HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
One of the most over-looked items in fishing repertoire is the fishing vest.
It is not a flashy piece of clothing. In fact it is rather drab and to a lot of folks, a fishing vest is simply that; just a fishing vest- nothing more and nothing less, but there is more to a fishing vest than meets the eye. Its purpose is to carry all the tools, lures, flies and other paraphernalia needed for a fishing undertaking in an organized fashion. As a carrier of those items, a vest needs to fit properly, be comfortable when fully loaded and comfortable when worn.
It is believed the first modern fly fishing vest was sewn together in the winter of 1930-31 by Lee Wulff. He not only designed the first model, he sewed it himself. Since then the vest has changed little in design and features. It was first released onto the market just after World War 11, and was called the “Lee Wulff Tak-L-Pac” made by Mashland of Carlisle, PA. Except for poor fitting waders, a vest that drags at the back of the neck or cuts into shoulders is one of the worst fishing irritants there is; therefore comfort and design are important.
It is suggested when purchasing a fishing vest, it should be one size larger than wearing a jacket; for example if you wear a medium jacket you should get a large vest. Remember you will be wearing the vest over shirts, jacket or other bulky clothing sometimes during cold weather. Also, consider the water being fished. If wading regularly in deep waters, a short vest is recommended to avoid soaking the bottom contents of the vest. In deep waters ‘regular” designed vests can get wet, otherwise a regular style fishing vest should work well. When choosing a vest, choose one with an adequate number of pockets to carry your fishing gear, however Neil M. Travis, renowned fly fisher and author for Fly Anglers Online magazine cautions against buying vests with too many pockets. Travis said he has seen some anglers wearing a modern vest with so many pockets filled with fishing items, he was afraid if they fell down they wouldn’t be able to get up without assistance. The more pockets there are, the more tempting it is to fill them with so much gear, it would be possible to open a tackle shop right on the bank of the stream.
All fishing vests should have at least one deep inside zippered or Velcro pocket for glasses and other items you don’t want to loose. There should also have one inside waterproof pocket for the fishing license, but many vests do not have this feature. Also, the vest should have two horizontal pockets on the bottom and two vertical pockets at the top with four smaller pockets attached to the larger pockets. Some vests are advertised with 30 inside and outside pockets total, but 10 -15 should do the trick. While smaller pockets are necessary, they should not interfere with casting and both inside and outside pockets should be easily accessible.
A couple of “D Rings” attached to the front of the vest are another important feature on a vest. They are used for attaching a retractable lanyard and tools such as small scissors and whistle for use in emergencies. A “D Ring” attached to the back of the vest is another must and used mostly for attaching a fishing net. Typically this D ring is secured to the vest by a loop of cloth sewn around the neck of the vest or by an elastic band sewn into the neck seam. Unless the elastic band is .5 inches wide; it has been found the band will stretch and cause the net to twist and swing when walking. This is an irritant and can catch the net on branches when walking through brush. Attaching the D ring to the vest with a cloth loop rather than with an elastic band would probably be a better.
Seams can be a weak point in vests so careful inspection of them for any gaps in stitching or bunching of material where two pieces of cloth are joined is a good idea. Finally with a fully loaded vest, there should be no chaffing or load stress at the back of the neck. Some manufactures add a soft, pliable pad around collar, while others use fabric around the collar, and some will use a “Shoulder Yoke” design. The Yoke fits around the neck and shoulders to distribute the weight onto the shoulders. The front and back of the vest are attached to the Yoke. This is comfortable, but more expensive. Some enterprising individuals have sewn a fleece pad to the collar of the vest and that seems to work well. For woman try to purchase a vest designed for your gender. A fully loaded vest designed for a man may not be comfortable.
Whatever price range you can afford, take some time to examine you potential vest and remember fishing vests are like anything else. You pay for what you get.
Outdoors writer Bob Brown can be reached at robertb1285@ fairpoint.net