Woman fly fishing

There are a lot of similarities in packing for a fly fishing trip and a camping trip; the proper season and the high or low probability of good weather, sufficient nourishment, appropriate clothing, etc. But there are actually easy mistakes made along the way if the intent of your fishing trip isn’t front and center. 

Planning a Fly Fishing Trip

Where to set up camp, what essential gear should tag along and what non-essential gear should stay behind, and the proper orientation of your trip’s objective will optimize not only for how many bites you get out on the water, but also for the quality of time you have in the company of Mother Nature. 

There are some outfitters that can provide you with an all-in-one experience; fly fishing and camping without having to bring your own gear along. Outfitters can be really great because not only do they do the work up front of getting you to and from your fishing spot, but they take the headache out of packing for the trip. That said, it’s often the case that you want the solitude camping and fly fishing provides. 

Where There Are Fish, There Is a Good Camp Spot to Fish 

This may sound obvious, but depending on what part of the backcountry you are hoping to snag a good camping spot in, it really wouldn’t make a ton of sense to set up camp far away from any stream or body of water.

To weed out camping spots that don’t serve the purpose of your trip, select and make a list of spots that will have you closer to the fish. When you’ve found a spot you think will do fine, it’s never a bad idea to run it through a 3D Google Maps view to make sure the topography is traversable for you and your fly fishing gear should you need to make a little trek to access the water. 

Gear Essentials- Your Fly Rod and Reel 

Fly fishing in Colorado River

Bringing a single fly rod runs you the risk of damaging or breaking it, robbing you of the fishing experience in mind. But packing an abundance of fly rods isn’t necessary either. Your best bet is to bring a 5-weight, which will get you by in almost all of your fly fishing spots. In case you find yourself fishing a day where the wind picks up, a 6-weight fly rod will make for a great backup. 

As for reels, a simple, multi-fitting click and pawl reel is all you will need. But make sure you bring an extra spool or two of line; depending on how much fishing you plan to do, you could go through a lot of line in a short amount of time. 

In order to keep your rod and reel in good shape for the duration of your trip, pack a small supply of Armor All wipes so any mud or dirt particles your gear comes into contact with don’t cause great damage to your rig day after day. For more information on gear maintenance, check out this article on taking care of your fly gear.

Gear Essentials- Leaders, Flies, and Waders 

If you tie your own leaders, spend some time before your camping trip tying them at home. That way, you’re able to enjoy your camp and wet your line rather than waste it prepping in ways that could have been done at home. 

When it comes to your flies, you don’t need to pack for every type of fish you may come across; instead, carry enough flies to cover the entire life cycle of an insect which includes nymphs, pupae, emergers, and adults.

Some wading gear will give you more access to fishing spots not reachable from the shoreline, but the need to wade all depends on your camping spot and the body of water you’re fishing from. In that case, they may not be required and will take up too much precious gear space, so it might be best to leave them behind. 

Don’t Pack Too Light or Too Much 

Fly fishing Colorado

Especially on multi-day camping trips, packing too light can put you in a really devastating situation such as breaking your only fly rod or reel, not having an extra tippet, or dropping the only pair of pliers into a flowing river. And this packing tip doesn’t just go for fishing gear; you may want to take a look at the weather forecast and make sure you’re not just packing for the weather you hope to have, but for the weather you’ll get.

Nothing can put a damper on your camping trip faster than a heavy downpour when you’re wearing cotton.. on cotton.. on cotton. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a common pitfall many anglers fall into is packing too much. A lot of frustration can be minimized if you only pack what is essential and not what is highly unlikely that you’ll use. 

Optimize your vehicle and your pack with attentive organization so you know exactly where a critical item is stowed when the time comes to use it. Remember, and especially on multi-day trips, you will need to have room to pack a tent, food, etc., so maybe the hammock or your oversized speakers can hang back at home. 

Attitude Over Items- What Fly Fish Camping Is All About 

Fly fishing solitude camping

While location is an important factor in making the most of your trip, and packing the essentials is of utmost importance, you’ll also want to prioritize your fly fishing and camping intentions. Many of us escape to the wilderness to get away from all of the buzz that comes with a common, everyday human experience.

While you probably don’t want to head out into the wild without a cell phone in case of an emergency, you didn’t put all this effort into planning an amazing getaway just to be on your phone and trading on the stock market all day. 

Fishing and camping trips are all about decompression, solitude, and enjoying the simple things in life, as well as soaking in the beauty that nature provides. Breathe in, breathe out, keep your eye on the beautiful ospreys and eagles that may be flying overhead, and observe the pattern of your caught trout’s scales with wonder. And above all else, try to only use your phone when you want to take a picture that captures a single, awe-inspiring moment.

Get Outside & Go Fly Fishing!

Once you’ve prepared and packed for your fly fishing trip, it’s time to plan your camping route.

Discover the pros and cons of dispersed vs. established camping in our guide “How to Find the Best Camping in Colorado” >