Why are Drying Patches Being Eliminated in Fly Fishing Packs?

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Back the "Save the Fly Patch" movement. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Present Day Fly Fishing Gear Packs

As a whole, the fly fishing gear manufacturers have made leaps and bounds the last few years in their innovative designed fly fishing chest packs, sling packs and waist packs. We now have 100% waterproof packs and zipper-free magnetic packs that eliminate line snagging and have automatic closing capability. There’s ergonomic packs that cut down on angler fatigue on the water, and many of them incorporate materials that offer improved breathability. There’s even a fly fishing pack built on a modular system platform now that provides the ability for an angler to customize their pack specifically for the trip at hand. I give credit and pay my respect to those manufacturers that have made functionality a top priority in their designs, because it’s increasing our fly fishing efficiency and productivity on the water. But as usual, with all the positives I’ve mentioned, I do see one area of focus or flaw for that matter, that’s personally bugging me to the core. Why do I see more and more fly fishing pack manufacturers eliminating foam/drying patches in their new designs?

When I walk up to a fly fishing pack in a fly shop the first thing I look for is some sort of fly patch holder that I can use for organizing my go-to patterns for the day, and use as a drying station for my flies in between use. On average, I’ve got a hundred or more flies in each of my fly boxes and the last thing I want to do on the water when changing out flies is drop a soaking wet fly, back into my fly box with all my other dry flies. That’s a recipe for disaster, because it greatly increasing the chances I’ll begin the process of creating rust on all my flies, not just the wet fly I put back in my fly box. And I won’t notice it right away because the process takes a while to be seen by the naked eye. I’ll figure it out when I’m on the river and set the hook on a big fish and the hook gap makes a clean break from the shaft. I’ll notice it at the end of the season when I’m re-organizing my fly boxes and notice the tiny imperfections on many of the hooks, from the process of rust eating away at them. By then it’s too late, and I’ve threatened losing a serious amount of my fly inventory.

Although this problem can be easily fixed by purchasing stick-on velcro and then attaching a foam fly patch, I still find myself asking the question, why should I be having to do this? Shouldn’t the $65-$200 pack have this already? For decades now, fly drying patches have been a standard feature in almost all packs and vests and I’d like to hear why the manufacturers are leaving them out, and finding them to be irrelevant to the fly fisherman. I for one, find foam/fly drying patches to be an integral feature that should be included in all fly fishing packs. If you agree with me, step forward and let your voices be heard, and let’s all start the movement to “Save the Fly Patch”.

Disclaimer: I know it’s a fly fisherman’s duty to take care of their gear and that means taking the proper steps to thoroughly dry out their gear in between fishing trips. I agree with this, but there are times when all of us are going to be too tired or are in the field where the elements won’t allow this preparation.

Anyone feel the same way as I do on this subject? I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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38 thoughts on “Why are Drying Patches Being Eliminated in Fly Fishing Packs?

  1. It seems like they are switching more to the collapsible work platforms that have foam rows to stick the wet flies on. These do have some advantage to the traditional patch, as they can catch some flies that may work themselves out of the foam. I have lost several flies on traditional patches but do find them to be easier in general.

    • Halbs,

      “Collapsible work platforms”, you’re talking about where they have foam slotted patch inside the pack right? If yes, that is what I was referring to primarily in the post, but also on the outside as well. Not all, but a lot of the new packs have done away with these.


  2. I can see where you’re coming from Kent. I own a simms chest pack that has nothing to stick your flies on, so on days that I’m using it I end up sticking flies all over the brim of my hat, and I almost always lose some of them which really sucks ass. Heck, even my Sage boat bag has a foam fly patch. I recently just bought a Patagonia Stealth hip pack and it has a nice drop down station with a huge foam patch for flies. It was one of the reasons why I really liked the pack. Like you said, for what these companies are getting for packs, why can’t we get a 25 cent piece of foam???? C’mon!

    • Justin,

      I”m glad you pointed out the reasons why you like having the fly patches and that you also weigh in that feature heavily when purchasing your fly fishing packs. Good to know the Patagonia pack has this important feature. I spent a lot of time yesterday looking at a lot of packs on the internet. Another thing I noticed is that most companies are not providing a product photo of the inside of their fly fishing packs. I don’t know about you all, but I’d really appreciate having a product shot showing of the compartments and what the inside of these fancy packs look like inside.

      Thanks for the post Justin.


      • A good resource that I use for photos, reviews, and sometimes video is Flyfishingoutfitters.com (Leland). If you’re curious about a pack, or rod, or whatever, they always have detailed pics of the product, and sometimes a short video about it. Patagonia does a pretty good job of showcasing their products and features, however, like you said most brands don’t do a good job of showing off their gear on the net.

        • Justin,

          Thanks for the heads up on that website. You’re right in the fact that the Patagonia waist pack shows a picture of the inside, but almost all of the other brands in the packs on the site don’t have this type of photograph. Still better than nothing though and a improvement. Thanks


  3. Kent, Great post you read my mind! I’ve been working on a few different designs for the “Modular System.”

    I couldn’t get all the parts sourced or nailed down just right before Reno but it’s in the works and should be available by the end of the year. Like everything else in the “Modular System” it will work with any pack, belt or strap.

    You’ll be the first to get one when I get it all buttoned up and ready to go, Save the PATCH!

    • Ethan,

      That’s great that you’ve noticed a drying patches importance. For all of you that read the post and picked up on the “Modular System” pack I mentioned, I was referring to the products at SmithFly.net. Ethan, I look forward to seeing the results of you incorporating this feature on your fly fishing gear. Thanks for being the first manufacturer to chime in on this post.

      P.S. Shoot me an email, I’ve got another interesting idea I’d like to run by you that you may be interested in looking into.


  4. I know what you are talking about but in all honesty I kind of like the drop down platforms that are included in some of the newer packs. You can put the fly in there and not worry about it getting knocked off and losing it. With the add on patches I usually lose the whole damn patch and all the fly’s with it when I’m bushwacking. I do use the brim of my hat also and that works okay for when I’m out in the kayak but you better be sure that your barbs are gone or you’ll have hell getting them back off.

    • -“but you better be sure that your barbs are gone or you’ll have hell getting them back off.”

      Amen to that Roger! I’ve got one hat that has holes and rips all over the brim of the hat from sticking flies in it over the years.

    • Roger,

      Again, The “Drop Down Platforms” is what I was referring to in the post. The drop down platforms are being left out altogether on a lot of the packs these days. I love them too 🙂


  5. Personally, I think the sheepskin patch has been phased out for purely aesthetic reasons. It is classic “old-guy” fly fishing, like the fedora and creel before it. The gear companies know their market is younger and more inclined to trucker hats and technical looking gear.

  6. i agree with you kent, and i have noticed it a lot too. especially with everyone making these newer “waterproof” type packs. i actually spoke to a rep about this and the answer i got was focused on the lack of features on the waterproof types of packs. they say that the technology used to assemble these fabrics and keep the water proof limits the amount of features they can add to them. i personally would take a tradition fabric pack with more dividers and a fly patch over something waterproof any day.

  7. Kent,

    I’m on board with you and my other fellow anglers here that have posted in support of fly patches. In fact, I have an extra hook-and-loop fly patch for my chestpack that I keep set-up as a quick back-up and leave in my Jeep in the event of catastrophic fly box absence. I cringe when I see rusty hooks in my friends’ fly boxes, whereas my foam patches see lots of love.

  8. Have one on my favorite hat. It keeps them out of the way and adds a second function to my head (1. holding up the hat and 2. drying a fly)

  9. I would say for the most part we(fly fisherman) are all inovative people. Good Do-it-yourself folks. If we can tie flies I would say we could sew our own choice of fly patch on our vest. Your not going to hurt anything.

    But I agree that it should come with a vest for all the money spent on them.

    • Nate,

      I would agree with you. It still doesn’t change my opinion on thinking the feature should already be included in the product though. Thanks for your comment and following Gink & Gasoline.


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  11. I make my own drying patches. Take a flat peice of plastic, punch two holes and pass a safety pin through it. Paste a peice of ripple foam to the plastic sheet. Just remember to position the safety pin so that you can easily attach the patch to your shirt or vest. Voila, a drying patch!

  12. I’m also frustrated by this. Just got a new Williams Joseph chest pack which advertises a “full workstation” and something they call a “flyport”. There is a fabric area on the inside of the front pouch for attaching a velcro fly patch, but no flypatch was included. Still waiting to hear back from the manufacturer. Otherwise I like this chest pack.

  13. I eliminated all these problems, when I bought a box with Velcro inside. The curved part of the hook simply stabs into the Velcro. I’ve never had one Rusty fly with these boxes. But my vest was stolen, and I can’t find these Velcro boxes anywhere. I bought them in Montana. If anyone knows where I can order one please let me know

  14. I fly fish down south in much warmer waters and It’s not uncommon for me to find myself swimming for 50 yard stretches until I get to the next stretch of shallow water that I can wade in. And even when I wade, I am usually at lease waist deep. So I never use any of the fly patches while wading because they would be useless and likely loose my flies. I just put them on my hat instead. Even if I find myself fishing from a bank the habit of putting flies in my hat, rather than a drying patch, is burned in my brain so that’s just where I put them.

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