1. Rod. Perhaps the most obvious pieces of equipment, the rod allows the fly or nymph to be delivered to the correct point in time and space and then allows the fish to be subdued quickly. I use a 8’6 split cane but then I am something of a traditionalist.
2. Reel. It is possible to fish without one. I know this because I once smashed my reel in the car door and went fishing with the line in my pocket. It wasn’t pretty or easy so a reel is definitely essential.
3. Line. The line is more important than most people think. It is the line that enables casting and the delicate presentation of flies.
4. Leader. The leader allows the fly to turn over correctly and present in a delicate manner. Good quality lines matched to the rod can make a huge difference to casting distance and delicacy. Always match the line correctly.
5. Tippet. The tippet is what joins the fly to the leader. It is possible to tie the fly direct to the leader but this becomes expensive if you lose a fly. Tippets can be varied in length and breaking strain for different conditions.
6. Fly or Nymph. I am a minimalist fly fisher and only carry 5 or 6 different patterns.
7. Floatant. Most flies float very well for the first few casts but the natural oils are soon washed off and the fly becomes a soggy mess. A good floatant is absolutely essential to keep dry flies sitting proud on the water’s surface. Of course, if you are a nymph fisher you don’t need floatant and you can be a true minimalist fly fisher and reduce to nine essential pieces of equipment.
8. Sinkant. Sinkant is necessary to ensure that the last 12 inches or so of tippet do not sit proud on the water’s surface and frighten fish. By using sinkant the tippet sits in the surface layer and becomes invisible. It is possible to use river side mud to achieve the same effect but I have found that microscopic grit damages the tippet and causes it to break at less than half its intended breaking strain.
9. Nippers. I once forgot to take some nippers or scissors on a fishing trip. It was the last time I forgot to take nippers! Biting the line just doesn’t work for me.
10. Polaroid Glasses. These are essential for safety reasons. One should never fish without them as all it takes is one bad cast, tree or gust of wind to lose an eye. Polaroids help with observation but it is the protection that is most important.
Some people would argue that nets, fishing clothing, bags/vests forceps, fly boxes, etc are all essential – they are not! You can still catch lots of fish without them.