Driftless Trout Anglers

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William Schlafer  
#1 Posted : Sunday, December 1, 2019 5:49:17 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 7/24/2011(UTC)
Posts: 3,553
Location: Sussex Wisconsin

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During the winter off season (at least for Wisconsin in-land Trout) I've been keeping busy restocking my fly boxes and cleaning up my gear. This included giving my vest a much needed washing, and taking inventory of what I'll carry for the coming year.


For winter and early spring fishing I'll carry two streamer boxes. One with smaller Woolly Bugger, leech and sculpin patterns, and a box devoted to the larger articulated streamers, such as the Silk Kitty, Dungeons, and crayfish. When the weather warms up, I'll swap out the large streamer box for one with terrestrials. I'll carry a couple smaller boxes all year long: one with small bead heads, scuds and nymphs, and a box for dry flies. Later in the summer and fall I'll have a box solely dedicated for hoppers.

For tools, forceps on a zinger for extracting hooks and pinching split shot, my trusty nippers on a cord I wear around my neck, and a nail knot tool. I also have a small Altoids tin that store strike indicators (that I rarely use), split shot and some other small items that might get lost in a pocket. I also have a thermometer for checking water temps. I wear a watch when I'm fishing to keep track of the time. I never carry my cell phone on stream. It's not waterproof and there's often is no signal anyways in the valleys I fish.

I carry two packets of pre-rigged 7.5 foot leaders with tippet rings in 3X & 4X and two rolls of tippet in 3X & 4X. I've given up on smaller weight tippet and leaders. They simply don't make much sense for the fishing I do. Unless you're casting tiny dry flies on crystal clear water to finicky risers, there just no need for anything lighter than 4X for most Driftless stream fishing.

I have two small travel size spray bottles of insect repellent, one with Buggins for those nasty little gnats (highly recommended) and another with Deet for mosquitoes and biting flies. For floatant I have one bottle of Gink and another with dry shake, both on clip-on carriers. I'll only carry those when I'm sure I'm going to be fishing dry flies.

My doctor insists I wear sun gloves and a big broad rim hat when fishing. My face and the back of my hands burn easily, even on partly sunny days. Sun screen no longer works at all for me, especially while fishing. So, I'll often use a gaiter to cover my neck and ears. A bit of a pain when it's warm, but it's better than Melanoma. Due to bad eyes, I also carry a pair of plastic magnifier glasses (not shown) for tying knots and other close up work. I also carry a couple of ziplock bags to protect my car key fob, wallet and other things I don't want to get wet.

The vest is a nine year old Fishpond Flint Hills. It's just enough to carry what I need without being too bulky. I use a Rose Creek Angler net release on the back clip to carry my inexpensive Fraybill Wading Net. The Rose Creek Release is simply the best. I've used the same one for nine years. It's hasn't worn out or failed in any way. The Fraybill net has held up well too and put up with lots of abuse over the years.

What's in your vest / bag?

“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
#2 Posted : Sunday, December 1, 2019 8:25:45 PM(UTC)
Rank: Midge

Joined: 1/27/2019(UTC)
Posts: 12
United States
Location: Illinois

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I quit wearing a vest probably 20 years ago. I could never remember what pocket anything was in. There wasn’t a lot of choices back then. Now I use packs. I don’t know if because I’m lazy or want to always be ready to go, but I use several different packs. One for trout, one for smallmouth and another for steelhead and salmon.

I try to keep my gear list to a minimum, I got tired of a heavy vest. That leaves more room for fly boxes. I usually have two kinds of indicators, thingamabobber and New Zealand indicators. Lately I have been using the New Zealand ones more. They hit the water a lot softer, and the fish don’t get spooked by them as much. I always carry a box with just midges too. They have saved me from getting skunked many times.

I usually carry tippet down to 6x when trout fishing. I got into that habit fishing out west. 3x to 6x in regular tippet and 4x to 6x in fluorocarbon. I mainly use fluorocarbon out west and for steelhead. I have heavier spools for steelhead.

Other than that I just rotate boxes for what is hatching.
MN Driftless  
#3 Posted : Monday, December 2, 2019 12:06:56 PM(UTC)
MN Driftless
Rank: Midge

Joined: 5/15/2016(UTC)
Posts: 48
United States
Location: The Driftless

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I haven't used a vest in ages, and I tried slings once, but I didn't care for them either. I have used just about every single waist pack imaginable over the past fifteen years and have settled on Fishpond as my preferred pack.

Right now, I carry this one: UserPostedImage

Contents this time of year: a few fly boxes, a few tippet spools, a few leaders, Dinsmore, indicators, hemos, nippers, a floatant of some kind, and a stream thermometer.

I am pretty mobile when I fish the Driftless (and West), so having water bottle sides on the waist pack is a must for me. I've only heard this, but you could substitute a flask for a water....Wink .

#4 Posted : Monday, December 2, 2019 1:21:59 PM(UTC)
Rank: Stone Fly

Joined: 4/16/2014(UTC)
Posts: 531
United States
Location: Madison, Wisconsin during the week and Lincolnshire, Illinois on weekends.

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I still wear an old vest; I tried fanny packs and chest packs but didn't like them.

I usually have four fly boxes with me: Dries/Terrestrials, nymphs/wets, streamers, all in my vest, and my Driftless Special, not in the vest but hanging from a lanyard, with the usual suspects in it. I rarely access the first three, but they're there, just in case.

In addition to the fly boxes, in my vest I only carry one spool of 5X tippet, a spare tapered leader, some weights, some sinkant, and a small tube cut from a WD-40 straw, which I use if I need to tie a tube knot.

Also on the above mentioned lanyard are a pair of hemostats, nippers, thermometer, and a patch of amadou fungus for drying out my fly.

I might have a cigar and lighter, and maybe a candy bar in case of sugar low in an inside pocket of the vest. I rarely carry water but if so I have a belt that holds a bottle
Bob Williams, "Weiliwen"
Colorado to MN  
#5 Posted : Monday, December 2, 2019 3:13:00 PM(UTC)
Colorado to MN
Rank: Midge

Joined: 4/2/2019(UTC)
Posts: 48
United States
Location: Minneapolis

Was thanked: 13 time(s) in 11 post(s)
A Mean Steak Marker to paint my terminal tippet white. Hydropsyche Caddis are net spinners and doing this increases your hook up percentage.
#6 Posted : Monday, December 2, 2019 11:27:50 PM(UTC)
Rank: May Fly

Joined: 2/24/2013(UTC)
Posts: 404

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If I use a bag it's a small camera shoulder bag I got at Target almost 10 years ago that's been very durable and great.

It fits a fly box, a digital camera, forceps, scissors and mono/tippet, with a zipped pocket that my license and I.C.E. (ish--laminated list of contacts) card go into.

I have a smaller one for trout, and bigger one for warm water where I might carry my normal fly box and a big box with bigger streamers.


I went backpacking a couple of years ago, and conditioned myself to only take a small pocket-sized fly box (small bead box recycled), and other materials in my pockets to be pack free and that works well too.
#7 Posted : Tuesday, December 3, 2019 1:07:05 AM(UTC)
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 3/16/2013(UTC)
Posts: 1,588
Location: Lake Elmo, Mn

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I’ll never use anything but a vest. I like to carry a lot of stuff, enough to where the only other substitute would be a large backpack. Slings just feel awkward and I hate having to throw them back over the top to access anything.

LL Bean makes great vests, I can’t recommend them enough. They spread the weight around your entire body, the inner mesh makes them very breathable, and they have excess storage capacity. My vest has finally reached retirement this year, after 8 seasons and probably 600+ outings. She finally just started coming apart all at once. Oh well. That vest costed out to less than 20 cents a trip. I’ll put it on the wall in my cabin.

So... I’ll be buying Bean’s newest vest. I’ll load up my usual box of hardware in the upper right pouch, my heavy nymph box in the lower right pouch, and general flies in the lower left. The extra big stickbaits, along with other salmon/steelhead stuff like slipfloats, have their own large tray which will rest in the back, for those days when a huge fish is spotted and won’t chase conventional sized stuff. The side pouches will contain a small knife for the odd kept fish, a multi-tool, and a compass. The back will also contain a water bottle, a bottle of ibuprofen, and a wading jacket during early season.
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
thanks 1 user thanked NBrevitz for this useful post.
stan b on 12/3/2019(UTC)
#8 Posted : Tuesday, December 3, 2019 1:35:09 PM(UTC)
Rank: Stone Fly

Joined: 1/16/2015(UTC)
Posts: 608
Location: West WI

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I am a fan of the Simms Freestone vest. I like it more when on sale or clearance. After 3 seasons and over 500 outings, it is getting tattered, but I am not gentle with it. Most of the heavy use zippers where dead after year two. Probably neglected :).. 2 lure boxes in each front lower pocket. Nice attachments for pliers, net and camera remote. Plenty of storage in upper inner and upper outer pockets. Usually fishing stuff goes in there. I like the back of this vest as there is an upper pouch for reachable bug spray, spare reel, etc. Lower full pouch holds beverages, shoes, fish and can pack stocking foot waders for the walk back to the fishmobile. Happy fishing! R

Edited by user Tuesday, December 3, 2019 1:35:59 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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