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Best Fly Fishing Vests – Buying Guide

Fly fishing is one of the oldest forms of angling in the world. Standing in pristine rivers while outsmarting wily trout is why so many are drawn to the sport.

While fly fishing, every tool, and piece of tackle must be strapped to your person and above the waterline. This is why owning a fly fishing vest is so important. Being organized on the water will allow more time for the actual fishing and of course, the catching. Big Sky Fishing wrote an excellent piece outlining what characteristics a good fly fishing vest has.

Best Fly Fishing Vest

What to Look for in a Fly Fishing Vest


Really, the only reason for using a vest is because of the pockets. Inside is where all your tackle and tools are kept. Understanding what you will be using on the water is important in determining the kind of pockets you will need. Take a look at your tackle boxes, how many will you be bringing with you?

Do you have extra line and flies that will need space inside your vest? Having space is important but being able to reach the necessary tools while fishing may be even more important. Look at vests and where the pockets are located, ensure their location will be useful on the water.

The Fit

​If you are serious about fly fishing, being on the water all day is half the fun. Wearing a vest for prolonged hours of casting and standing means the vest needs to fit and be comfortable.

​Pay close to attention to your body type and understand the size needed. Most likely, you will be wearing one, maybe even two shirts under the vest. What kind of climate do you fish in? Will you be wearing a rain jacket or a winter coat? Knowing these questions will help in determining the fit and size needed for your fly fishing vest.

​Weighing down your fishing vest can make it bulky and uncomfortable. Balancing your packing is very important. When looking for vests, look for those that offer a comfortable fit with enough pockets to keep the vest fitting evenly.

​Material and Quality

​A fly fishing vest, like all clothing, has a plethora of options as to what fabric it will be made from. Within the intricacies of fabric, two categories describe nearly all vests on the market, mesh, and non-mesh.

  • Mesh fly fishing vests are composed of fabric with thousands of air holes in the material. As you can imagine, having thousands of breathable spaces makes the vest incredibly lightweight and breathable. Many fishermen prefer these vests if they spend time in warmer climates or want to shave weight.There is a drawback to mesh vests, and that is their durability. Mesh does not hold together as well as a non-mesh material would. The mesh tends to tear in high friction zones like beneath the arms. Even basic motions such as putting on and taking off the vest will stress the material and can lead to failure. If you are a particularly active fishermen, think about a vest that will perform alongside and not become a cataract.
  • Non-mesh fly fishing vests are made from a heavier nonporous material; these offer a more rugged option for fishing enthusiasts. The tougher fabric and the heavier construction means these vests will not wear out as quickly as their mesh counterparts. It also means that they are heavier, bulkier, and much hotter. Non-mesh models are more popular in colder climates and for highly active fishers.

​Our Favorite Fly Fishing Vests

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest Mesh Vest Free Size

This well-built fly fishing vest is a great all around model. It provides ample pockets and storage for even the most overly prepared fishermen. Weighing 24.5oz, it does not qualify as a lightweight vest, but it is not extraordinarily heavy either.

Featuring front pockets in ergonomic locations, it even has loops and straps to hang pliers from and whatever else you may want hanging on the outside.

A very slick feature is an additional storage space that is on the back of the vest, resting at the user’s waistline. Many of the pockets feature double zipper designs, packing, even more, compartments into the valuable space at the front of the vest.

The construction is sturdy; the stitching is reinforced with large knit, highlighted in red, blazing across pressure points such as the shoulder straps. There are plenty of straps to customize the feel, both shoulder, and waist, ensuring a snug fit on most body types.

The vest is lined in mesh, adding a more lightweight layer between the bulk of the pockets and allowing for a more comfortable experience.

What We Like

We like the location of this storage area because it provides a perfect counterweight to all the tackle that will be packed in the front pockets. I also like the overstitching, it not only looks cool but it makes the vest even strong.

Most customers like this vest, and it has a high rating on Amazon. This is a very functional and ergonomic choice for any fisherman.

What We Don’t Like

We are not in love with the double and triple pocket design on the front of the vest. The outermost pockets stick farther out than I would like and may get in the way of casting.

Anglatech Fly Fishing Backpack with Water Bladder Adjustable for Men and Women

This vest does not have as many bells and whistles as some other models on the market. Featuring two double front pockets with a few assorted zippers. The material is new age and friction resistant, being kept together with sturdy stitching. There is no belt strap on this vest, making it a lighter weight option than those that have one. Although simple, it still has enough spaces for all your tackle, even featuring easy to reach pockets for a cell phone.

What really sets this vest apart and what grabbed my attention is the reverse side – it is a backpack. It just doesn’t have one or two pockets in the rear but an entire bag, large enough to pack a lunch in. There is also a hydration bladder that comes with it, making drinking water that much more efficient. The backpack can be compressed with compression straps, saving room and bulk for those shorter fishing trips.

What We Like

The water bladder on the back is great. When casting for fish, the last thing you want to do is put down the fly rod. This hands-free drinking feature will save time; you can’t catch a fish unless your bait is in the water. We also like the padded material that protects the user’s back from the backpack. Anything to alleviate discomfort from standing all day is always welcome.

What We Don’t Like

Not having a waist strap concerns me, especially with a backpack. The beautiful part about a waist strap is that it balances more of the weight on your hips than your shoulders, allowing for greater stamina throughout the day. If you are carrying a lunch and a full bladder of water, our shoulders could get tired before we are ready to be done fishing.

Allen Gallatin Ultra Light Fishing Vest & fly fishing vest

Perhaps the most minimal and lightweight vest in this review, the Allen Gallatin Ultra Light Vest is a product that defines less is more. The vest does not feature any rear storage space and the only fabric in the back is one strap that wraps around the waist. The front pockets are just that, pockets. This minimalist design keeps weight down, and the manufacturer was able to use some of the toughest material on any fishing vest we’ve seen.

What We Like

We really like how lightweight and breathable this design is. Anyone who has suffered from a sweaty back because of a fishing vest will not have that problem with this product; there is no back. I also like the durable material it is fashioned from, even the zippers are reinforced.

If you are a minimalist fishermen, this is the right vest for you. Featuring no extra gimmicks and barely any fabric, this clothing item could be the perfect tool for any lightweight fishing trip.

What We Don’t Like

We are concerned with the weight distribution of this design. With all the weight hanging on the front, the vest may not fit as snugly as some other ones. If you are a mobile fishermen, even a slight jog could be enough to start this product winging wildly from side to side. We wish the front pockets were even smaller to mitigate this concern.

William Joseph Exodus II Pack, Sage, 11x19x16-Inch

If the previous vest was focused on the minimal, this vest is clearly in the category of bigger is better. The front of the pack has giant pockets attached to the straps, making it very easy to keep all your most frequently used tackle and tools at arms reach.

We hesitate even to call this a fly fishing vest because the back side is actually a backpack. Large enough to hold not only all your tackle but maybe even a small tent for those overnight fishing trips.

The material is thick, good quality and water resistant. The stitching and buckle system gives me confidence in the bags ability to really hold up under large loads. There is also some mesh lining the interior around the back and shoulders, alleviating some of the large pressure points. This vest/pack is designed to be used for the longest and heaviest of trips.

What We Like

We like the backpack on the reverse, offering plenty of options for all types of fishing. The pack itself has a couple of compartments, allowing for fast organization and the separation of food products from perhaps, bait, not two items we want to mix.

This pack is perfect for longer trips and even larger fish. If you target larger species like steelhead and salmon, the additional space of this design will have plenty of room for all baits.

What We Don’t Like

For such a large pack, we were surprised to discover that no waist belt exists. The designer clearly is confident that the space age materials and mesh backing will keep the user comfortable, even under a full load.

Umpqua Swiftwater ZS Tech Vest Granite (35120)

This vest has a slick design and is made for fishermen who appreciate a more futuristic style to their gear. The most distinguishable features are the large front zippers that go from the top of the strap all the way to the bottom. No other vest has front pockets this large, and it is cool to see such a unique take on fishing vests.

The rear of the vest is a smaller pocket, if it was any larger it could be defined as a backpack. This pack also features a waist belt, transferring weight from the shoulders to the hips.

What We Like

The size of the rear pack is excellent, not too large that it renders the vest into a backpack but large enough to have some useful storage. We also like those large front pockets, completely maximizing space in the front of the vest and keeping all the tackle in an easy to reach location.

This is a cool little vest that offers everything in just the right size. Excellent for all types of fishing in all climates.

What We Don’t Like

The stitching seems small and not as sturdy as some of the other vests reviewed. With such a sleek design, we are worried that it could fall apart quicker than expected. The material used in construction looks thinner than some other designs, giving me second thoughts on the quality.

Remember What You Want

Having a fly fishing vest is important in making your time on the water that much more enjoyable. The hands free mobility and front pockets will only help to elevate your fishing. Remember to think twice about what you will buy and make sure you can wear it all day. Check out this article for some more tips on picking the perfect fishing vest.

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