Less is more.

Less is more. Photo: Ed Felker.

Fly Guy: Less is More
By Ed Felker

When I first started fly fishing, I bought all the gear I thought I needed, everything I saw other anglers using. I had a vest full of fly boxes and gadgets and tools on retractable spools. I carried everything from a water thermometer and measuring tape to a laminated knot-tying diagram. I've been fly fishing for ten or twelve years now, and I've never carried more gear than what I had with me when I waded into the water that first day.

In time, I learned to better anticipate my needs for a day on the water. I found that even things I felt were necessary would go unused for entire seasons. I just didn't need most of what I was carrying.

What started as a ten-pound vest is now a simple lanyard that holds a fly box, a couple basic tools and tippet. Add polarized sunglasses, hat, waterproof camera, sometimes a net, and whatever clothing/waders/boots conditions warrant. There are of course variations for various kinds of fishing, but that's basically all I carry.

When I bought my first kayak, the temptation was again there to look at how others have rigged their boats and copy them. And the temptation is strong; there are some flat-out brilliantly rigged kayaks out there! But as anyone who has ever tried it knows, fly fishing from a kayak can be enough of a challenge without adding a dozen obstacles within easy fly line snagging range all around you.

Simplicity on the water is not exclusively a practical pursuit, however. To me there is something about kayaking, and fly-fishing from a kayak in particular that just begs to be free of clutter, both material and mental. Gliding down a river, casting to structure or rising fish, taking in the scenery, watching eagles and herons and geese, these are the things I want to focus on. This is why I have a kayak. And my new Slayer 14.5 has a beautiful, simple design that lends itself well to doing exactly that. It features clean, uncluttered lines, well thought out storage areas and rails for accessories that can be placed to suit your individual preferences. For instance, I like my paddle clip in this forward position, perpendicular to the boat. Anywhere else and it seems to catch fly line. The same goes for the rod holder placement, here it's easy to reach yet well forward of errant fly line loops.

The anchor and anchor trolley are new additions for me this year. I was worried that it would be a lot to manage, but I have really enjoyed having the freedom to just stop on the river. Fishing a hot spot, changing a fly or taking a lunch break are all made easier with this simple anchor system.

Kayak fishing is, of course, a highly individual activity. What works for me may not work for you. But next time you're standing in your garage in the cool pre-dawn, staring at that pile of gear you've gathered for your day on the water, stop trying to remember what you forgot to include, and start thinking about what you can leave behind.