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Backcountry Essentials

What should you have on you when fly fishing the High Sierras? Even if going out just for a day, our fish master has a few recommendations for you.

First, assume you are going to get wet. So start off by wearing clothes that dry quickly. Quick dry long pants and long sleeve shirts will keep you cool, help protect you from the sun, and, of course, they dry fast. Also, your undergarments should be quick dry as well. Avoid cotton and other materials that dry slowly. A wide brim hat and sun-buff will help keep the sun off of you. Pack a waterproof windbreaker and a beanie. Carry your ID and, of course, your fishing license. Wear sunglasses.

Carry plenty of water! A camel pack full of water will last you all day. In hotter months, fill it full of ice cubes and top it off with water... keeps you nice and cool.

Aside from bring your lunch/snack with you, put in a few extra snack bars just in case.

Carry some suntan lotion, sun protect/medicated chapstick, bug repellant, and tush wipes. I like single use packaging for these but travel size would do. I also carry a few Ibuprofen tablets.

Carry a small 2-way satellite messager with you. I recommend sending a "parked here" message wherever message to your next of kin. This can serve as a waypoint for you to find your vehicle if you get turned around a bit. Also carry your phone with you... loaded ahead of time with appropriate maps, waypoints, routes, etc.. But also carry an old-fashion compass.... batteries don't last all that long.

Carry a small LED headlamp and/or flashlight. LEDs, especially at low output settings, use little power so last longer.

Carry a small firestarter kit and space blanket.

I generally wet wade in the backcountry. I wear rubbersole lightweight fishing boats over thin neoprene booties that also serve as gravel guards. In some cases, I'll wear a pair of wet trail sneakers. I avoid felt soles mainly as they as they are slippery on trail and on grass banks. No spikes needed. But do carry and use a wading staff.

I use a small chest pack to hold my fly fishing gear. This works well with camel pack for water. If you like to carry a bit more, a vest will do as well. You might consider a vest with an integrated water pack.

Presently I carry a pair of debarbing pliers and generic forceps. But I recommend instead getting a forceps designed for the fly fishing, with integrated debarber, hook cleaner, and line cutter. Keep it on a zinger.

I carry two spare leaders (4x and 5x 9' trout leaders) and plenty of tippet (4x, 5x, 6x)... though I don't recommend using 6x in the High Sierras unless you enjoy losing lots of fish and flies. Most of the time, 4x is fine. In the meadows with thin flows, you might need to pop down to 5x. You should have your nippers handy. I keep mine on a zinger... and carry a spare.

Unless you treat all you dry flies at home with floatant, you'll want to carry some floatant. I prefer a formula which is temperature stable. A little goes a long ways. I carry a wide range of flies. See my Fly Box article.

Even though I rarely nymph in the backcountry... but for some odd reason I still carry plenty of nymphs with me... as well as a couple of indicators and some weights. Habit I guess.

As I practice Keep em Wet, I also carry a small C&R net.

As I'm a dry fly nut, I'm usually using one of my full-flex dry fly presentation rods. If little to no wind, I'll likely be using my 7.5ft 1wt. If mild wind, my 8.5 3wt.  In heavy wind, I tend to stay home... but do have a 8.5 5wt as well. I use that more on local rivers holding larger fish.

Lastly, before heading out, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to get back!