Wade fishing is an incredible way to hunt fish. There are times where heading out on foot makes the most sense. Whether this is to target extremely shallow fish or creeping up on spooky species, wading offers some significant advantages.
Often it isn’t easy to carry the necessary gear such as flies and tippets when wading. Therefore, a chest pack allows you to carry essential gear in a lightweight, compact bag that is easily worn and accessible. Unlike a traditional backpack, a sling does not need to be taken off to look through. The beauty of a sling pack is the ability to wear it forward or rear-facing, allowing for quick access to your gear.
Fortunately, many manufacturers offer wading chest slings in various sizes and configurations. However, knowing what to look for when making a selection is not always as easy as it may seem. So what should you look for in a fly fishing sling pack?
Storage is critical when selecting a fly fishing sling pack
When it comes to storage, most people think bigger is better. However, in the world of fly-fishing, less is more. Storage needs to be well thought out but not bulky.
Having a large bag will make traversing different terrains difficult and impede your ability to make a fly cast. Instead, it is better to think about smart storage. The goal of the sling isn’t to pack your entire tackle box but instead allow you to have quick access to essential gear such as flies, leaders, pliers, and maybe a few snacks. The more gear you bring, the more weight you are forced to carry around with you.
Instead of searching for a large sling pack, pay attention to the number of dividers and pockets the sling provides. The more you can separate your gear, the easier it will be for you to quickly locate things without pulling everything out of the bag to access. Features such as fly patches allow you to quickly store and grab new flies without carrying a fly box. Generally, fly fishing gear is small and can be easily separated among the various pouches and pockets.
Although large bags are too bulky and heavy, it is essential to ensure your sling is not too small. If you find yourself stuffing the sling full, it will be far more difficult to access what you need without pulling out unnecessary equipment easily.
Lash points are your friend
Selecting a sling that offers built-in D-rings and loops will give you added flexibility for what you choose to carry. This added feature allows you to be a minimalist when you want but maintains the ability to add more gear when needed.
D-rings and clip points will allow you to carry various things such as water bottles, nets, and even tippet holders on the outside of your bag, allowing for even quicker access.
When selecting a bag with lash points and D-rings, it is important to think about what you may decide to carry on your adventure and envision how the bag’s layout will fit your needs. After all, you will be wearing this pack for hours at a time.
Checking the quality and durability of these lash points is essential. The last thing you want is for gear to be lost due to faulty workmanship. Built-in loops and D rings should be solid and capable of withstanding abuse from the elements.
Does a sling pack need to be waterproof?
One of the advantages of a sling pack is how high the bag will ride on your back, and this allows the bag to maintain a comfortable level above the waterline in most cases.
Having a waterproof sling pack is a nice feature but, in most cases, is not necessary. If wading in deep water or when in extremely rugged environments, the use of a waterproof sling pack is recommended.
Waterproof bag technology encompasses a closed zipper system and a sealed polyester shell that completely shields the bag’s contents from water intrusion. This technology allows the bag to be completely submersible. If wading in deep water or carrying items susceptible to corrosion, you may choose a waterproof sling.
One thing to consider is the added cost of a waterproof sling versus a standard water-resistant sling. Generally, the price of a fully waterproof bag is double that of a standard sling.
For waterproof sling packs, I highly recommend the Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Sling Pack. I have personally used this pack quite a bit when fishing in harsh environments and have completely submerged it only to find my gear dry as a bone. The construction of the pack is durable, and the layout is well thought out. There is plenty of storage, convenient tool holders, and a well-thought-out built-in net holder.
What is the best overall fly fishing sling pack?
To determine the best overall fly fishing sling pack, functionality, durability, and price were compared.
The best overall fly fishing sling pack is the Simms Freestone Sling Pack. This pack offers considerable storage and accessory attachments, is comfortable to wear, and is made of high-quality water-resistant material built to last.
Some of the specific features of the Simms Freestone Sling Pack include:
- Ambidextrous design allows you to carry your gear on either the right or left shoulder.
- A four-way zipper allows easy access inside from the top or either side of the pack.
- Front shoulder strap with docking station, retractor attachment, and looped webbing for nipper storage.
- The lower shoulder strap has a stretch mesh pocket for essentials and floatant storage.
- Adjustable front panel contains loop field for wet fly storage, secured tippet holder, coated webbing daisy chain, and compression straps with rod storage.
- Ambidextrous vertical net carry system.
- FABRIC TECH:100% 420D Oxford nylon; DWR water-resistant finish; 100% nylon 920D Robic; 100% nylon stretch woven
- CAPACITY: 15 L
- DIMENSIONS: 15.75 x 9.25 x 4.5 in
- APPROX. WEIGHT: 1 lb.
I have used my Freestone Sling in various applications, from chasing bonefish in the Bahamas to trout fishing in the Midwest. The lightweight design makes it easy to wear all day without fatigue. The pack is spacious enough to carry a fly box and water bottle yet has a small enough profile not to impede my casting ability.
There are more than enough storage compartments to easily separate gear for quick access. If you are an avid wade fisherman, I highly recommend this sling pack.
What should I keep in my fly fishing pack?
One of the biggest mistakes I see is packing too much gear. Not only is this cumbersome to carry, but it also makes it difficult to find what you are looking for in a pinch. Fly fishing by nature is minimalistic, and therefore the gear you carry should be the same. You will find it surprising how little gear you need to have a successful day of fly fishing.
When packing my sling pack, here is the list of items that I will bring:
- Leader spools on a Rio Fly Fishing Tippet Headgate (Amazon)
- A small FlyBox ( Kingfisher – Double-Sided Fly Fishing Box) (Amazon)
- Pliers ( Van Staal 6″ Titanium Pliers) (Trident Fly Fishing)
- Hemostats (Freshwater fishing)
- A pair of Nippers (ABEL Nipper) (Trident Fly Fishing)
- Back up reel spool (Optional)
- Floatant (Freshwater fishing)
- Net (Freshwater fishing)
- Water Bottle
- Snacks – (Granola Bars)
- Fishing License
It is crucial to be prepared but at the same time keep it simple. There is no way to be prepared for every possible event, which is part of what makes fly fishing such a rewarding challenge. If there is one category you should never skimp on, it is fly selection. You can never have too many flies.
How do you organize a fly fishing sling pack?
How a sling pack is organized is mostly a matter of personal preference and the pack’s layout. However, there are some things you can do to make your life easier.
When organizing the pack, it is best to make sure things you need frequently are conveniently located. The items you will use frequently will be flies, leader, and nippers. These items should be easy to reach without digging through less-used items.
Leader spools can be attached to the outside of the sling on a D ring or welded loop and will not require you to open the bag each time you need to cut a new piece of tippet.
Nippers can also be placed on the outside of the sling using a lanyard system allowing you to cut leader spools quickly.
Most sling packs have built-in fly pouches that are conveniently located toward the front of the bag. This is a great place to store flies you suspect you will use as you can grab them quickly. If you prefer to keep your flies in a small box, place the fly box in the outermost pouch capable of carrying the box.
Items such as fishing licenses or wallets should be stored in the main compartment and preferably in the innermost zippered compartment.
The great thing about the sling pack design is that the bag can easily swivel to the front of your body. This makes accessing any area of the pack fairly simple. Wasted time means less fish caught. The last thing you want is to be fumbling around in your bag while hungry fish are in front of you.
For more organization tips, check out my post How to Organize Fly Fishing Gear: Tips for Beginners.
Using a sling pack is a great way to be prepared while spending a day fly fishing on foot. The use of a sling allows you to maintain mobility while having quick access to important gear.
When preparing for a day of wade fishing, it is always best to bring only the necessities. Having too much gear can be burdensome to carry and make locating things more difficult.
How you organize your pack can help make your life easier as well. Be conscious to place items you will need more frequently, such as flies and leader, in easily located places. Organizing your bag will take some trial and error. What works for me may not be convenient for you. The best way to be organized is head out on the water and see what works and what doesn’t.
If you are in the market for a sling pack or planning a DIY trip, I highly recommend the Simms Freestone Sling Pack. This pack is extremely durable and well thought out, and Simms has accounted for any feature you might need while on the water.