Gear Head

I haven’t always been this way. When I started fly fishing, I just figured all I needed was a rod and reel, a few flies and one of those dorky looking vests everyone seemed to wear. I thought you only really went on days when the weather was nice. So you just easily waded into a stream with your Chacos on and caught fish. It seemed like a simple concept. Boy, was I wrong…

Now as a guy trying to raise a family of five on a public school teacher’s salary, I don’t have the kind of money you could easily spend in a fly shop. That’s the thing about this sport…if you want to spend a LOT of money, you can. There seems to be an endless amount of gear related to the sport of fly fishing. And the shops that sell said gear are more than happy to take your money. But for the regular working stiff, $2.50 per fly sucks away what little budget we may have for this sport we love. I figured my biggest cost would be restocking my fly boxes, so in order to cut down on this cost long term, I invested in a beginner fly tying kit. I would tie my own flies! While my theory stood on solid ground, it ultimately became a “gateway” to wanting other stuff. I was hooked!

If you’ve ever been to an M&M store — like a real M&M store, not just a place that sells them — you have seen the absolute chaos of possibilities for a seemingly simple candy. I was completely overwhelmed by all of the different shit that was available. Every color, pattern, symbol, name and style you could ever imagine is available to put on an M&M. And that’s exactly what it’s like in a good fly tying section of a fly shop. Overwhelming! I just wanted to tie the basics and had no idea how much different stuff I would need to do that. I started slowly and have built a decent little supply to keep myself busy tying flies. But it is nothing compared to the fly tying setups I see in the YouTube fly tying videos I watch. Some of those dudes have the Playboy Mansion of Fly Tying setups!

Still, my homemade “tying table” and beginners vice on the dining room table has good enough lighting and speakers to pump tunes; it works well enough to fill the rows of my box and share with my friends. Nothing beats catching a trout on a fly you tied yourself — somehow, that fish on that fly is one of the more special ones.

Like I said, the fly tying gear bled into all other aspects of my fishing gear. I don’t have the most expensive waders or the most expensive boots. A few years ago when my boots needed replacing, I made a choice to buy cheaper ones to see how long they could last. I figured $45 bucks for a few years would be far better than $200 for four years. I teach English for a reason, but even that math makes sense to me. You’d think that the money I saved in my new found approach to waders and boots would end up in a savings account. You’d be wrong.

From the start, I have invested money in three good rods that I have fished for the past 30 years. So, the money I saved and do have to spend tends to be on little stuff. I try to find the latest in little gadgets that might make my life on the river easier. It’s these little things like fly boxes, cheaters that hang off my hat, or foam rig holders that I love to try out. They aren’t anything ground breaking, but you’d be amazed at how much a third hand rod holder can simplify your efficiency when changing flies.

I think the best part about exploring all the different fly fishing gear is sharing my finds with my buddies. Every year on GFW, I always tie the boys a dozen flies and give them my favorite new little gadget discovery for the year. They probably don’t use half the shit I give them because none of ‘em fish as much as I do. But giving has become one of my favorite parts of GFW. And maybe, just maybe, they will start to fish more because somehow it is a little easier.

When I think of the term “Gear Head,” I think of dudes who dig cars because that’s what they were called when I was in high school; however, I’m pretty sure the term applies to us fly fisherman addicted to our “gear”!

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