Fifteen Years of Minimalist Fly Fishing

Sight fishing for twelve years taught me some very valuable lessons, mainly that getting a good presentation on the first cast was usually going catch the fish. Being colour blind I could never carry a lot of patterns with subtle variations. I also like walking a long way when fishing because I never want to miss out on the next fish because I to tired to keep walking.

These three things combined to make me a minimalist fisherman. I stopped using a vest over 15 years ago because I found I was carrying way too much unnecessary weight which made the long walk back down stream to the truck harder than necessary.

From a fishing perspective I was convinced I did not need a lot of gear, and the fifteen years of minimalist fly fishing have confirmed this. This is a list of the gear I do carry to demonstrate what I mean by minimalist fly fishing.

Lumbar Pack – Fishpond Flint Hills Lumbar Pack

This is about the smallest fishing specific lumbar pack available, and it has everything I need to fish with.

Fly Box – Richard Wheatley 6 inch Compartment Fly Box

Richard Wheatley make traditional English fly boxes, and they are superb. I only carry one fly box, as it covers all the flies I need, and the biggest compartment box from Richard Wheatley is what I use. These boxes are built to last, they are incredibly durable and I have always been able to bend mine back into shape if they get bashed around.

Smith Creek Rig Keeper

I have three of these, one for nymphs, one for the evening rise and one for back country dries. I only ever carry two, but would be lost without them. They make it possible to tie rigs in perfect light at home and not waste time on the water repeatedly tying dropper rigs. Of all the gear I have this is the only piece that I believe every angler should have.

Review of the Smith Creek Rig Keeper

Leader Material – Drennan Double Strength 5lb

I mainly use Drennan 5lb, either as a level leader just short of the rod length, or as my tippet material. I have tried fluorocarbon but do not think that it makes a difference for sighted fish, which is what I am fishing to.

In addition to the Drennan 5lb I carry short sections of 6, 7 & 10lb Drennan Double Strength for building my long leaders. I rarely need these materials, only if my leader breaks, and I got sick of carrying three spools or trying to manage three lines on one spool so I made my own leader keeper that fits in the front pocket of the lumbar pack.

Threader – C&F Design Threader

This is an exceptionally helpful devise for threading flies especially in low light. I was using one as part of the 3-in-1 clipper but the nippers always felt a bit fragile and the eye cleaner required too much movement for my liking so I reverted back to my old nippers.

Retractor – Simms Retractor

Simms gear is superb, and near bullet proof. I have used their retractor for years, and the only flaw with it is that the pin can come loose and the retractor can fall off. I tie my retractor pins closed with some 10lb leader and this doesn’t happen to my retractor any more.

Nippers & Eye Cleaner 

I have a standard nipper and eye cleaner attached to my retractor.


I have some exceptionally good forceps that I have had since 2004 and they have lost their branding. They have a flat jaw for flattening barbs, and I use them for this more than removing flies from fish as I only use barbless flies.

Floatant – Dry Shake

I used to use Gherkes Gink but found that it does not float flies as high in rough water, so changed to a dry silicone shake.

Sinkant – Gherkes Xink

This is a great product that gets my flies through the surface film when required.

Belt Attachment

On the belt of my lumbar pack I will carry my GoPro & its spare batteries, my Digital Camera or my headlamp if fishing at night. If it is raining I have a packable raincoat with loops on it that goes on my belt.