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Fly Fishing Tools of the Trade

Ask any fly fisher what you need to start up in the sport, and they’ll quickly answer something to the effect of: “Just a rod and reel.”

Then, after a brief pause: “And line and flies, of course.”

And shortly after that: “You’ll need a vest, fly boxes, tippet, leaders, nippers, flotant, weight, a net, waders, boots, polarized sunglasses…”

As they continue to drone on, you’ll get the picture.

Fly fishing is easy enough to get into, but there are plenty of miscellaneous items that make the whole venture much more comfortable. Given the tendency for outdoors enthusiasts to like gadgets and gear, various and sundry tools are usually important for anglers. But what makes a good tool, and what makes a better tool?

On the banks of the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada, StreamWorks creates fly fishing tools. “StreamWorks was born out of frustration with the fly fishing accessories that were available at the time,” says company president Tom Duffy. “Our founders were avid fly fishermen who saw major design flaws in those accessories and started making their own tools.”

Now in the business of making forceps, fly boxes, fly tying tools, and much more, Some companies, like StreamWorks, key in on the specific needs and desires of gear-minded anglers. These anglers want tools that will do the job, stand up to the rigors of outdoor use, and not be priced such that going fishing is cost-prohibitive. Today, there are plenty of options when it comes time for a fly fisher to select his or her tools.

Take forceps, for example. At the bare minimum, forceps are narrow pliers. They remove hooks from fish, affix split shot, and perform a number of other creative uses. But you’ll get all that from a pair of bargain store forceps. To some, that might be fine and justify the five-dollar price tag. Say you want something that isn’t going to bend or rust: that will cost you a few bucks more for better steel. How about a finish that isn’t reflective? Or oversized finger holes? Or a stamped-on logo from a particular company? The price for something as simple as a pair of forceps can really escalate quickly.

Furthermore, a brand has to do something to differentiate itself in the mind of anglers. Duffy explains his approach: “There are a few companies making higher-end forceps, but none of them are really pushing to add features or functionality. We saw the opportunity to not only make higher-end forceps, but to include our Power Jaws to add high-leverage crimping, de-barbing, and plier functionality… all without increasing the price of the tool.”

This same mindset applies to nippers, fly boxes, and even brackets that hold flotant. While there is a lot of brand loyalty in fly fishing, anglers appreciate ease-of-use. With premium fly fishing tools exceeding one hundred dollars in some instances these days, it is clear that the value of efficiency and effectiveness is high in the market.

My newest pack geared up with some of the essentials.

There is also a desire to have a tool for everything. Grandpa might have made do with his Swiss Army knife, but today there are pieces of gear that essentially make that multitool look like a pointy rock. The technological advances and specialized nature of gadgets in the outdoors industry is indicative of a culture that wants to excel in its pursuits, but also to do so with some pretty cool stuff.

For a fly fisher looking to start out in the sport, or for those looking to upgrade, there are certainly plenty of options. There is something to be said for using a pair of nail clippers, surplus surgical forceps, and an old Altoids can in lieu of a fly box. The person who goes that route won’t have a single disadvantage when it comes to hooking fish. However, there is nothing wrong with desiring something more ergonomic, more crafted, and with more bells and whistles.

Even if it is just a pair of forceps, going through the process of picking the tool that is just right can be part of the experience. The little idiosyncrasies of  humans are magnified in the culture of a pursuit like fly fishing.  The whole point, of course, is to catch fish. Getting there, and getting there comfortably, means having the right tool for the job.


Check out all the fly fishing tools offered by StreamWorks on their website.

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  1. Mike Miller says:

    Enjoy your articles. They bring a comfort period in the day when reading what it could be like. Knowing what we need is helpful because we have found out that that helped to reduce any stress when you needed an item that you should have had along to begin with. My wife & I just started fly fishing last year and was able to take classes at the local Orvis outlet and fly tying classes too. We had a day last year in Colorado fly fishing and next week we are heading to Branson, MO to hopefully get in a day or two of fishing. Again, keep up the writing.

    • Matthew says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you’ve gotten into the sport – have fun falling down the rabbit hole! And Branson? Trout plus Yakov Smirnoff – amazing.

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