A simple pouch on your belt that can hold your flies, extra leaders and an extra spool.
Fly fishing the surf for stripers is unique in so many ways. Parts of the Striper Coast can be rugged, walks can be very long, the fishing is typically best when the weather is crummy, and many of us fish at night: just those four factors in aggregate create a fishing experience unlike almost any other. As a result, fly fishing gear designed and marketed for trout or tropical flats fishing is often inadequate for our needs. Further, when I’m fly fishing in the surf, I’m typically fishing many of the same places I would with my spinning rod. Sure, it’s certainly a venn diagram, as there are many spots I only fish with my spinning gear, some only with my fly gear, but there are also a number where I use both. Many of these spots require some kind of wading into the water – most only up to my knees or waist – but some of them require bobbing along on tippy-toes, or even a short swim. Therefore, I like to have all the same gear and tools no matter what tackle I’m using, as the conditions and requirements of fishing these places are often the same. It just makes a lot of sense, to me, to use the same surf belt, with the same pliers and line cutter, dive knife, camera, and fish-holding device (a BOGA grip) whether spin fishing or fly fishing.
Therefore, when I’m fly fishing the surf I like to use a simple pouch that goes on my surf belt to hold my flies, leader material, and extra spool with an alternative line (typically an intermediate line). It fits right into the rest of my “system”, it’s easy for me to switch back and forth between fly and spin, and my surf belt essentially becomes a modular, customizable setup for whatever the demands of the night may be. I’ve tried several different pouches both designed for, and not designed for, fly fishing. In the end, I have settled on using a surf-specific pouch, the kind that many surfcasters will use for either eels or bucktails. While there are less expensive options, they have not lasted long enough under my use to justify their lower price tag; as is typical, you get what you pay for. Using a pouch designed with rugged sail cloth- the same material a plug bag is made from- ensures you are going to get a decade or more of use out of your pouch. High-quality pouches are also designed with a substantial amount of Velcro to keep them closed, without annoying zippers that can corrode or break; as was the case with an old waist pack I used to use. They also have drainage holes, which other general use or fly-fishing-specific pouches may not. Finally, if you’re someone who does both fly fishing and plug fishing, or eel fishing, the pouch can serve double or triple duty.
Most plug bag makers will offer you a few different options when it comes to pouches. Any generally, moderately sized pouch with the characteristics I listed above will work. I currently have a MAK bucktail pouch and a Gear Up eel pouch- both work great. For a time, I really liked using the bucktail pouch. You can actually use the slots to hold moderately sized flies “at the ready”, just as you would with bucktails. This works particularly well for those of you who fish a lot of Clousers and Deceivers. However, as time has progressed and I’ve moved to larger flies and different patterns, I have found myself gravitating to the eel pouch. I find that flies with a lot of material get hung up in the Velcro, and it can lead to them getting dropped in the water, or ripping the materials apart when you open the pouch. Further, without the slots for the bucktails, I can get more stuff in the pouch, as they take up space. Finally, my Gear Up eel pouch has a pocket inside that is perfect for holding a small leader wallet, pinch-pouch, or baggy holding pre-made leaders. This keeps the majority of the space free for a small waterproof box filled with smaller flies, a big Ziploc with my large flies (a big box is too cumbersome for me), and my extra spool. It’s a very compact, simple system that has worked out very well for me, whether I’m walking the sand, wading an estuary, or swimming to an outer bar or rock in my wetsuit.