Your fly fishing go bag

Essential, inexpensive, compact items that can save a fishing trip
spongebob band aid
Spongebob optional (photo: Tim Lewis).

By now you’ve probably read around 7,000 articles listing all the “must-have” items for your days on the water. Chances are, you also got a list the last time you booked a guide trip. Good wading boots? Check. Polarized sunglasses? Check. Flies? Check. Sunscreen? Check. But what about the little things that you should be carrying, the things that can really save the day and bail you out of a pickle?

Not only are these items true potential day savers, they are inexpensive and can all be stuffed into the same Ziploc “go bag” and get crammed into the bottom of your pack, only to be pulled out when the need arises.


Apart from their primary, intended use of keeping you from bleeding all over the place and dirt out of the hole that size 2 stinger hook left in the back of your ear, BAND-AIDs are one of the best stripping guards around. You know that groove you get in your finger from striping streamers all day? Put a Band-Aid on and you’ve solved the problem.

Cost: $1.99.

Bic Lighter

You never know when lost in the woods becomes a reality and, with all the wolves and jaguars running around, a cozy fire is a nice thing. We’ve all seen that movie where the stranded people are without a fire. It never ends well. You’ll also need it for the next item on the list.

Cost: $1.29.

Ferrule Cement

Ever experience that odd feeling that suddenly, maybe for the last 4 or 5 casts, you’ve been casting like crap? Did you revert to a novice? Then you notice your tip-top fell off and, instead of doing its job, it’s hanging out with your split shot. If you spend enough time fly-fishing it will happen to you.

Get yourself some ferrule cement. It’s roughly the size of a tube of Chap-Stik and having it will get you back to fishing within 5 minutes. Simply melt a bit on the tip of the rod, stick your tip-top back on (don’t’ forget to line it up with the guides!) and off you go. I even go so far as to carry extra tip-tops for that day when the damn thing ends up in the water lost forever.

Cost: $3.78.

Spare Boot Laces

Wading boot laces take a beating. Having one snap early in the day or a mile or two up or downriver can mean a premature end to a perfectly good fishing day, a truly miserable walk in or out or both. A spare pair of boot laces takes up hardly any room in your go-bag. Not bringing them along on virtually every venture out onto the water is hard to defend.

Cost: $5-10

Duct Tape

Aside from fire, duct tape may quite possibly be the most versatile and powerful element man is able to harness. Instead of trying to carry a whole roll, use the old camping trick of wrapping roughly 4-5 feet of it around a pencil. I recently had a reel seat fall apart mid-cast and good old duct tape saved the day. From a rod guide falling off to a torn jacket or boot falling apart, duct tape will come to the rescue. You can also use it to reinforce that BAND-AID that’s getting soggy and is about to fall off.

Cost: $2.99.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

Good sunglasses are an essential piece of equipment on the water. If you’ve followed any of our advice on what are the best pairs of fishing sunglasses, you’ve likely invested anywhere from $150 to $300 on a pair. Now you’re going to wipe the lenses with a dollar store paper towel or that flannel shirt that’s covered with dirt, slime and blue cheese from last night’s wing fest? Really?

Spend the extra few dollars and get yourself a cleaning cloth. Throughout the course of the day your glasses get will get splashed, smeared with sunscreen or otherwise dirty. There’s no sense wearing them if you can't see through them. Most paper towels, tissues and dirty cotton clothing will scratch and damage lenses, particularly those with coatings. Also be sure to regularly wash your cleaning cloth by tossing it in the washing machine. A dirty cleaning cloth can be even worse than the alternatives.

Be gentle with your sunglasses. Your wallet will appreciate it.

Cost: $2.99.

Toilet Paper

I doubt I need to go into much detail here. Suffice it to say that if you don’t carry toilet paper with you on the water, you are a fool. A damned fool. So what if 90 percent of the time you’ll be bailing out your amigos who’ve forgotten theirs and are suddenly doing the green-apple-quickstep with a look of sheer terror in their eyes? Do you really want to fish all day with only one sock?

Cost: $1.99.


I also carry a small pill container stuffed full of cotton balls loaded with hand sanitizer (gelatinized alcohol) makes starting a fire a snap!

A small tube of Zap-A-Gap or standard super glue. Mostly for holding that last beat up fly together (the only one that's caught a fish all day), but also useful in almost limitless ways. Most recently it was used to hold my Sumo rod rack together after it broke for the second time. Worked like a charm!

I would add something I have used for years. Pin a medium sized safety pin somewhere in your vest, pack, or whatever you take with you on the water. The pin is a life saver when it comes to untangling knots or any other time one needs a pin.

Great list. I always have a few wet nap towelettes as well. Great for wiping excess bug spray off fingers and just all around handy for cleaning up.

A tube of super glue and some gorilla tape for repairs and emergency first aid. Yes, I had the opportunity to treat a laceration with glue and tape. Remember: wilderness is defined as ...when you are more than one hour from help...and can an urban environment.

One or more zip ties. Lace repair to a broken zipper. Temp repair for sure.

Baby wipes are orders of magnitude better than toilet paper.

A multi tool might come in handy too!

Advil, spare battery for trolling motor, chap stick, gloves and beanie.