Years ago the only choice you had was a vest, today we have many choices: vest, chest pack , fanny pack, sling pack and other variations.
The fishing vest was standard equipment for a very long time. Older models tended to be as long as waist-length jackets, but they have shortened up to keep the stuff in the lower pockets dry when wading deep.
Waist or lumbar packs are handy for the same reason fanny packs became popular with the general public: there’s nothing restricting your upper body, and the stuff you need is easily reached at waist level. Fishing models often have water bottle holders on either side, which can be handy.
Sling packs have gained a lot with the two handed crew, as they have nothing in front to get in the way of casting.
Enter the chest pack, which seems to be the carry-all of choice among today’s anglers and mine. Popular brands include Umpqua, William Joseph and Fishpond, but just about any fly tackle company that sells vests now sells chest packs, now.
They are lighter and less restrictive than most vests – and they’re much easier to wear over a bulky coat when cold-weather fishing. They hold your gear out of the water in all but the deepest wading situations. Most are surprisingly roomy, but they still tend to reinforce the modern trend of carrying fewer fly boxes and accessories on the stream. They also make it very easy to find and access most of your tackle for the days fishing.
Still, there are things a vest can do that a chest pack can’t. The most obvious is to provide an easy way to carry a portable rain jacket, a bottle of water and some food, all in the big pocket on the back.
But that need is met by another modern trend: fishing with a backpack. You see more of it today than ever before, and not just for fishing trips into the backcountry. A backpack has plenty of room for a coat, a camera, food, a first aid kit, water, bug spray, sunscreen and all the fly boxes an angler could want. You can wear it all day or slip it off and leave it on the bank near the water you’re fishing. You can buy a fancy sports model, complete with camelback drinking water supply, or you can make do with a basic book bag from a department store.
I have used a Fishpond Double haul Chest Pack for the past 10 years now; it’s big enough for two or three fly boxes, along with leaders, strike indicators and split shot, but not so big that I can’t see my feet when walking or wading. It has a place for my hemostat, a place to pin on a zinger with a nipper, and I carry my spools of tippet on a holder. The real bonus is the backpack portion, which I use for my rain gear, and most important T.P. for emergencies on the water, it also will hold a water bladder for those who do long hikes in and out of remote fishing spots.