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The Backpacking Fly Fisherman

Ultralight fly fishing gear for the backpacker fishing on the move.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2005-07-26 03:00:00-06

The Backpacking Fly Fisherman: Ultralight Strategies for Fishing While You Hike - 4
Alan Dixon illustrates the technique of the backpacking fly fisherman: carrying your full overnight gear while fishing en route from camp to camp. This style of fishing allows you to cover a tremendous amount of fishable water, especially in areas like the Beartooths or Uintas (shown here), where there seems to be a lake, pond, or stream at every turn of the trail.


"Backcountry fly fishing" conjures up vastly different meanings to different people. For some, it means riding a four-wheeler up logging roads to a remote pond. Others may strap a float tube on their back and hike in five miles to an alpine cirque for a day. In Montana and Wyoming, it's not unpopular to join a horse packing trip to a remote wilderness for several days of supreme lake and stream fishing, with all the amenities of wilderness luxury: dutch ovens, cabin tents, and bottles of wine.

This type of backcountry fly fishing places few demands on the amount of fishing gear one might take: The ATV'er or horse packer is not so concerned about weight, and it's not so bad to haul a float tube, waders, fishing boots, and a loaded vest to a high alpine lake if for only a day or an overnighter.

But what to do if your backcountry fly fishing trek demands a full load of long distance hiking and camping gear, and you want to maintain an ultralight ethic - and pack?

Backpack Fishing vs. Camping Fishing

The backpacking fisherman fishes while on the trail - following a stream, or dropping a cast into every lakelet he may encounter. He usually carries his rod while hiking, and the majority of his fishing - including casting, catching, and releasing fish, is performed while wearing his full backpack. The camping fisherman stows his fishing gear in his pack, and only pulls it out occasionally on the trail, or once he arrives in camp, and seldom fishes while wearing his backpack. This article is tailored primarily to the backpacking fisherman.

Waders, Wading Boots, and Watercraft

If you are considering any of these items on your trek, this article is not entirely for you. Even the very lightest waders, wading boots, and trail boat or float tube is going to set you back a minimum of 4 pounds and if using mainstream (not ultralight) gear, can easily exceed 15 pounds. It's tough to go "ultralight" when you're adding that much weight. The subject of waders, boots, and watercraft is more appropriately addressed in Larry Tullis' article, Backcountry Fly Fishing: Lightweight Gear and Style.


For the ultralighter, wading means getting your feet wet, which places demands on the type of footwear you select. Fortunately, water warm enough to wade often equates to hiking in footwear that need not provide any insulation. Lightweight trail running shoes with mesh uppers are my favorite wading footwear: they drain well, dry fast, and of course, serve double duty for hiking.

Others perceive minor to significant risks when hiking in wet footwear, primarily related to blister formation and psychological well being. They may opt for a second pair of shoes for wet wading, or a pair of sandals. I'm not a sandal fan for wading in streams: they don't protect your feet from rocks and they don't keep the foot aligned with the sandal footbed well enough when precariously perched on the sides of boulders and steep streambanks.

I've hiked in wet shoes all day long while fishing - and carrying my pack - and I've never encountered any foot problems. It's important to fully dry your feet at night, or you do run the risk of the epidermis separating from inner skin layers, which can cause serious problems when you start hiking, and result in blisters, cracks, and subdermal lesions.

I also wear a lightweight pair of merino wool socks while wading - for both foot protection and warmth in cold streams. In addition, wearing socks allow me to seamlessly transition from wade-fishing to trail hiking.

The Backpack

The backpacker who focuses on wade-fishing while wearing a pack will give serious attention to the type of backpack suitable for this activity.

Fly fisherman, especially, need to consider both pack weight and comfort because arms are raised while casting more often and more dramatically than while spin fishing. Consequently, your pack's shoulder straps should be "minimally invasive," or provide adjustability to remain so, while fishing. Obviously, this is not a requirement if you don't fish while hiking, and only expect to fish once you arrive in camp in the afternoon.

Ideally, the fishing pack will offer a hip belt - it allows you to put all of your weight on your hips, freeing your shoulders and arms to cast unencumbered. I spend a fair bit of time bushwacking (as do many backcountry fishermen), and have found that a pack that has a low profile (thin, short) improves your experience in thick brush, especially when wading along forested streambanks. Few pack makers manufacture "thin" packs that have a long enough torso to support 15 or more pounds comfortably on your hips. My packs of choice that meet these criteria include a custom McHale Summit Pack, and the very low profile small volume packs from GoLite, including the Powder 8, Vision, and 24.

Carrying Your Fishing Gear

The Backpacking Fly Fisherman: Ultralight Strategies for Fishing While You Hike - 5 The Mayfly Pouch Lanyard is the author's favorite means of organizing gear while fly fishing with a full backpack. The Pouch Lanyard is worn around the neck, and holds two small fly boxes, offers attachments for tools, and keeps everything accessible. The author's lanyard weighs 4 ounces, but there are rumors that the Mayfly Company is using more durable fabric in new versions, increasing weight by an ounce.

Vests and the increasingly popular chest packs are out. They are incompatible with a backpack harness and generally, heavier than they need to be.

I've found that two types of gear carrying systems are indispensable while backpack fishing: hip belt pockets and a pouch lanyard.

Hip belt pockets are available as integrated features with the hip belts of several lightweight backpacks. Examples include adventure racing packs (there are many, with appropriately sized versions from both GoLite and Gregory), and packs by ULA Equipment, where such pockets are available as options when you order your custom pack. In addition, a variety of aftermarket add-on pouches are available from the likes of Outdoor Research and others, where you can add pockets of varying sizes to your hip belts or shoulder straps.

The pouch lanyard, however, is my favorite fishing gear innovation, with the Mayfly Pouch Lanyard setting the standard for both weight (4 oz) and utility. The Mayfly Pouch Lanyard holds a fly box, leaders, tippet, license, and offers enough attachment points to keep a few tools handy. The Pouch Lanyard is worn around your neck, but offers the utility of being stashable in your pack when it's time to cruise some distance along a fishless trail.

The Rod Case

Hard core ultralighters skip a rod case altogether. More naïve backpackers carry their rod in the absurdly heavy 16-40 ounce PVC or metal tubes that came with their rods. If you want scratch protection, you can carry your rod in its fleece or cloth rod sock (1-4 oz). Additional protection for your pack rod can be gained for 4 ounces using the Ultralight Rod Case at

Regardless of the options, consider the data required to make a smart decision about protecting your rod:

  • How much is your rod worth? The owner of a $600 Winston will be more inclined to store his rod in a case than he who purchased a rod for ten bucks at a garage sale.
  • How much off trail hiking will you do? Difficult scrambling and thick brush are hard on a rod (especially a longer two piece one) that is lashed to the outside of your pack.
  • How long is your fishing rod? A two-piece rod protrudes far above your pack and is more prone to damage than a four- or five-piece pack rod, which can be lashed to the side, or even packed in the main packbag (with your tent poles?) for added protection.


The Backpacking Fly Fisherman: Ultralight Strategies for Fishing While You Hike - 1
Large trout, like this 23-inch Yellowstone Cutthroat, caught on a hopper pattern, are the fruits of hard-earned exploration in remote wilderness. This trout was caught in a stream less than 15 feet wide, miles from the closest trail, and earned by bushwacking for several hours through dense grizzly bear habitat. No signs of human presence were found on this stream, which was occupied mostly by 6-10 inch trout: this one was certainly a surprise. The rod and reel combo used: a Cabela's Stowaway 5-piece, 3-weight, 8'6" pack rod with a Sage 3100 reel.

Two-piece rods, which don't pack down to less than 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length, are out for me when I'm bushwhacking. However, if I know that I'm going to be hiking mostly on trail, or mostly with my assembled rod in hand, then one of my favorite small stream backcountry rods is a tiny 5-foot Mini-Rod by Flylite, which stows to a length of only 2.5 feet as needed.

Such a short rod, while being a joy to fish with in small streams and ponds, is a liability on larger rivers or mountain lakes subject to windy conditions. Long rods that pack down to a small size are usually comprised of four- and five- pieces, with five pieces hitting the sweet spot for backpackers.

If money is no object, the five piece rods from Winston, Sage, and Thomas & Thomas share no equal, but expect this to be the most expensive item in your gear inventory, rivaling the cost of an Everest-worthy expedition tent and causing you to think twice about leaving the rod case at home.

More practical options, which offer excellent performance, light weight, and better economy, are the Stowaway series rods by Cabelas, and the new BPL Series 5-Piece Fly Rods which get you into a high quality five-piece fly rod without breaking the bank.


With the exception of the beautifully crafted and incredibly light Fly-Lite Mini Reel that is included only in the combo, expect most fly reels in the $100 or less range to weigh in the neighborhood of 5 to 7 ounces. Sub-3 ounce reels are possible, but not cheap. You'll pay $200+ for the Hardy Ultralight and $400 for the ultralight champ, the Sage 3100 (the author's favorite).

You can save weight on a reel by sizing down: seldom will you need vast amounts of backing or full length fly lines for backcountry fishing.

Backing & Fly Line

In the backcountry of most developed countries, with a few exceptions (New Zealand and Alaska come to mind), you won't have to battle fish with tarpon-like strength. So, backing and line are places to save weight: shorten the line to what you can effectively cast with your fly rod (many will be surprised that they can cut a 90-foot fly line in half and get two for the price of one!) and make up the rest of any needed length with lighter 12-pound Dacron braided backing. Some opt for a full length line and eliminate backing altogether. I prefer a half-length line with some backing, which takes up far less spool space, meaning you can get by with a smaller, lighter reel.

I recommend weight forward floating fly lines for backcountry fishing. Casts are usually short, and a weight forward line casts more accurately and with less loading effort than double taper lines. Unless you are fly fishing in deep lakes, sinking lines are unnecessary in the backcountry.

Tippets and Leaders

The Backpacking Fly Fisherman: Ultralight Strategies for Fishing While You Hike - 2
Access to this stream in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness requires a multiple-day trek on faint trails through grizzly country, but the rewards are worth it: technical, difficult flat-water spring creek fishing for wild rainbows up to 20 inches. This is one of the few places the author takes "an extra box of small flies" and plenty of 6x tippet.

Most of my backcountry fishing is done in the US West: Wind Rivers, Yellowstone, and Beartooths, where the normal fare are brook, rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout ranging in size from 6 to 16 inches, with a few larger. Generally, mountain trout are less wary than their by-the-highway-bridge cousins, so ultra fine tippets are not usually necessary.

One piece tapered leaders are simple, cheap, and effective. I tie one on my line, and carry a spare or two in my kit. Seven and a half foot leaders tapered to 3x should be purchased in bulk: they are the most versatile. Large flies, such as streamers and hoppers, can be tied directly to the end of the tippet, which provides enough length for small stream fishing.

For more challenging conditions requiring smaller flies and longer leaders, I'll tie 2 to 5 feet of tippet to the end of my leader. A leader tapered to 3x easily accepts tippet material with a diameter of 3x, 4x, or 5x. In rare cases, where I need to use tiny flies on thin tippets for extremely wary trout, I'll tie a foot-long section of 5x to the leader before tying on 4 to 6 feet of 6x tippet.

Two tapered 3x leaders and a spool of 4x and 5x tippet will cover 90% of the fishing you'll ever need to do in the backcountry for a week-long trek. If you fish larger flies, add a spool of 3x tippet, and if you fish for large, wary trout with tiny flies, consider adding a spool of 6x tippet. And if you're going to be out for longer than a week or expect to change flies very frequently, add one extra leader.

I store my leaders carefully coiled in a MicroZip Bag. Tippet spools find their home on a piece of AirCore Plus attached to my lanyard pouch with an UrsaLite Carabiner on one end and a wooden bead and knot in the other end to keep the spools from falling off.

I don't pay a lot of attention to brands and quality of leaders. Virtually anything you'll find in a specialty fly fishing retailer's shop will suffice. Tippet material is another story. If I'm after big fish and using small flies on fine tippet, my experience and faith tells me that Frog's Hair Tippet is the best. It knots easier than fluorocarbon and offers more elasticity than standard monofilament. The end result: you can catch bigger fish on finer tippets with fewer break-offs.

The Fly Box

Arguments about the best way to carry your flies (compartmentalized box, clip box, foam box) carry the philosophical air often found in campfire discussions of other controversial topics, such as gun control, mountain bikes on trails, and whether grizzly bears should be introduced in the Bitterroots. However, ultralight flyfishers in the know are almost universally gravitating to the use of Morell foam fly boxes. My favorite size is that which slips perfectly into the Mayfly Pouch Lanyard. It measures 4" x 3" x 1.25", weighs 0.8 ounce, and easily holds the several dozen flies I'll need for a week-long trek into the Wind Rivers or Yellowstone high country.

Key benefits of the Morell foam fly box in addition to its incredibly light weight: it's durable, it's cheap, it floats, and it holds flies securely when it's open.


What flies you carry depends on where you are going. There is no such thing as a "universal fly selection" in spite of what any retailer may tell you. Always contact a local fly shop well versed in fishing the backcountry of the area where you are going, and get their advice. Plan accordingly around their recommendations and you'll be far more successful than just taking along a bunch of "gnats" and "buggers" in assorted colors!


There are so many different brands of floatant on the market that you'll get dizzy trying to sort them out and you'll waste a lot of time trying to figure out which is best. The most important thing to consider when choosing a floatant is the container in which it's packaged: it will be the heaviest part! Only one company, Hydrophobe, makes a fly floatant in a container that will be the envy of any ultralight backpacker (it's available from Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, MT), but any floatant can be repackaged into Backpacking Light's MicroDrop Bottles for easy dispensing.

Wet Flies, Nymphs, Split Shot and Strike Indicators

The Backpacking Fly Fisherman: Ultralight Strategies for Fishing While You Hike - 3
Large brookies, like this one caught in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, are often caught when the weather is at its worst. On this day, high winds and heavy rains eliminated dry fly fishing, so it was nice to have along some nymphs, strike indicators, and split shot to "pass the time." This nice brook trout was caught on a beadhead Woolly Bugger streamer in a small pond well off trail in an area normally accessed only by horse packing groups due to its long distance from the trailhead.

Dry fly purists, skip this section. But when the weather goes south and the fish stay down, the fly fisherman with the ability to fish nymphs can keep catching dinner while the purists hang out in their tents.

Other than an assortment of wet flies and nymphs, only strike indicators and split shot are required to fish under the surface. Strike indicators are always light, so it's not necessary to consider weight while shopping. Convenience, simplicity, and minimizing trash potential should be your top priorities. Corkies that slide up the leader and fix in place with a toothpick are simple, remain secure, but are inconvenient to use. Foam indicators that fold over the line and are secured by glue on the facing surfaces are simple and convenient, but the glue wears out and they end up falling off the line and resulting in downstream trash. My favorites are yarn indicators with a small o-ring attachment, which are convenient and simple (they are simply girth-hitched to the leader), and remain attached to the line until you take them off.

I usually carry a dozen or so size BBB split shot during the summer, with a few small generic beadhead nymphs and soft hackle wet flies, combined with strike indicators, in a small MicroZip Bag. Then, when I think I want to take a tiny "just in case" wet fly kit with me, I can just grab that single bag and put it in my pouch lanyard. Otherwise, when I'm feeling lucky, or just especially pure, I can switch it out and leave it at home.


Fly fishermen can really get out of hand when it comes to tools and gadgets. Beyond a pair of decent nippers (Fishpond Aussie Nippers are the lightest, weighing only a few grams), little else is really required. I find a pair of hemostats useful for removing hooks from trout and releasing them safely. Long handled hemostats are typically overkill for backcountry trout: save a few grams and buy those with shorter handles. The Ketchum Release fish release tool is lighter than a pair of hemostats, but not as useful. Hemostats can serve as pliers for repairing gear, and are nice for crimping and removing split shot when nymph fishing.

The only other accessory gear I recommend is a lightweight tape measure. Or, place some small bits of tape along your fly rod at two-inch intervals. It keeps you honest!

As for streamside thermometers, aquatic insect nets, zip-cord retractors, fishing nets, knot tying tools - the list goes on and on - and on - skip 'em. Just go fish!


The list of knots required for backcountry fly fishing is short and sweet. Don't get caught up in the intricacies of knot tying and knot performance: the knots below are tried and true and work well enough for backcountry fly fishing if they are tied properly, and are pulled tight while well salivated (improves knot strength and bight lay when tightened). To learn how to tie any of these knots, simply Google the knot name, and a variety of Web resources will come up.

  1. Backing Knot. Used to tie your fly line or line backing directly to your fly reel.
  2. Nail Knot, Girth Hitch, and Perfection Loop. Used to tie your leader to your fly line. With the advent of braided nylon loops that can be glued to the end of your fly line and pre-looped leaders, the two can be connected girth hitch style, requiring no knots at all. To create a loop in the end of your leader, you can tie a Perfection Loop. A girth hitch is also useful for attaching the o-rings of yarn indicators to your leader.
  3. Clinch and Orvis Knots. Used to tie your fly to tippet. Fancy configurations, such as extra loops and twists, do little to improve strength. More complicated to tie, but stronger, is the Orvis Knot, which serves the same function as a clinch knot.
  4. Blood and Surgeon's Knots. Used to tie larger diameter sections of leader or tippet together. I use blood knots when tying together anything with a diameter larger than 2x. For 3x and smaller knots, I simply use a Surgeon's knot.

Your License

Your fishing license can be conveniently kept with the rest of your valuables. I keep my fishing license, driver's license, credit card, calling card, and spare cash in a 5"x4.html" Aloksak, which slides into the rear mesh pocket of my Mayfly Pouch Lanyard. Alternatively, if you want to keep your fishing license with your fishing gear and the rest of your ID's and cards safe in your pack, stow your fishing license in the even smaller MicroZip Bag.

Cooking Gear

Where regulations allow, I keep my cooking gear handy. I love the flexibility to cook a fresh caught trout wherever I am, and I often cook at least one fish meal per day while backpack fishing in the high country.

My simplest cook kit consists of a 600 milliliter titanium mug (Snowpeak), which is large enough to poach one or two small brook trout - carefully. The 0.85 liter MSR Titan Kettle and 0.9 liter Evernew Ti Pot are more appropriate choices for pan sized fish, with the latter even suitable for frying small trout. The key to cooking trout in a small pot is to cut off the heads and tails, and possibly, cutting the whole fish into silver-dollar sized chunks.

Some of my favorite trout recipes, which I use on shorter or easier treks, involve frying the fish (see Recipes side bar). I use a 7" Evernew Ti fry pan (5 oz), which has a nonstick surface and works very well for this purpose.

Most important, I keep my cook kit handy, with the stove, pot, and fuel easily accessible in a pack side pocket so cooking need not be a long ritual. When the fishing is good, I can catch a fish, clean it, cook it, eat it, and be fishing again in the span of 15 minutes.


Backcountry fishing is not just about hauling your frontcountry gear to remote places. Backpack fishing, the process by which you fish while hiking en route from camp to camp, is one of the most rewarding aspects of fly fishing, and adds a whole new dimension to your trekking exploits.

Ryan's Top 5 List of US West Backpack Fly Fishing Destinations

I'm not going to divulge GPS coordinates, but I'll give you some regional hints to get you started. Create virtually any backpack fishing trek throughout one of these regions and you're bound to run into some excellent high mountain fishing.

Wind River Mountains, WY

Combine spectacular mountain scenery with lakes full of some of the biggest trout in the mountains anywhere and you have the recipe for world class backpack fishing treks. I've caught trout to 5 pounds and climbed a glacier route to the Wyoming High Point (Gannett Peak) in a single trek.

Bottom line: your best place to combine world class alpine climbing with world class trout fishing.

Yellowstone Park, WY

Arguably, home to the finest backcountry fly fishing in the world, Yellowstone Park is home to one of the most beautiful, and threatened, species of trout in the world: the Yellowstone Cutthroat. The only species of cutthroat found east of the Rocky Mountains, it is believed that the Yellowstone Cutthroat is a descendant of its west slope cousins, crossing the Continental Divide at Two Ocean Pass - the only place along the divide where a creek (Two Ocean Creek) splits at the crest to form creeks that flow into the Pacific Ocean (Pacific Creek) and the Gulf of Mexico (Atlantic Creek). Atlantic Creek feeds the upper Yellowstone River near the confluence of the Yellowstone with the Thorofare River - the most remote location in the lower 48 states.

Bottom line: there are places in Yellowstone that are home to both the smartest - and stupidest - 20 inch cutthroat trout in the country.

Beartooth Plateau, MT

Four HUNDRED lakes dot the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and the fishing gems are concentrated on the Beartooth Plateau between Cooke City, MT, and the Montana High Point, Granite Peak. Home to rainbow, cutthroat, brown, brook, golden trout, and grayling, the Beartooths offer a wide variety of fishing on a plateau that gives you the feeling you're on top of the world. The best part: most of the lakes are inaccessible by trail.

Bottom line: got GPS, map, and compass? Go to town.

Frank Church Wilderness, ID

The deep forested home of the upper forks of the famed Salmon River, the Frank Church (River of No Return) Wilderness is more famous for its whitewater rafting potential than its fishing potential. It's the best place to combine backcountry rafting with fly fishing, and offers the backpacking fly fisher the ability to combine long treks with long floats using a whitewater-worthy ultralight packraft.

Bottom line: there are plenty of rivers and creeks here to satisfy those who like exploring - and bushwhacking - off the beaten path.

Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

The best place to catch the rarest trout: the elusive Golden. Found in the highest coldest lakes, you'll be hiking far and high, and the fishing will be well earned and framed in spectacular amphitheaters of the country's highest mountains.

Bottom line: you won't be alone, but if it's big Goldens you're after, the Sierras are where it's at.


"The Backpacking Fly Fisherman," by Ryan Jordan. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2005-07-26 03:00:00-06.


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Backcountry Fishing, Lightweight Style
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Backcountry Fishing, Lightweight Style on 07/21/2005 01:46:01 MDT Print View

Fly or Spin - got some ultralight techniques or gear to share? Fish stories? Photos? Tell us about it! This forum is a companion to the two part article series on ultralight fly fishing by Larry Tullis and Ryan Jordan.

Edited by ryan on 07/26/2005 14:32:15 MDT.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Ryan's Fly Tackle on 07/26/2005 20:56:10 MDT Print View

One thing that wasn't included in the Backpacking Fly Fisherman article was a summary of my typical tackle kit I took to a recent trek in the Yellowstone backcountry, to fish the Lamar Valley and Cache Creek.

For the sake of clarity, I'll limit this "kit" to a single fly box (assuming I know what flies I'm going to need or want based on having been someplace before) - often I will, however, take 2 or even 3 boxes (same type of boxes). Also, this kit contains a 5pc 3wt rod, but I've been finding myself using the Fly-Lite Mini Combo more and more...

Rod, Reel, Backing, Line, Rod Case:

Cabela's Stowaway 8'6" 3wt 5pc (streams and small lakes) and a Sage 3100 reel loaded with 60 feet of 3wt weight forward floating fly line and 100 feet of 12 lb Dacron backing. Rod is stowed in the BMW Ultralight fishing rod tube and a 1 oz microfleece rod sock.

Leaders / Tippet:

  • Two EXTRA 7.5' x 3x tapered monofilament leaders in MicroZip bags
  • One spool each of 3x, 4x, 5x, and 6x tippet, hanging off a piece of AirCore Spectra 1 from the D-Ring of my Mayfly Pouch Lanyard (wooden bead knotted in the end to keep spools from falling off)


Packed in a BPL (Morell) foam fly box: assorted midges, mayfly emergers (Sparkle Duns being my favorite), caddis emergers (especially X-Caddis), beetles (Tiger Beetles), hoppers (X-Hoppers), small stoneflies, and a handful of tiny beadheads (esp. soft hackle pheasant tails) for droppers.

Other tackle:

  • 2 yarn strike indicators
  • Small MicroDrop bottle with floatant
  • Dozen BB sized split shot
  • Fishpond Aussie Nippers
  • Mayfly Pouch Lanyard (old style)
  • Short shaft hemostats
  • Park license in MicroZip bag

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Cleaning on 07/27/2005 10:00:29 MDT Print View

Another great article, Ryan!

I was wondering if you could elaborate on how you clean your catch in the backcountry....

Do you carry a 20oz Bowie Knife to dress them, or what? (Looks like it would be a tough job with a Titanium Spork.) <g>

What do you do with guts, bones, etc.? Back in the water? A sump hole? Extra vitamins and fiber in your diet?



Brian Griffith
Beginner's Kit on 07/27/2005 12:24:28 MDT Print View


Would your listed kit be what you would recommend to a beginner fly fisherman? I have a 2-piece rod (9', 5wt) kit that I've been fishing with a handful of times that I bought as a beginner package including rod, reel, backing, line, etc.

I'd like to get something to take backpacking as well. Would your kit, or the mini-kit listed in your article be sufficient for a beginner or does it require more skill than I might have (shorter rod, lighter line)?


Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Cleaning on 07/27/2005 13:19:58 MDT Print View

I will take a 1 oz Spyderco Ladybug pocketknife to gut fish. In grizzly country, entrails go back into the body of water. Cooked waste (bones, etc.) get buried in a cathole.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Beginner's Kit on 07/27/2005 13:23:21 MDT Print View

>> Would your listed kit be what you would recommend to a beginner fly fisherman?

Brian: the mini rod, a beginner will do fine for small streams and short casts. You need some skill for casting longer than 40 feet with this rod - good technique. It doesn't take long to master, but it's not something you can just pick up and do either.

The 5-piece rod we sell has a great action and is very easy to cast.

Edited by ryan on 07/27/2005 13:23:31 MDT.

Ron Stoecklein
(rs7trout) - F
Fly-streams only on 07/28/2005 07:57:30 MDT Print View

Sage 0 weight at 1 11/16 oz.
Abel Ac-1 reel at 3.8 oz.
1 fly box--dries on one side nymphs on the other
silicone treatment-dries

Total weight about 10 oz.+-

Rod is 8' so great for stream fishing--if the wind comes up--nymphs will still work--but even then it could be a challenge

Forget it on a lake--unless 30' placements work.

But a 10oz. trout on this rod feels like a 2 lb. fish.

also--easy to pack in--rod comes in a 3 pc.

Just another scenario.


Brian Griffith
Entrails into water on 07/28/2005 08:49:22 MDT Print View

>>entrails go back into the body of water.

Is Montana not concerned about whirling disease? I know that this practice (entrails into the water) is a no-no where I live in Colorado.



Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Entrails into water on 08/01/2005 13:49:42 MDT Print View

The link you gave suggests these two things:

1. Don't transport any fish from one body of water to another, which can help spread whirling disease.

2. Don't dispose of fish entrails or other by-products into any body of water.

The key issue is transport and cross contaminate water - that's why they are so careful to educate people about washing their boats, waders, boots, etc. before dropping in to another water body. Transfer of plants, fish, entrails, mud, etc. from one body of water to another is thought to be a mode of cross-contaminating waters.

I'd suggest that the disposal of entrails is the same, and the language is either not clarified well enough in the regulations, or it's mentioned because of trying to get the population in the habit across the board of take stuff out of the water, don't put it back in. But taking original organic matter from a body of water and disposing the same back into the same body of water should not increase whirling disease risk in that body of water.

In the backcountry of Yellowstone Park, they are concerned not only about attracting grizzly bears to buried entrails piles, but also in cross contaminating water bodies with whirling and New Zealand Mud Snails. Their policies include:

"When fish cleaning and disposal areas are not provided, dispose of fish entrails by puncturing the air bladder and dropping into deep water. Do not clean fish in backcountry campsites."


"Drain livewells and clean fish ONLY near the same body of water in which they were caught."

Bryan Redd
(lucylab) - F
BPL Rod Tube: Longer version please. on 08/02/2005 22:24:49 MDT Print View


My rod of choice for backpacking fishing is a 3 piece. Can you get the rod tube material in a bit longer version to accomodate those of us who use 3-piece rods?


Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: BPL Rod Tube: Longer version please. on 08/04/2005 00:01:01 MDT Print View

Bryan, we're looking into sourcing longer tubes. -- RJ

Bryan Redd
(lucylab) - F
Longer rod tubes on 08/08/2005 11:40:37 MDT Print View


That's good news. Hope you're successful.

Rod Tubes on 08/12/2005 05:06:11 MDT Print View

Yes, you do need to offer a longer tube for 3 and four piece rods.

Russ Whitney
(rwhitney) - F
Re: Backcountry Fishing, Lightweight Style on 08/24/2005 09:53:20 MDT Print View

A couple of friends and I have been experimenting in lightweight rod cases. It doesn't appear that anyone has a good (ultra) lightweight hard case for 4-piece or 5-piece rods. One approach we used ealier in the season is to use golf club tubes from the local golf store (under $1/per) and then cap them with styrofoam. Does anyone else have any great ideas?

Russ Whitney (Sawtooth Gear)

Edited by rwhitney on 08/24/2005 10:18:51 MDT.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
fly fishing case on 08/24/2005 11:35:49 MDT Print View

Yeah, they sell a fly rod case right here on this site under Accessories

Russ Whitney
(rwhitney) - F
Re: fly fishing case on 08/24/2005 15:09:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Bob, it might work for a 5-piece rod but it doesn't appear to be long enough for a 4-piece rod. I saw that Ryan was looking into getting longer cases but not sure what the status is.

Russ Whitney (Sawtooth Gear)

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Recipe on 10/02/2006 07:44:02 MDT Print View

I've tried both of your recipie's, but I think you've avoided the best ones .... you can coat the fish, after cleaning, with italian seasoning, then wrap in foil with a couple of slices of pre-cooked bacon. Either put it in your bakepacker or toss it in the coals of a small cook fire for about 7 min on a side.


Kevin Kelleher
(softouch333) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mountains
rod tubes on 07/04/2007 07:38:14 MDT Print View

I've got 10 packing tubes 24" long 1.5" translucent with screw top. They fit my Five piece Winston LT perfectly. If you would like to have them for distrubution I'd send you the lot, or if any fellow backpacking light fisherman could use them, I'd be glad to send them for a couple bucks mailing. Recycle-reuse.


R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: rod tubes on 07/04/2007 08:38:24 MDT Print View


Whats the weight on the packing tubes?

Ryan Sager
(rsager) - F
light weight rod tube on 11/20/2007 21:43:44 MST Print View

I went to the hardware store and purchased a fluorescent light shield. Cut it to length and us the caps that come with it.

Doug Carpenter
(dougcarpenter) - F
Re: Backcountry Fishing, Lightweight Style on 04/16/2008 13:51:27 MDT Print View

I saw a great picture of fish caught in the Uinta's. I'm heading there with a group in late July. We plan on backpacking in for 7 nights. We all have fly rods, most of us know how to use them. LOL. We are going to use a transportation service to drop us off and pick us up so that we aren't limited to hiking in a loop. What are some of your favorite fishing spots that you'd recomend for our itenerary? I don't expect you to give up your honey spots. I'm looking for places where there will not be a croud.

Josh Arnold
(countr21) - F
All the issues here. on 11/01/2009 02:59:09 MST Print View

Use a sock to carry your rod and reel. As long as your somewhat careful, you won't damage your gear. It's easier to retrieve your rod, it's very lightweight, and easily straps to all packs. In five years I've never damaged a rig from carrying it in a sock. I've shredded rigs other ways, like falling, but never from carrying it in a good, lightweight sock.

All fish remains should be burned or thrown back into the water. On my trips that last only up to 3 nights, I don't take any cooking gear along at all. I cook my trout in foil on very small fires. Baked trout is the bomb with your favorite seasonings. I do like Ryan's cooking methods if you are taking your cooking gear for longer trips.

And I don't know what mountains you guys are in, but high mountain cirques and meadows are wind magnets. IMO, 3 wt rods are worthless unless you need super-delicate presentations. Feel free to take along a 3 or 4 wt rod, but C'mon, we go to to high country to fish for trout that rarely, if ever, see humans. Are you going to let the ever-present mountain winds stand in your way? So you blow 20 miles into the mountains, and your gonna rely on a 3 wt setup in screaming wind? You're gonna need to buck some wind on EVERY trip so take along a nice 6 wt setup if you care about the fishing.

But if you only count on fishing when all of the conditions just happen to be perfect when you get up there, take the extreme minimum. That's fine too.

I'm all for lightweight gear, but I march into the mountains to fish AND to see spectacular scenery. When it comes to my fishing rods, I'm gonna MAKE SURE I can fish in any conditions. Getting into the high country and adjusting for the conditions is what makes this so fun and challenging anyway. I'm a minimalist when it comes to my smaller tackle too. I only take one flybox crammed with as many flies as I can get, and I take only the leaders and tippet I'm gonna need etc. You don't need tons of flies, tippets, strike indicators, etc to land high country trout, even elusive Goldens in the Winds. BUT, I'm gonna make sure I've got the rod to get the job done in the wind and rain. Take both rigs if you need to. You're gonna need em.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
UL spinning gear on 08/31/2010 01:07:40 MDT Print View

I use a Cabela's telescoping carbon fiber spinning rod and Penn UL spinning reel W/ 6 lb. test line. the reel stays ON the rod since the line is already threades through the guides.

Setting this telescoping rod up is much faster than my old Berkely fiberglass 5 piece spin/fly rod that had to be threaded on each setup. Aslo the telescoping rod has no flat spots caused by ferrules, as in my old 5 piece 'glass rod.

Lures, etc. are carried in a small, light 4" X 6" plastic box. I also take a light stringer.