One of the best ways to spend an evening at a lakeside campsite is with a rod in hand, tossing a couple flies toward the ripples bubbling up on the water’s surface. It’s a quiet way to pass the time, a great way to feel immersed in nature, and an even better way to supplement a dinner of rehydrated space food. Fly fishing, though, is somewhat gear-intensive: rod, flies, net, waders and boots (if the water’s too cold to get in) and more. But if packing your gear into a backcountry lake or stream is your goal, there’s plenty of lightweight and tough fly fishing gear that won’t weigh you down. These are our favorites.
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Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders ($398)
If conditions allow, the best way to fish is barefoot and knee-deep after a long day of hiking. But in reality, that kind of au naturel casting is only possible during a narrow season in specific environments. The rest of the time, waders like these ones from Orvis will get you closer to your targets without weighing you down on the way in. The four-layer nylon fabric is burly, but the whole setup only comes in at a little over 2 pounds and rolls up a little larger than a football. A gusseted crotch and low-profile seams make them comfortable to walk in, the booties fit like a glove into boots, and there’s a pocket with a tool loop and fly patch on the upper. Plus, you can adjust the waders’ height easily from chest-high to waist-high so they’re comfy in a wide range of temps and water depths.
Simms Flyweight Access Wading Boots ($250)
These featherweight wading boots from Simms could be mistaken for hiking boots thanks to a tall profile and out-of-water aesthetic, but are some of the grippiest wet wading boots on the market. The pair weighs only two pounds, 12 ounces thanks to lightweight mesh uppers (with abrasion-resistant welded TPU overlays around the rand and collar to keep them from falling apart when they rub up against boulders) and a thin—but super sticky—Vibram Idrogrip Flex outsole. Given how light they are, the flyweights are surprisingly sturdy moving around big rocks in fast mountain streams due to tall uppers (they’re not bad for short, dry hikes either). They’re a little bulky to jam into your pack, but find a place to strap them on the outside and you’ll barely notice they’re there.
Patagonia Stealth Work Station ($59)
Rather than carrying a backpack or hip pack to hold all your gear, we like Patagonia’s iPad mini-sized Stealth Work Station, which is just big enough for a single fly box, some tippet and line, and a few other essentials. On a backcountry trip, there’s not as much need for the full cache of flies, spools on spools of line, and a ton of accessories (you’ll probably be limited in what you can fish, anyway) so it’s easier to curate exactly what you bring to the water. The water-resistant pouch features a large zippered pocket, two smaller zippered pockets, a couple patches for holding flies, and loops to attach your other gear. Plus, the Work Station has a pair of buckles meant for attaching it to the straps of your waders, giving you direct access to your kit.
Tenkara Sierra ($195)
Tenkara is a Japanese style of fly fishing that uses a collapsible rod without a reel; instead, a short section of line is tied directly to the end of the rod. You obviously won’t be casting as far as with a traditional fly rod, but the lightweight, durable, and simple system is ideal for small mountain ponds and streams. Enter the Sierra, an agile and flexible 10.5-foot rod. It comes ready to go with a longer 10.5-foot line, which makes it easier to delicately present your fly to the fish by keeping your rod tip and line high off the water. The whole system is made for casting precisely in tight quarters: It weighs just 2.8 ounces and packs down to a narrow 20-inch-long tube, making it easy to slip into your pack’s water bottle pocket.
EGO Blackwater Trout Net ($70)
The best net for backcountry fly fishing is the one you don’t spend a ton of money on: I’ve lost or left behind more nets than I care to admit, and even smashed one after setting down my pack too carelessly. But the Blackwater isn’t much of a compromise. The handle is durable (and lightweight—the whole thing weighs 11 ounces) polypropylene and the replaceable mesh is PVC. It has easy-to-read measurements along the bottom of the net, making it simple to gauge the length of your catch without ever taking it out. And, at 26 inches long, it easily straps to the webbing loops on a backpack.