re: The most Gratifying piece of gear
The ecologist in me says try and remove any one item out of your list and try, for all practical purposes (sure you can wrap the line around your fist or something and yes Lee Wulff caught atlantics without a rod, yada yada) to fly fish in the classic sense. Its a system. Take any one item out and the system grinds to a halt. I think most of us would like to have all the pieces in place when we hit the river. Although...there is this....ever forget your flies and try to fly fish?