This ought to give you guys suffering the summer doldrums something to discuss.
Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair:
By Doug Macnair
To get you up and going, here is a list of a few things that make the life of a dedicated fly fisher a little easier. It's funny! As you read some of these, you will wonder why anyone would ever go off fishing in the wilds of nowhere without such an obvious and required item. Did you ever wonder why the so-called "expert" wipes his hands on his pants? It's because he can't remember to carry a towel! I always manage to forget something. If you don't forget things, I defer to your superior packing abilities. Since I started, what is now a book, I actually gave the subject some thought. Just in case you happen to be a little like me, here is what I came up with.
A towel is the one thing I take care not to forget. It's simply too important. Besides wiping away perspiration on the flats (in Texas, it's called sweat), just wait until a saltwater catfish slimes your line. The Gafftopsail or Seacat doesn't seem to know that fly fishing is only for selected species. On many occasions, the Gafftop thinks it, too, is a game fish. I've learned that a towel is the safe way of handling one of these fish and, certainly, the way to de-slime the line.
I cannot think of anything, aside from insect repellent, more important than a set of clippers. To be sure, the ones that cut fingernails work fine for most purposes, particularly in fresh water. In saltwater, it will take a better model to consistently cut the line. What was a brand new set of clippers but moments ago, will almost instantly become rusted junk. If you plan to use regular mono I suggest stainless steel clippers such as those manufactured by Angler's Image. There's no use in replacing the same item over and over again.
Forceps, Clamps & Pliers.
Next to the line clippers, this is a "must have"tool, especially if you don't have a Ketchum Release or Boga Grip. Some of our finny friends can be difficult to unhook. Little question about this if you are fishing saltwater, think teeth, sharp teeth. With a good set of forceps, clamps or pliers the task is greatly simplified, besides preventing potential injury to either you or the fish. Be sure your selection is sized for the fish you hope to catch. A long pair will usually fit a short mouth, but a short pair in a big mouth may cost you a finger or two. I never carry forceps less than about 5 inches long. Make sure they are made of stainless steel with strong jaws. Some pliers on today's market are of high quality; others are not. My personal choice is Dr. Slick's combo pack with holder featuring their long Cuda pliers and a separate scissors/pliers combo.
Catch a trophy fish and you will wish you had a net. Try to pick a net that's comparatively gentle to the fish for the purpose of catch and release. One other point in favor of the net: it can save you from injuring yourself on a sharp spine or gill cover. Besides, fly rods don't do a good job dead lifting a fish from the water. Don't try it! Nets come in all sorts of sizes and configurations. Get one that's right for the waters you fish. I wouldn't recommend a beautiful laminated wood trout model for the saltwater flats. But whatever net you choose be sure the basket's mesh is soft. If you participate in "catch and release"as I hope you do, care must be exercised in handling the fish. A net made of fabric suitable for catch and release will be labeled as such. Unwittingly, many fishers are still using rough nets that cause serious injury during landing. Others squeeze the fish too tightly when removing it from the net. Believing they've done a good deed, the fish is released only to later die. If catch and release is something you care about, check out the array of Ketchum Release devices manufactured by the Waterworks of Ketchum, Idaho, that I earlier reviewed.
I strongly recommend waders or hip boots whether you are fishing the mountain streams of the North, West or East or the saltwater flats of Texas. Simply stated, waders make wading safer and much more comfortable, assuming you have a good fit. With several different fabrics available, you should pick one suitable to your local climatic conditions. Whether you elect stocking foot waders and wading shoes or the traditional chest waders with attached boot remains a matter of personal choice and the locale to be fished. Finally, manufacturers are beginning to wake up to the fact men's waders don't necessarily fit women. They are usually too large in leg diameter and too long in the stride. Women fly fishers will be pleased with the advent of several new lines of fly fishing clothing designed for, and tested by, women.  It is about time! Whether male or female, make certain the waders you purchase are properly sized in the foot, stride, chest and overall length to give you a comfortable fit. If they don't fit, shop for another pair. Do not make do!
Under the Wader Wear.
What to wear under the waders, that is the question? Unless the weather and temperature are ideal, expect to perspire inside your waders. Take a warm humid day and you are apt to be soaked by the end of the day. I assure you, the condition will contribute to acute discomfort. Until now a good solution to the problem did not exist, even using the space-age "wicking" materials. "Wicking" moisture away from the body is great thought as long as the wicked moisture can evaporate. That doesn't happen inside a pair of waders. The fact is when the material doing the "wicking" becomes supersaturated, water re-enters and all of a sudden, you are wet. Now comes The Waterworks with a material refusing the re-entry of moisture, and a whole new dimension opens for wader comfort. Sure, you will still sweat and yes, the moisture will still be wicked away. This time, however, it can't come back. You must try Underwaderwear  to believe how well it works when fashioned into both booties and body tights. I would be surprised if we didn't soon see that more comfort garments are made of this remarkable material.
Some people like them, some don't. They can be awfully hot or too cold. The idea, however, is a good one and probably dates back to the fig leaf. Since you need something to carry your pliers, clippers, line cleaner, fly floatant, extra tippet material, spare leaders and flies, extra line or shooting heads and a few flies, you might want to consider a vest. A lightweight, well-ventilated and serviceable vest can be priced economically or so high in price you need to guard against going into a state of shock. A few facts: all too frequently, vests are designed and made by people who have never fished, much less with a fly rod. They are too heavy, have too many pockets, pockets in the wrong places and are of the wrong material. My advice to both men and women is look thoroughly before you buy. It's particularly important if you are a woman. Remembering the usual considerable difference in the physiques of mean and women, get one that fits. Watch the pockets and their placement: when empty, the worth of a pocket can be deceiving. A good fly shop will provide empty boxes at your request, so check out the fit and comfort with boxes in the pockets before you buy. Be sure to check Orvis' new line of women's clothing and accouterments that feature a vest especially designed for women. Designed by women for women, their sports vest fleece jacket may prove to be just the thing you need.
Fly Line Cleaner.
You will be amazed how dirty your line becomes when fishing. On the other hand, it could be a good thing: it certainly will serve to remind you just how dirty our "clean" water really is. While you cannot clean the water, you can clean your line, something you need to do. A dirty line inhibits the cast: a dirty line no longer shoots as it originally did. When you clean your line(s), be certain you use a mild soap and thoroughly rinse away the residue. After cleaning, allow time for the line to thoroughly dry by placing them in loose coils off the reel. When reloading the line, dress it using an approved fly line dressing or better yet, something like Son-Of-A-Gun or Armor-All. Never put a line away wet. If you do, you shorten its life appreciably. With just a little tender loving care and maintenance, your fly lines will last for years.
Nothing repels water forever. And when it becomes soaked, your dry fly won't float. Give it a dip in fly floatant, wave it through the air a couple of times and you will be ready for another casting stint. You may find even your fly line needs a dab now and then. Fly floatant can be a very important commodity at streamside if the fish are feeding only on the surface. So don't leave home without it!
Polarized Sun Glasses.
This is another of those "must have" items when you are on or in the water. Seeing the fish is very important, and with the usual glare, is **** near impossible without polarized glasses. They are so effective that you will never regret making this little investment. For many folks, it will be the first time they've ever seen what is happening beneath the surface. While there are many excellent glasses on the market, I personally like Action Optics by Smith.  Give them a call. They are service oriented and have a fine product.
Believe it or not, fishing can be great when it's raining -- just as long as lightning is not anywhere near the area. (By the way, I just heard about a new gadget that for 80 bucks will tell whether the lightening is coming or going and, better yet, how far it is away. As soon as I can find one, I plan to add it to my list of critical equipment. I've been hit once and care not to repeat the experience.) Graphite rods and lightning are a poor mix, and a mix that can be a killer. If, however, you are in a gentle rain or drizzle, fishing can be "a hot time in the old town right now." And a rain jacket is a great way to enjoy the whole mess while staying nice and dry. Your rain jacket should be fabricated from one of the new materials that breathe and break the wind. Be careful of insulated jackets. In the wrong temperature, they quickly become too warm. Frankly, it's much preferable to layer with separate, but removable, garments than to go with an all-in-one.
As your skills increase, many of you will want to get into long casting -- that is reaching way out there for that trophy steelhead, salmon or redfish. Before you have a go at it, try a stripping basket. It is a handy and convenient way to catch the line you strip from the reel during the cast and/or the line you strip-in during the retrieve. Without one, you guarantee yourself tangles during lawn practice as the line gets under your feet. Don't forget that long casting requires use of the entire body; consequently, as you step forward to follow-through be assured your big feet will step on the line. The Fish Gods laugh as you curse. It doesn't get better in the water: the line is sure to go with the current, waves, or tangle in waterborne trash. Never forget that the Ancient Fish Gods are ever at work! Thus, you may rest assured your line will always be doing something bad and evil to inhibit your cast. So end the hassle -- get a stripping basket. You can make one out of a plastic dishwashing pan using dowel rods and glue, or buy the latest version from Cortland or Orvis. Cortland's latest version has proved itself fishing the saltwater flats, and for quality and value it remains my choice. One last point: remember to load the basket before you begin fishing or casting. This simply means that you should strip of the entire line needed and then load the basket beginning with the end nearest the reel. Otherwise, you can find yourself in a big mess!
First Aid Kit.
Everyone knows better than to head for the boonies without a first aid kit. But year after year, lots of people who know better do just that. When what can't happen happens, it's bad news. To make it simple for all of us, carry and use a first aid kit.
© Copyright: Douglas G. Macnair, 1999-2005.