A good flyfishing pack is a model of efficiency. At a minimum, it should be able to manage a day’s worth of fishing gear without undue bulk and be comfortable to wear. It needs to organize flies, fly boxes, hemostats, tippets, floatant, nippers, and other accessories so that they are easy to get to, yet do not become tangled in your line as you cast, mend, and strip.
The storage compartments in a well-designed pack can be accessed with one hand, and the zippers can be manipulated with numb fingers. On top of all that, it should protect its contents from the elements. After all, just because the weather turns foul, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fish are going to stop biting.
Yes, this is a lot to ask of a flyfishing pack. But manufacturers have responded to the challenge with numerous designs and concepts, and every angler should be able to find one that fits his or her specific needs and budget. The packs in this test cover a broad swath of designs, and we assessed them based on the criteria mentioned above as well as on the durability of their construction and the value they represent.
Sage Technical Chest Pack
Photos by Nick Ferrari
★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $100; www.sageflyfish.com
Pros: Tough, durable, and compact, this pack features bombproof construction and was the most weather- and water-resistant kit in the test. It also did the best job of keeping forceps secure and out of the way with the magnetic storage sleeves on either side of the unit. The magnetic closure on the top of the pack keeps the pull tabs on the zippers tucked away and allows for easy one-handed access.
The pack easily adjusts up and down for a custom fit and was comfortable to wear. This excellent unit is ideal for the minimalist angler who keeps his kit lean, though it easily totes all of the essentials. It is also an excellent value for the money.
Cons: There’s really nothing wrong with this pack, though the fold-down workbench is slightly awkward to use. But this is a minor quibble in an otherwise supremely fishable chest pack.
Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Pros: Smartly designed to hold a lot of gear while maintaining a relatively sleek profile, this is an excellent option for anglers who spend long days on the water. It manages accessories very well, thanks to well-placed attachment points on both the exterior and interior. The mesh-covered foam backing and clever neck strap, which allows for easy up-and-down adjustment on the torso, helped make this the most comfortable chest pack in our test.
Cons: The front cell would benefit from a larger Velcro patch on the exterior and the addition of one inside.
Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack
★ ★ ★ ★
Pros: The sling-pack concept is an excellent one for managing fly gear, and Orvis has done an impressive job with this model. It’s comfortable to wear, has loads of storage for more than enough stuff, and tucks behind the angler while he’s fishing. Paracord loops accommodate spools of tippet, and it has nicely placed sleeves for fishing pliers (on the bag itself) and hemostats (on the chest strap).
Cons: Because of how it rides on the body, the sling pack is not a great option for deep-water wading. Also, the materials and zippers are not completely weatherproof.
Fishpond Medicine Bow
★ ★ ★ 1/2
Pros: This compact chest pack rides high in the center of the chest and will appeal to the angler looking to carry as little as possible. The deep fold-down fly bench keeps the day’s selection of bugs readily available and secure. Attachment points keep accessories well organized, though some placed lower down on the bag would provide other options for configuring gear. The stash pocket at the top of the bag is a nice touch.
Cons: The neck strap was surprisingly uncomfortable. The fold-down fly bench can’t accommodate a medium-size box.
L.L. Bean Kennebec Boundary Pack
★ ★ ★ 1/2
Pros: This vest will find favor with anglers who can’t decide what gear to leave in the truck. It has four large molded compartments, numerous pockets and sleeves, two built-in zingers, and a plethora of attachment points. The harness design is quite comfortable, and Boa closures help snug the vest tight to the body. This pack will work well for spinning and baitcasting fishermen, too.
Cons: The copious storage of the vest comes at a cost (bulk and weight); some might find it to be too much of a good thing. The lack of a fly patch is a curious oversight.
Cabela’sDeluxe Chest Pack
★ ★ 1/2
Pros: I couldn’t help but think of this as the party-animal pack. The dual beverage holders on either side of the main compartment, itself big enough to accommodate a Dagwood sandwich, set the tone. The fold-down workbench can organize a lot of flies, and there is plenty of room for gear. For the price, this is a very good value.
Cons: This pack will appeal to the more casual angler on a budget. It lacks the technical features, like hardened attachment points and weatherproof construction, found on some other bags. The bulk can hinder line management.