation for this venture. I've purchased a fly box for her and filled it with patterns that will most likely catch trout on the stream we are headed to. Earlier this evening I rummaged around in our garage and found a fly vest that I had always intended to use, but never got around to it. It is a William Joseph mini-pack. It has a strap that goes over the neck and has one main compartment for a fly box, two zingers, and a little mesh pocket. I gave that to her, along with a pair of nippers, some strike indicators, some moldable tungsten weight, and when I get around to searching more thoroughly a pair of hemostats.

I like the idea of a new fly fishing vest. Just like going shopping for back to school supplies, it has that essence of magic to it. One of the first things I do when I get a new vest is try it on, followed closely by examining all the pockets. I try to imagine what pockets I will use the most. Since I'm right handed, I tend to hold my fly rod on that side of my body. Therefore, I try to eliminate the bulk on that side of my body so that it won't interfere with my cast. Zingers holding hemostats and nippers tend to interfere with casts also. Therefore I tend to locate those either to my left side, or to the center of my vest (towards my sternum). Those two items should normally be painted black as to not reflect the sun, however my current two aren't for some odd reason. As such, I try to hide them within pockets as well.

Over the last nine years (the start of which was the start of my fly angling lifestyle) I've gone through numerous vests. My first one was a cheap green vest that so many of us start out using. I think I paid less than $20 for it if that helps determines the quality of the vest. After that vest, I decided that I wanted to go with something a little fancier. The big thing at the time were chest packs. They look like backwards school bags that you place on your chest versus your back. They have one big zipper that goes around the sides of the bag which then drops down to form sort of a table. I used that one for a little bit. Then came my time at the big box retailer. Various forms of vests came into my collection. For a long while I used a William Joseph vest, that had room for a Camelbak hydration system.

My current vest is a sample vest from the 3-Forks Ranch. As a sample it has a few non-working components that I would need to modify if I wanted to use it (a sewn shut sleeve for a Camelbak tube comes to mind). The upper left pocket is felt lined and includes a felt bag for sunglasses. It is a little oddly designed but it also includes another inner pocket in there which I keep the camera in. Below that is a big pocket that allows two fly boxes to fit in. On the outside of this pocket is another pocket which I hold some "Green Kool-Aid" that is to supposed to eliminate the human scent on the fly. This 2-pocket system is mirrored on the other side. The front pocket on the other side holds tippet, split shot, and strike indicators. On the upper right pocket, I keep a leather leader organizer that my dad made for me. The inside pockets of the vest include room for various other fly boxes and even a spot for a thermometer (something I've been using more and more in my adventures).

No matter the vest you use (or chest pack, or strap-on fly box arrangement, or lanyard), I think each angler tailors it to their own needs. If I were a student of human behavior, I'm sure I could tell what type a person you were just by looking at your vest. I'm not, nor do I feign to profess to be. I do like to look at other people's systems however. Call it a mild fascination with a bit of wanting to learn something new. I've remarked before that most of my fly fishing knowledge has come about through the school of hard knocks, therefore I'm learning through observation.

So in the light of my learning objective, tell me what you have in your vest. Or some trick that you've decided to incorporate, or whatever... just please leave a comment as I love to read what other people think. Thanks.

1 comment:

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