I recently attended the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show in Reno, Nevada, where manufacturers of fly fishing products showed off the wares they plan to sell next year.
One thing I noticed is that many companies are devising sling packs for anglers to carry their gear. One advantage of a sling is that you can slide it around your body, keeping your front clear when you’re actually fishing. When you need a specific gizmo, you slide it back around to your front, and everything is literally right at your fingertips. When you’re fishing, the “stuff” you carry is literally out of sight and out of mind, but it’s right at your back when you want it.
I have always been a vest man myself. I suppose that dates me. It used to be that the vest was a standard part of fly fishing garb. I remember when I started fly fishing, I stuffed my vest too full (after all, I didn’t want to get out there on the water and find I had forgotten something!) so I looked like the Michelin Man wobbling around in the currents. With time, I learned that maybe I didn’t need to carry things like heavy-duty pliers, duct tape, and the boxes that contained flies that were well out of season. Not only can an overstuffed vest feel heavy, it can also make you hot.
In recent years, a number of companies have devised slick chest packs and waist packs that circumvent that problem, and a lot of my fishing friends swear by them. I’ve just never warmed to the chest pack. It feels to me like I’m wearing a mini accordion when I fish, and I like to see my feet when I walk on rocks and wade. And many of the waist packs tend to sag or shift to one side (though this is something the newer designs are improving), which throws me off balance.
Of course, how an angler carries his or her gear is purely a matter of personal preference. What works for me, may not suit your style, and vice versa. But I do think that, the more you fish, the more you learn what you really need to carry and what’s just dead weight. More and more anglers are striving to be “minimalists,” when they fish, and the sling concept might just be a happy medium worth checking out.
We’ll see if this is just a fad, or a new standard. I’m going to give one a try.
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT magazine, and an editor-at-large for Field & Stream. He is also the editor of Angling Trade, the magazine covering the business of fly fishing.