Fly fishing vests are generally one of the last items new anglers to the sport think about getting. Frequently, anglers often get their fly fishing vests soon after realizing that they have no place to put all the lines, leaders, flies, dressings and other stuff that they just got. And then, rushing out to the nearest store, they pick up the first fly fishing vest they see.
While it is quite true that any fly fishing vest, at least one that fits, will work, there is a big difference between a cheap fly fishing vest and a good one. Best of all, the cost difference between a good fishing vest and a junky one really is quite minimal. So, when you need a new fly fishing vest, get a good one right out of the gate since a good fishing vest will provide many, many years of reliable service.
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Types of Fly Fishing Vests
There are several varieties of fly fishing vests available, all designed to meet various on-the-water needs and the preferences of the angler. For those not familiar with all the varieties, we list them here.
Standard Fly Fishing Vest : This is probably the fishing vest that most anglers are familiar with. It's just a vest with a wide range of pockets that will be in various sizes, shapes and locations.
Mesh Fly Fishing Vest : A mesh fly fishing vest is similar in most ways to a standard fly fishing vest except that the vests fabric is mesh, not a solid fabric. Because the fabric of the vest is made of mesh material, these fishing vests tend to be just a tad cooler during hot weather.
Chest Vests : These specialized fly fishing vests have numerous pockets and compartments that hang on the front of the chest of the angler.
Waist Fishing Vests : While not a true vest (since these things more resemble a fanny pack than a fishing vest), these types of fly fishing vests are perfect for angler
Features & Quality of Fly Fishing Vests
When hunting around for a fly fishing vest, two things that need to be kept in mind are the various features and the quality of the vest. Each of these can have an impact on how well your fly fishing vest works out for you.
A quality fly fishing vest will have no loose threads or seams. It will also likely have all seams stitched twice for maximum strength. Why is quality important? For the simple reason that a fly fishing vest tends to get abused. They'll get wet, then thrown down on the shore, then hung up in a closet someplace for months at a time. A cheap fly fishing vest that is not properly stiched up will quickly begin to unravel by the seams.
For features of a vest, probably the most important consideration is the number and location of pockets on the fishing vest. As any angler knows, fly fishing vests have numerous pockets on them to store all sorts of odd-shaped but frequently used gear.
There is no "right" amount of pockets that a person should have on a fly fishing vest. That said, I've found that the more pockets you have, the more likely you are likely to lose things in the vest - especially if some of those pockets are hidden inside other pockets. Thus, instead of spending time fishing, you end up wasting time hunting around through your fly fishing vest for the gear you need.
Additionally, always make sure that the pockets are big enough to hold your gear. A fly fishing vest with 50 small pockets is likely to be useless when it comes to storing your fly boxes - many of which are often quite large. Thus, always make sure that the fly fishing vest will be large enough to hold the largest fly box you have - and will do so without you having to resort to creative stuffing methods to get the fly box into the pocket.
While this is open to debate, I'll recommend a fly fishing vest with 15-25 pockets. This is more than enough to store all your streamside fly fishing gear without going overboard. This number of pockets on the vest also generally insures that the large pockets on the fishing vest will be large enough to hold your fly boxes, too.