[Editor's Note: Anyone heading out in the salt, in the tropics or anywhere else, should follow this advice. Our friend Conway Bowman's book, The Orvis Guide to Beginning Saltwater Fly Fishing, is full of great information, tips, and tactics. Here's an excerpt, in which he discusses the essential gear for any saltwater fly-fishing trip. The man spends hundreds of days on the water every year, and a few of his suggestions may surprise you.]
Pliers have a number of functions. They make it easier to release fish, aid in pinching down hook barbs, cut wire or heavy monofilament, and open bottled beverages to quench your thirst on a hot day.
2. Tippet material
Always carry enough monofilament or fluorocarbon to create leaders to meet your needs. Three spools of tippet material should suffice for most situations: 20-, 30-, and 40-pound test.
Once fish slime is on your hands, this sticky and smelly gunk will foul everything within reach: your gear, your clothes, the ham-and-cheese sandwich that you brought for lunch. Always carry a good absorbent towel, one that can get the gunk off your hands and that can be rinsed after every use.
Besides ruining a fly-fishing trip, sunburn can ruin your life. Today’s market is glutted with every sort of sun-protection ointment, and many provide excellent protection from the sun’s rays. Once you have applied sunblock (do it more than once a day), rinse you hands thoroughly, as many fish can smell the chemicals on your fly or line. To be extra safe, wear it in conjunction with sun-protective clothing . . . and a hat.
Even if it’s sunny and hot when you head out fishing, it might get cloudy and cold, or windy and rainy, before the day is over. Always take raingear whenever you go, just in case. It also pays to take along a large garbage bag to protect your gear.
6. Super Glue
Nothing is more annoying (and painful) than a cut or cracked finger while saltwater fishing. Whether you’re on a flat in Belize or 60 miles offshore, Super Glue will close the cut and stop the bleeding, letting you keep fishing until you are able to deal with the condition back at the dock. Super Glue can also come in handy when you need to repair broken rod tips.
7. Duct Tape
As one of my fishing buddies once stated, “Duct tape is like The Force . . . it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.” Like Super Glue, duct tape can take care of your many needs, be it securing a fly reel onto a broken reel seat, taping rod cases together for the flight home from a far-off location, or applying around your stripping finger, for protection from the line.
8. Antibacterial Gel
When you’re catching and releasing fish, there are going to be times when your hands suffer small nicks and cuts from razor-sharp teeth and spiny fins. An easy way to avoid nasty infections is to carry a pocket-size container of antibacterial hand wash, and to apply it generously throughout the day.
Don’t try to release or handle any fish bare-handed. Many fish have teeth, spines, stingers, and gills that can pierce your skin and cause infections. Wear good fishing gloves for any fish-handling chores.
10. Handheld Scale
The BogaGrip (with built-in scale) or another type of handheld scale will provide you an accurate weight on that saltwater fish of a lifetime. Such scales pack easily and are worth every penny.
11. Hook Sharpener
Dull hooks are responsible for many lost fish. Even though many hooks are laser- or machine-sharpened, most saltwater fly hooks are made of stainless steel. When fished in rough areas such as jetties, rocks, coral, and even sandy bottoms, hooks will dull over time, and require constant sharpening. A good sharpener should always be a part of your kit.
12. Handheld GPS
One of the worst fishing nightmares is becoming lost or disoriented on the ocean, on the flats, or in a marsh’s maze. A global positioning system (GPS) unit can prevent such situations. Using a GPS unit, you can also mark areas where the fishing is red hot, letting you return to the exact spot whenever you choose. Most GPS units contain moon phase and tidal information, both keys to successful fishing.
A wide-brimmed hat can protect your nose, ears, and the back of your neck from sunburn. Don’t wear a baseball hat unless you don’t have a choice, as they afford only minimal protection from the sun’s rays.
14. Tackle Bag
When shopping for a traveling tackle bag, choose one that will hold all the gear needed on your trip. Ideally, the bag should be made of a tough material, and have many heavy-duty interior and exterior pockets. If you’re going to fill it up, or if you’re going to spend a lot of time going through airports, get a duffel bag with wheels.