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Fly Fishing Accessories: A Must Have List

There is virtually a limitless selection of tools, accessories, gadgets, and gizmos on the market today. With so many options it’s hard to know what you need to get started. We’ll try to identify the staples for you and help you pick the tools and accessories that will make you successful right out of the gate. Whether you are working on a car, or building a house, having the proper tools will always make the job easier. Fly fishing is the same way!

The Real World

Imagine fishing your favorite stream in the dead of summer. You’ve struggled through meager fishing during the heat of the day, and finally dusk has arrived. As you fish, you notice a trout rise to the surface to eat a bug… …then another and another! As the adrenaline starts to pulse through your body you realize the fly you have on is not working. It doesn’t look like the little green bugs that the trout are eating.

As the light quickly fades you decide to try a different fly. You fumble through your fishing vest to find your nippers; the trout start to rise more regularly and with conviction. Finally finding your nippers you attempt to clip off your fly, but they just don’t seem to work that well. Instead of making a clean-cut, it’s almost like you are trying to chew through your tippet and you are only getting more and more frustrated. You finally saw through your tippet and as you try to tie on your new fly, you realize that the end of the leader is now frayed and won’t fit through the eye of your hook.

Out of the corner of your eye, you see that the trout are starting to relax and not feeding like they were 5 minutes ago. By the time you struggle through cutting off your old fly, tie the other one on, and then chew through the tag end coming off the eye of your hook, the fish are long gone!

Saving two dollars by buying an inexpensive pair of nippers doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore, does it? How do I know this? This happened to me on a stream in Montana one August afternoon. The funny part is that it happened more than once before I figured out that I should step up and buy a good pair of nippers!

Required Fly Fishing Accessories


Nippers should be easy to access and remain super sharp. If a groove develops, they become dull or damaged, replace them as soon as possible. There are many styles and variations of nippers, but keep it simple and don’t be afraid to spend a couple of extra bucks for these.


Forceps are sometimes called hemostats and are like small clamps. You’ll use these to pinch down the barbs on your hooks and remove flies from the fish’s mouth. They are also great for clamping onto your hook and lowering to the bottom of a lake to determine the depth. Many times they will have a sharp needle point located near the handle that will clean out the eye of a hook should it become clogged with glue.


Retractors can be pinned to a fishing vest, pack, or wader pocket. They can be used to keep nippers, forceps, floatant, or any other miscellaneous tool at easy reach.


Floatant is usually a silicone solution that keeps your fly waterproof. Without a floatant, your dry flies will certainly begin to sink. It’s important to keep your floating flies on the surface to see the strike. Every so often as your fly begins to sink, or after you have caught a fish, the floatant is re-applied and can be sometimes coupled with the use of a desiccant to dry it off.

Strike indicators

Strike indicators are the fly angler’s bobber. They are primarily used to suspend sunken flies at various depths in a lake or allow you to dead drift your offerings in a river. Although strike indicators are not always necessary you must learn how to use them, especially when you are new. Strike indicators and submerged flies can be used anytime, but especially if you’re not seeing fish actively feeding near the surface.

Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized Sunglasses are a requirement. With a fly whizzing past your face all day at more than 100 mph, it’s imperative to wear them at all times to protect your eyes. The polarization of the lenses greatly reduces the glare on the surface of the water allowing you to see not only the fish but also underwater rocks and structure so that you don’t trip. Not all sunglasses are built the same. There are huge differences between a good and a bad pair of sunglasses. Cheap lenses will often distort and cause you to look through a mini prescription. This will surely result in a headache by the end of the day and a poor fishing experience.

Fly boxes

Fly boxes hold and organize your most important fly fishing possessions. Your flies! Of all of the pieces of fly fishing equipment, you’ll need to get started, your flies are the most important. Keep them safe, dry and organized in a fly box. With the dozens of styles out there, just start with something simple and small. As your fly collection grows you’ll eventually develop preferences as you go.


  • Nippers
  • Forceps
  • Retractor
  • Tapered Leader
  • Tippet Spools
  • Floatant
  • Strike Indicators
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Fly Box

Nice to Haves

  • Thermometer
  • Pliers
  • Hook Sharpener
  • Nail Knot Tool
  • Lanyard
  • Floatant Holder
  • Fishing Pack/Vest
  • C&R Net
  • Wading Staff
  • Headlamp
  • Magnifiers
  • Fly Line Cleaner


A fishing journal will become key to growing your learning curve. You’ll record things like river conditions, insect hatches, numbers of fish caught, honey holes, public access, and water temperature. This will become a working record of your experience and over time, it will reveal patterns that you can tap into season after season.

  • March 5, 2017
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