15 Pieces of Dirt Cheap Gear Every Angler Should Own

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Fly fishing gear is plenty expensive.

That’s not lost on anyone. Some of that pricey gear is worth every penny but there are lots of cheap and simple items that will make your fly fishing easier and more enjoyable without draining your bank account. Some of them are even free. You can buy everything on this list for $125. You’re probably using some of them already and you may use some I haven’t thought of. If so, please share them in the comments.

Here’s my list of 15 dirt cheap pieces of fly fishing gear I use all the time.

92-large-lgRising Crock Tool -$20

At $20, the Crock is the second most expensive item on this list, but worth twice the price if you ask me. This is the one tool I use every time I fish, in freshwater and salt. It’s scissors, pliers, hemostats and a catch-and-release tool all-in-one. The quality is outstanding and it’s the only tool you need.




DSC_8477-1024x679Paint Strainers -$1.67 ea

Nothing will put you on fish faster than knowing what they’re eating. Stretch one of these inexpensive paint strainers over your net and take the guess work out of matching the hatch. Watch a video on how use them HERE.



rio-cranky-kit-leader-rendering-01-cranky-new(1)RIO Cranky Kit -$7.95

Changing lines without some kind of line winder can be a mess. This simple tool makes it easy to keep your lines neat and untwisted when you change them out. It’s small enough to keep in your fishing kit and make quick changes on the road.


Screen-Shot-2016-01-04-at-11.50.51-AMDry Pac Roll Top Dry Bags -$7.24

I use these in small and medium sizes for everything from wading boots to camera gear. They’re tough as nails and absolutely waterproof. Pack wet gear in your luggage or carry valuables on the boat in these bags. I’ve even filled them with air and used them as floats for tricky river crossings.



51jKa39rkFLDoor Mat -$15

I keep these in the back of the truck and throw one on the ground for changing into my waders. It keeps your socks dry and clean and saves wear and tear on your wader booties. You can get them a few bucks cheaper but I’m featuring the one that says “Go Away” for steelheaders.

FullSizeRenderPill Bottles -$FREE

Ok, maybe these aren’t free but we all have them laying around. They’re great for carrying big fluffy flies in bulk. I always have one full of mouse patterns.


Screen-Shot-2015-08-06-at-2.44.14-PMBBQ Wipes -$FREE

I buy these by the case for $7 because I’m honest, but you could just take the free ones at the BBQ restaurant. It’s the simplest way to clean your fly lines any time. Read more and watch a video HERE. And yes, they are perfectly safe for your fly lines.


Screen-Shot-2016-01-04-at-12.10.45-PMFleece Pants -$15

Ask anyone who fishes with me if they’ve seen me in my PJs. This is about all I wear under my waders. They wick moisture, dry fast and keep you nice and warm. Well, warm anyway. I sometimes even wear them into the bar.


216roYMnJCLHula Hoops -$7

You know, for kids! For everyone, actually. I say it until I’m blue in the face, practice your casting. Three of these ride around in the back of my truck so I can practice any time. Having a target makes practice much more effective. Watch a video on Tim Rajeff’s recommended casting practice program, HERE.


echo-micro-practice.jpg1Echo MPR -$37

While we’re on the subject of practice, here’s another great tool. You don’t even have to get off the couch to practice your casting. I can’t make it any easier than that. Several companies make them but IMHO the Echo is the best. It’s also great for teaching new casters.



1-large-lgHook File -$10

Dull hooks are a stupid reason to miss fish. Check your hooks often and when in doubt, sharpen them. You never know when the fish of a lifetime is going to eat.


91CjjISRVIL._SX522_Ziplock Bags -$0.01ea

Go ahead, laugh. I can’t tell you how many of my buddies have killed cell phones in expensive “waterproof” cases. Put anything you want to stay dry in a fresh ziplock and it’ll be fine. You can even use your phone with it in the bag, just like the fancy case.


plano-boxes-fly-fishingPlano Boxes -$6

The best way to carry or store flies in bulk. I carry these stocked full and restock my smaller boxes from them.



9-01Rare Earth Magnet -$2.50

Glue or screw one of these powerful magnets to a wading staff or net handle for retrieving flies lost in the grass or hemostats at the bottom of the river.


Screen-Shot-2016-01-04-at-12.29.02-PMBoot Brush -$6

Three dollars isn’t much to keep from transporting invasive species to your home water. Carry a scrub brush and clean your boots thoroughly before moving on to new water. Here’s a great video from the FFF on boot cleaning.


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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37 thoughts on “15 Pieces of Dirt Cheap Gear Every Angler Should Own

  1. This might be an old one: Drinking straws – cut a 5mm section off the straw and slip it over the tube of your tying bobbin before starting a dry fly (or anything with a hackle). Once you’ve finished the hackle, slip the section of straw over the fly, catching the hackles and laying them backwards. It allows people like me with 10 thumbs to tie a reasonably neat head without trapping fibers in the whip finish. I know that is probably anathema to seasoned tiers but it helps wannabe’s like me.

  2. Great list, I need to get a couple of the dry bags. A line straightener is helpful when changing leaders, especially in the winter and they go for about $7. And ther is no shame in goin to the bar in pj’s.

  3. Not *dirt* cheap, but almost: One of those absorbent sham-wow-type towels to dry hands after releasing fish & rinsing hands. An absolute must!

  4. And I thought I was the only one who always brings a door mat and zip locks to a fishing sesh.

    Love the other suggestions too!


  5. I’ll probably get some grief, but the “ouchless” hair rubber bands work much better than rubber bands for holding material on spools, broken down rods, etc. and can be wrapped on a handle as a hook keeper $3 for 45. The claw type hair clasps with fingers work great for clipping line line to a rod to keep from mating or when attached to vest or wanders with a short cord as a third hand. They don’t have sharp edges to damage the finish.

    • Mrs Cahill knew what she was getting into when she married me. And I actually have been to a bar in Atlanta in my pjs but that’s a long story. And I did sell the jeans off my ass at a bar once too! And it was cold out.

  6. The pill bottle is a great idea, those big patterns like mouse, frog, and popper patterns take up to much room in the fly box. Thanks for the idea.

  7. Folding lawn chairs.. the director type version with the little flip out table. Double duty. Instead of bouncing around or trying not to fall off the tail gate if you have one. Have a seat, take your time pulling on and off waders. Plus the little flip out table is handy for tying knots and such – not to mention a great place for the beer / scotch and cigar after.

    Also, the paint strainer. Another one of those “why didn’t I think of that sooner” ideas. Nicely done.

  8. I’m a day late here.
    I use old 35mm film canisters for small trash items, spent tippets, etc.
    Simply cut a + in the cap with a razor and push your trash through the cap. It stays put and will not back out. If you want to get fancy, drill a small hole through the edge of the cap and the top edge of the canister. Run a bead chain through the holes and voila, attach it to your vest. Now I don’t expect a young guy like Louis to have any canisters laying around ( or even know what the hell they are ) but the older guys will have a stash of ’em. They also work great attached to your dogs leash when you need a “poop bag” handy.
    Yes… Much cheaper than a Fishpond micro trash container.

  9. The paint strainer is a great idea. I usually bring a sein with me, but it is made of two sticks and the netting in between the two sticks. Will be much easier to pack a soft strainer in your pocket. Thanks for the idea.

  10. I feel like a downright idiot for not thinking of carrying a welcome mat in my trunk for changing out of my waders. I’m constantly worried about tearing my waders on gravel parking lots.

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  12. I fill a plastic film container with cotton makeup swabs and pour Windex in until soaked. After the wide open ride to a flat pop one out and clean the salt spray off your sunglasses.

  13. Echo training fly rod: perfect for disciplining the old ball and chain’s nasty cat.

    Fifty lashes for Mister Fluffy. 😉

  14. Leatherman Squirt PS4, love this little item. Surprised it is never mentioned. Pliers with cutter, scissors, decent file and many more. Only a couple of inches long. Clips to your Zinger. Also, Wipe-eez, soothing relief for those long camping trips.

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  16. Travel Size pack of Wet Wipes. They fit into any size pocket in your vest and feel better than a fist full of poison ivy leaves for when nature calls.

  17. I bought a cheap pair of athletic shoes several sizes too big to put on my boot feet waders. This lets me walk around more comfortably than stomping around in studded boots, or ruining felt on gravel. For size 10 feet I think I bought size 14. I don’t bother to lace them up.

    Also, braided polypropylene string (hardware store) has proved invaluable in many applications. I use it to tie stuff on stuff, and I have even made a decent San Juan Worm from it (a few wraps, fore and aft, a dab of superglue, all done)

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  20. MATS – I find that an old car, floor mat is a bit more durable and flexible than cheap doormats. They also tend to be less likely to mildew. I have a mat from the cargo area of a past Subaru that has a lip around the perimeter that serves many purposes and is bifg enough for two people, if they’re of reasonable girth. In windy areas a wet-towel doesn’t blow around.

    SEINES / STRAINERS – Since I started carrying (when I remember) an cheap, aquarium net, I seldom use the quick-seine that fits over my net hoop. I do like the idea of getting them in bulk for the right price as in your link. After struggling to net some really large fish into typical size nets, I am considering getting a great-big one or folding-hoop style net. “Wristing” them does nothng for taking pictures.

    ZIP-LOCKS – Also, don’t skimp on the zip-locks. Go for “freezer” rated bags with double zippers. They may cost 5x as much, but they offer 10x better seal. I recommend boht quart and gallon sized. Store them in a zip-lock to keep the box dry.

    The Hoola-Hoops take up a lot of space. Get serious and cast to a rational-sized target like a hat, an aluminum can or a couple of rocks stacked-up. Missing the feeding lane by the width of a 24″ hoop is a wasted cast that spooks the feeders.

    MAGNET – If you have a pacemaker or implanted, medicine pump, you shouldn’t be standing near the guy with the rare-earth magnet, let alone carrying one. Check with your diabetic, spine-pain, gray-haired fishng buddies or guide-clients before you subject them to this. Same is true for “stimulator” devices for pain, neurological conditions, etc. Thye will absolutely fry many electronics, so keep it away from cell-phones and digital cameras, too.

    GORILLA TAPE for urgent repair of almost anything – Just a few inches of it wrapped around a net handle, pill-bottle or giraffe-neck can be worth it’s weight in Palladium on a long hike from the vehicle. Gorilla brand has a thicker adhesive and a durable backing compared to the typical gray stuff. Be careful, any of it will get sticky-edged laying in the sun or being toted-around in a hot vehicle – think Zip-Lock.

    Thoughtful list to start!

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