Vests and Packs

Walk into any fly shop and you’ll see a lot of vest and pack options. I’ll admit that although I haven’t tried everything out (yet), I’ve spent a lot of time carefully considering my options in the gear department (which is why I have way too much of it) in honing my craft both functionally, but also in consideration of the convenience and comfort factors that come into play.

Like most trout fishers, I started out with a vest. It wasn’t a very good one and didn’t have as many pockets as I felt like I needed, so I bought a better one. The Patagonia vest is a great vest, however I suffered the same issues overall, and that was that I was top-heavy. Here’s a pic of my old vest, unloaded:


What I mean by top heavy is that I had about 17 lbs worth of crap in or attached to my vest, including a net. The two issues with this configuration are that a) when I bent over to net a fish, all the crap that’s hanging off of my vest is getting in my way as I net the fish, and b) after a few days of wading, my back would get sore. Enter the Umpqua Ledges 650 pack.

I have to be honest, I can’t say enough good things about this pack. Here are the pros:

  • It’s lightweight
  • It has a lot of capacity, yet isn’t bulky
  • It has a frame in it which keeps the pack from sagging but also makes it easy on your lower back since it’s supported by your waist and hips
  • There’s enough room to pack several fly boxes, two bottles of water, your lunch, and a raincoat. What’s even better is that with this pack you don’t have to have a net dangling from your back anymore because you can stuff the handle in between your lower back and the pack.
  • There are plenty of loops in it to hang your tippet holder and nippers, and a sleeve for your hemostats as well. Priceless.
  • You can jam your net handle in between the pack and your lower back, and it’s almost as if you ‘re not carrying a net at all, except it’s always there when you need it

Here’s how I have mine set up:


There are however, some cons, as with anything. I don’t consider them cons, because I love this pack and can’t ever go back to wearing a top-heavy vest, so I’ll them “considerations”, which will change some of your behaviors on the water under certain conditions.

  • If you wade deep, your pack, and some of it’s contents, will get wet. This is especially bad if your rain jacket or your lunch, or your truck’s key fob is in there
  • If you pack too much crap in there, it will slide down on you, requiring re-adjustment (if you wear it around your waste like I do)
  • If you’re hiking through a thick wooded area, you might get it snagged on branches possibly. This can be worked around if you’re careful and protective of all the junk hanging off of your pack.

I’ve had this pack for two seasons now, and I love it. It turns out that Umpqua has continued to improve on this design, and no longer carries this exact pack any longer. I have yet to try the latest incarnation of this style of pack, and when I do, I’ll be sure to do a review of it. In the meantime, if you like this pack, you can find it deeply discounted on Amazon and elsewhere online. Trust me, you’ll be happy with this pack, and your lower back will also thank you when you make the big leap of ditching your vest for a good Umpqua pack.