Get a list of the best fly fishing vests, including features and pricing. Use this guide so you can buy the right vest the first time.
I’ll be honest, I’ve always thought vests were cool. By that I mean figuratively and literally. If you met me I’m an unusual woman in my ability to experience cold temperatures, and I get hot very easily. I can’t really wear sweaters in the winter, and when I lived in Atlanta I didn’t really wear a winter coat for years.
I can’t say it’s something I shouldn’t have expected about myself, given that my dad wore shorts all winter when I was growing up. It’s in our blood. Which gets me to my point – I prefer vests over coats, just generally speaking. I’m used to wear them and I have several for the winter.
Now that I’m starting fly fishing, I’m figuring out how to carry my fly fishing gear. I’ve talked on this blog about the essentials and accessories I like for fishing, and the big question mark I’m still figuring out is how I enjoy carrying them. I have a sling pack and I have a waist pack, but I’m really interested in fly fishing vests due to my love of the vest in general. So I’ve got great news . . . you’re going to benefit from my research.
At the time of this writing I’ve decided to get a Fishpond Upstream Tech vest for women, and I’ll update this post when I have a chance to use it for awhile so I can report on the results. I’m excited to field test, but in the meantime, let’s go over some important things about fly vest, which impacted how I chose.
How to Choose a Fly Fishing Vest
Here are the questions/ideas you should consider when choosing a vest for yourself.
How much gear are you going to carry? I would take your gear and divide it up into “pockets” on a table or the floor to see what you’re going to need. If you only have ten pockets worth of stuff, you don’t need a vest with 26 pockets.
What else are you going to carry? Do you typically carry lunch? Beers? A rain jacket? Maybe you like to remove layers as the day goes on and need somewhere to put them. Some of the vests have pockets and some are actual backpack combos.
What do you like to have accessible? Consider what gear you like to have at the ready. Do you mind digging into your pocket for nippers or do you want them to be on a zinger? There are tippet roll loops on several of the vests too, which keeps it right in front of your chest. Also note where the tools go.
Do you need warmth or breathability? Some of the vests are mesh, but they typically have less pockets. If you are run hot like me, you might want a more minimalist vest. Of course, you can adjust your layers to work for you as well. You’ll need to find the balance.
How much water will the vest see? There is always the risk of falling into water, but some have more waterproof/water resistant fabrics than others. Regardless, always have a waterproof pouch in your vest to hold your keys, wallet, and phone.
What is your budget? That really goes without saying, but these vets vary greatly in price. They start at under $50 and go up to $300.
Are Fishing Vests Worth It?
Well, that is hard to say. What you wear fly fishing is certainly personal to a large extent. A fly vest is going to distribute the weight on your front and back (if loaded properly) and can keep those common used items right in front of your face.
What is nice about a vest is that everything is very accessible AND organized. I think there’s a huge benefit to that, especially for a disorganized person such as – me. Check out the features of the vests below and see if they are going to work for you!
Fly Fishing Vests
Fly fishing vests are specifically designed for fly fishermen (and women) with plenty of storage, adjustable sizing, and comfortable fits. Check out the list of vest on the market from lowest to highest in price, with all the features that each has to offer.
If you're looking for a budget buy, this mesh and ripstop lightweight vest is a good option from Amazon. it's got a bunch of pockets in the front, one in the back, and a bottle holder on the side. There are some accessory loops and a rod loop, and the whole thing zips up in the front.
Will it last more than a season? To a certain extent you get what you pay for, so keep your expectations tempered. However if you don't have a lot of cash for a vest purchase, this is a decent option with an MSRP of $40.
There are a few advantages of a vest like this one. First, it's really lightweight and perfect for those who need storage (but not an entire vest's worth). Second, it's great for those of us who tend to get warm easily. You can wear it even with thicker layers and not overheat.
Even with the design, there are still 14 pockets and an interior mesh stretch pocket. There is a nice padded neck so it's not going to dig in. The minimalist approach keeps the price low at an MSRP of $49.99.
I have been known on more than one occasion to not eat enough food or drink enough fluids . . . and bonk big time while I'm outside. This vest features a 2-liter water bladder so you don't have to worry about that part - plus plenty of pockets for Clif bars!
The nice thing about the backpack portion is that it can fit a jacket and you still have all the room up front. There's a rod holder tab as well as a forcep holder on the front. You can get for $69.95 MSRP.
If you're looking for a classic fly fishing vest for a good price (in two colors), this Simms vest is a good pick. It's breathable and lightweight with a durable nylon shell. Has a rod holder and net D-ring with lots of pockets and a padded collar. I like the big zipper pocket on the back! You get Simms quality for an MSRP of $79.95.
Everything in the Orvis Clearwater line of goods is great for beginner fly fishers, and this vest is no exception. You've got all the features of a basic vest - mesh panel, lots of pockets, padded collar.
But you also get two chest fly-drying patches as well as rubberized tabs for tool docking, AND there are elastic tabs for keeping your tippet bar accessible (genius!). This is a great pick for newbies at $98 MSRP.
Combine a very lightweight backpack with a vest and you get this hybrid fly fishing vest. It's really nice if you're hiking in a ways and need to carry some goodies including lunch. It also keeps you cool when hot and won't absorb water.
There are some nice loops and attachment points and it sits high if you want to wade in deeper water. There are no zips for anything to get caught on which happens to me all the time, with everything. Get it for $99 MSRP.
If you're a guy or gal that likes to fish from a kayak or drift boat, you might need certified life vest like this one from Kokatat. The GREAT thing about this vest is that it doubles for fly fishing! It's got a high back to accommodate the high seat backs in fishing kayaks.
There's a great place for forceps in the front, with lots of places for other tools, zingers and nippers, etc. It's got lots of pockets (14) but two of them are hand warmers for when the weather gets chilly. It comes in some pretty happening colors for $159 MSRP.
As far as I'm concerned, Fishpond always gets it when it comes to fly fishing! This vest has more pockets compared to the average vest (17), but nothing goes to waist. One of the pockets right below the chest has a great "drawbridge" style with a replaceable fly mat.
If you look at the features of the vest, it has everything. There's a place for everything. AND it has the integrated net holder in the back, which I love. The front panel of the Sagebrush also zips into their Firehold backpack. If you don't mind spending over $100 for a fly vest, spend the $159.95 MSRP to get this one.
The two best features of this Orvis fishing vest are the number of pockets (18) and the zippers (really easy to open and close). The material is nice and lightweight with a water resistant coating . . . it's a really comfortable option.
I think if you liked to carry a lot of gear and you need quite a few pockets, this is a great option. There are molded pockets, tool holders on the front, and the tippet bar holder bands. One thing I notice about this vest is that people who have it say it lasts well - very durable. It sells for $198 MSRP.
Once you get into the $200 range for a vest, you've either got a pretty healthy fly fishing gear budget or you're a guide. This is a great vest, and very durable, and it has 26 pockets.
Basically this vest has everything the other vests have, but just more of it. More D-rings. More mesh. More velcro. It's also got two built in retractors which is pretty cool. If you're wanting to be a guide or just have tons of pockets and a lot of bells and whistles, this can be yours for $199.95 MSRP.
This is the only women's specific fly vest on the list, and just like the Sagebrush Pro vest, Fishpond has executed this very well. The women’s specific fit rides higher and can be cinched down tighter for a more customized fit.
It's got all the standard features you'd expect in any vest, but the cut is more for a women, which is nice. I'd love more companies to develop vests for women! Get this for $199.95 MSRP.
Sometimes you want a regular car - and sometimes you want a luxury car. But then sometimes you want a supercar, and that is what you'll find with this Filson vest. The big deal with this vest is the styling and material, which has a very "River Runs Through It" feel. If Robert Redford went fly fishing I'd expect him to wear this.
It's got pockets and D-rings and a fly patch like the other vests, but you're paying for the brand name over all the bells and whistles. AND the quality. I will admit that my dad has some Filson products from when I was a child. And they are in great condition. I can only imagine this vest would have that kind of durability. And for the mere price of $300 MSRP, it can be yours.
Have you ever tried a fly fishing vest? I’d love to know which brand and what your thoughts are in the comments!