A fly fishing vest is a rather boring, yet undoubtedly crucial, piece of equipment that many anglers—especially beginners—tend to overlook. Instead, beginners will load up on the fancy fly rod, titanium case and high-class sunglasses, forgetting about this piece of clothing.
Generally, what often happens is that new anglers frequently find the cheapest fly fishing vest they can find to save money following the purchase of a pricey fly rod. Unfortunately, usually soon after purchasing these vests, the angler discovers why they were so cheap. Generally, most really cheap fishing vests break down quickly, unravel by the threads, are not terribly comfortable and have a pocket system designed by someone who doesn't know what a fly rod is.
So, to help anglers, I've put together a buyers guide about fly fishing vests.
This guide covers the following topics:
Pockets & More Pockets
Size of Pockets
Mesh or Traditional Vest?
Comfort is Everything
Where to Buy Quality Vests
Pockets, Pockets & More Pockets
To begin, let’s start with what a fly fishing vest actually does. Basically, a fly fishing vest is what holds all those myriad of streamside fly fishing things. Those things the fly fishing vest holds range from clippers, flies, leaders, tippets, various tools, line cleaners, fly floatants, weights and frequently a bewildering array of other little things.
Since a fly fishing vest is nothing more than a piece of clothing designed to hold all the little stuff inherent in the sport of fly fishing, it's not particularly surprising that a good fly fishing vest should have quite a few pockets to hold it all.
Now, that said, while you should have a good supply of pockets on any vest you get, there is such a thing as having too many of them. After all, having a vest with fifty pockets will do little good since anything needed will soon be lost among the jumble of pockets. The result is that instead of spending time casting towards a rising trout after quickly attaching an accessible fly, you'll end up on a fruitless search through your own vest for the fly you know you have but can't for the world find.
Another drawback of having too many pockets on a fly fishing vest is that you will soon find stuff to put in them. What's bad about that, you ask? Well, as any backpacker can tell you, the more space you have in your pack, the more you bring—even if it isn’t needed. As such, a fly fishing vest that a multitude of pockets will quickly weigh a ton, creating fatigue, discomfort and is destined to become an organizational nightmare.
Remember, you don't have to pack away the kitchen sink in your vest. There is nothing illegal about heading into the water with just the bare necessities, leaving the rest in your car or truck should the event arise that you need it. Having just the bare necessities in the vest helps keep everything organized and lightweight.
So, how many pockets should you get on a fly fishing vest? Well, while it's open to debate, I suggest somewhere between 10-20 pockets, give or take a few. This number of pockets will be plenty—probably more than plenty—to hold everything needed without going overboard and creating hopeless disorganization in the vest.