What is the Best Fly Fishing Vest For The Money?

We have spent the majority of our fishing careers wearing different fly fishing vest options. In this article we share our experience with them and recommend the best fly fishing vest for the money, no matter what your budget.
fly fishing vest reviews

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A fly fishing vest is an indispensable piece of equipment. It holds all your tackle and gear so you can conveniently make the necessary changes on the water with speed.

The best fly fishing vests are the ones that fit well with all pockets and gadgets serving a purpose specific to your needs as a fly fisherman.

There are so many choices and designs available today that it can be a difficult choice to make.

Below I will go through what is in my opinion, the best fly fishing vests available today and hopefully make your choice easier.

You’ve heard us talk time and time again that quality is everything when selecting fly fishing gear. So if you can afford to spend that little bit extra for quality, you won’t regret it. It’s better to have, and love, a few great pieces of gear than be sitting atop a mountain of junk!

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest OverallSimms Headwaters Pro Mesh Fly Fishing Vest
  • High Performance
  • Durable Wearing Zippers
  • Ideal For Warmer Months
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Entry LevelRedington Blackfoot Vest
  • 11 Pockets For Convenient Storage
  • Knitted Collar
  • Quick-Drying Material
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest DurabilityOrvis Pro Vest
  • Lightweight
  • Great Zipper Quality
  • Abrasion-Resistant Material
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest UltralightOrvis Ultralight Vest
  • Retracable Nipper Cord
  • Lightweight and Quick-Drying Material
  • Extremely Comfortable
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest For BeginnersMAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest Pack
  • One Size Fits All
  • Adjustable Straps
  • Lightweight Design
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flyfisherpro-table__imageMost PocketsAventik Fly Fishing Vest
  • Plenty Of Storage
  • Gear Attachment Tabs
  • Retractable Cord Loops
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest For Cool WeathersRedington FIRST RUN Fishing Vest
  • Polyester Vest Knit Padded Collar
  • Quick-Release Buckle
  • Multiple Storage Options
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Modern DesignFishpond Gore Range Tech Pack
  • Great Selection Of Pockets
  • Made From Recyclable Materials
  • Lightweight Base Design
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The Best Fly Fishing Vest Reviews 2021 

Here’s a range of the best fishing vests for fly anglers, at all price points:

Simms Headwaters Pro Mesh Fly Fishing Vest

Simms Headwaters Pro Mesh Fly Fishing Vest

Available at: Simms or Amazon

Specs

  • 20 pockets
  • Chest exterior includes 2 vertical cargo pockets & 2 stash pockets
  • The waist exterior includes 2 horizontal storage pockets & 4 flap closure cargo pockets
  • Chest interior includes 2 quick-access mesh pockets & 2 large storage pockets
  • Waist interior includes 4 Velcro Brand fasteners drop pockets
  • The back exterior includes 1 broadside access stuff zone & 1 deep zippered pouch
  • 2 patented built-in retractors for attaching tools
  • Third-hand rod holder with Velcro Brand fasteners chest tab & reel seat sling
  • Lightweight, breathable shoulders with padded rib knit collar
  • Net D-Ring in the center back
  • $149

Pros

  • Plenty of pockets for storage
  • Great old school look with mesh material
  • Ideal for warmer months with the mesh back for lightweight and breathability
  • Rod holder strap and clip is very useful when you need both hands free
  •  High performing, durable wearing zippers

Cons

  • Some find it too short
  • A little on the pricy side
  • Sizing runs a little small

Review

The SIMMS Headwaters Pro is the ultimate fly fishing vest. With its old-school look and feel coupled with its lightweight breathable mesh material, it is one of the best fly vests on the market today.

The 20 pockets hold all your gear without feeling too bulky. The rod holder strap is great when both hands are needed for a quick photo of the changing of rigs.

The padded collar and water-resistant material complete the vest, making it extremely comfortable and durable for all fishing scenarios, and backed with the SIMMS stamp of approval it is a very popular choice.

Redington Blackfoot Vest

Blackfoot River Vest

Available at: Avid Max or Amazon

Specs

  • 65% Polyester/35% Cotton
  • Solid-body fabric
  • Fast wicking
  • UPF 30+
  • Quick-dry fabric
  • 11 pockets for convenient storage
  • Soft knit collar for added comfort
  • Large back pocket for additional storage
  • $39

Pros

  • Velcro front pockets for quick access
  • Fleece fly patch
  • Practical pocket layout
  • 3 interior pockets and a large rear zip pocket with zipper closure
  • Knitted collar for comfort

Cons

  • Pocket zips can be flimsy
  • Odd and awkward size and shape
  • Loose straps on the chest

Review

The Redington Blackfoot vest is a great entry-level fishing vest. It has all the necessary pockets to hold all the basics. The vest is made from a quick-drying material that is very comfortable to wear.

The front upper fleece holds flies well and is easy to access. The multiple pockets allow for tippet spools and extras to be easily accessible.

The large back pocket allows you to hold a bottle of water and a small raincoat which is an added bonus.

At $39 it is a great entry-level fly vest or can serve as a backup if you ever need one.

Orvis Pro Vest

Orvis Pro Vest

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing or Avid Max and Amazon

Specs

  • Modern ergonomics, materials, and innovative features
  • Light abrasion-resistant nylon with a DWR coating
  • Fitted design is built to conform to the body
  • Stretch mesh interior
  • Shoulders have a lofted spacer mesh of nylon and spandex
  • 18 pockets—10 exterior, 6 interior, and 2 rear
  • Compression-molded pocket construction that adds rigidity
  • Upper pockets both with Orvis custom hideaway tool port
  • Two fly-drying patches
  • Multiple interior easy access pockets
  • Elastic loops to attach tippet bars
  • Adjustable closure that slides vertically for a custom fit
  • Padded collar
  • Tri-ring net holder
  • $198

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Sufficient storage for a long day on the water
  • Great zipper quality
  • Abrasion-resistant material

Cons

  • On the pricier side of fly vests
  • Little room for adjustment, no adjustable straps

Review

The Orvis Pro vest is one of the best vests on the market. It may be a little pricey but it is seriously bombproof and will be with you for many years.

It has all the pockets and pouches needed for long days on the water as well as the classic Orvis nipper and forceps holders below the fly patches.

Its durable lightweight material makes it a great all-season vest that has a lovely slim lone design as not to feel too bulky out on the water.

Orvis Ultralight Vest

Orvis Ultralight Vest

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing or Avid Max and Amazon

Specs

  • Modern, sleek, and functional design that integrates perfectly with the concept of the Ultralight Wading System
  • Low-profile design keeps load closer to the body and the slimmer design reduces the “layered bulk” of conventional vests
  • Lightweight material, treated with DWR, dries faster and breathes better
  • Eleven pockets, 6 exterior, 4 interior, and 1 rear
  • Four large vertical chest pockets for fly boxes, two of which have internal stretch mesh organization pockets
  • $149

Pros

  • Slimline design allows for easy wading with less chest bulk
  • Double chest fly patches
  • Retracable nipper cord
  • Extremely comfortable wearing
  • Lightweight and quick-drying material.

Cons

  • Sizing runs a size smaller
  • Can be awkward to use, with pockets being a little too high
  • No plastic clips for floatant or dry fly dust to be attached

Review

This Orvis fly fishing vest is made for the fly fisherman who wants to be able to move with ease and doesn’t like to carry too much gear. It has multiple storage options for an array of fly boxes.

The slim design gives the angler a less bulky feel with most of the pockets of the vest going the length of the fishing vest.

With 11 pockets in total, 6 exterior zippered pockets, 4 interior zippered pockets, and one rear zip pocket for a water bottle or something slightly heavier to balance the load.

 Soft poly/spandex blend lined foam padded collar for maximum comfort around the neck.

Tri-ring net holder on the upper back for easy net use and return.

The Orvis Ultralight Fly vest is a great vest for those who like a slimmer more integrated vest.

MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest Pack

MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest Pack

Available at: Amazon

Specs

  • 17 exterior and interior pockets to hold all your gear
  • Gear attachment tabs, cord loops, D-ring net lash, and hemostat keeper for various tools
  • Adjustable Shoulder Straps for comfortable control of the weight for all-day fishing on the water
  • The suspension structure spreads the weight to make you feel no weight of your gear
  • Breathable fabric with mesh backing to keep you cool in hot weather
  • Dropdown fly benches with replaceable foam insert for protecting your flies
  • Built-in rod tube holder for easy rod holding
  • $45

Pros

  • One size fits all
  • Adjustable straps for easy fitting
  • Lightweight design
  • Plenty of pockets and pouches to hold gear

Cons

  • Straps tend to slip when fully packed
  • Pockets aren’t that deep
  • Not many places to attach things to

Review

Max Catch fly fishing gear is great entry-level gear that will do the job. As with the Maxcatch Fly Fishing vest pack, it has all you will need for a day out on the water.

The vest may not be made from the best materials or the design could be a little bulky but for its price, it’s a great starter vest and once you figure out what you need on the water you can upgrade if needed.

Aventik Fly Fishing Vest

Aventik Fly Fishing Vest Backpack

Available at: Amazon

Specs

  • Designed with the fly fisherman in mind
  • Backpack with chest pack combination
  • The backpack has two compartments with a 2L hydration pocket
  • Chest pack has 3 zippered compartments
  • The front compartment has a removable foam patch
  • Waterproof and breathable fabric
  • Adjustable shoulder straps

Pros

  • Plenty of storage
  • 21 pockets in total (14 zipped); front side 15 pockets (11 zipped), inner side 4 pockets (2 zipped), backside 2 (1 zipped).
  • Gear attachment tabs
  • Retractable cord loops, hemostat keepers, and D-rings
  • Multiple pockets accommodate varied sized fly fishing boxes

Cons

  • The fly vest material isn’t the best quality
  • Zippers tend to tear if overfilled
  • Strap buckles loosen quickly

Review

The Aventik fly fishing vest is a large storage fly fishing vest. It is one of those fly fishing vests that will hold everything you will ever need on the water.

It comes with sufficient chest storage so the angler doesn’t need to get into the backpack too often.

With adjustable shoulder straps and lightweight construction, this fishing vest boasts great comfort and can be worn all day. The mesh straps and back mesh provide great breathability and contribute to the lightness.

This fly vest is great for those fly fishermen that hold a lot of gear and need quick access to all their gadgets.

Redington FIRST RUN Fishing Vest

Redington FIRST RUN Fishing Vest

Available at:

Specs

  • Fast wicking mesh fabric for quick drying
  • Knit collar for comfort
  • Fly foam for quick storage
  • Quick-release buckle closure
  • Integrated fabric loop for rod storage
  • Fits up to a 1-liter water bladder
  • $69

Pros

  • Multiple storage options holding all necessary gear for a productive day on the water
  • Ability to hold a hydration pack
  • Polyester vest knit padded collar
  • Moisture-managing and quick-drying material
  • Quick-release buckle
  • Integrated fabric loop/rod storage

Cons

  • The vest can run a size larger
  • Pocket sizes are too small for the larger fly boxes
  • L shaped front pocket zips make it easier for stuff to fall out of
  • Ripstop nylon material can be a little thick

Review

This fly fishing vest is great for early spring days as well as most of the cooler weather climates.

The moister management system gives allows the material to dry quickly. An array of pockets in the front of the vest gives you access to all your gear without having to get into your backpack.

You can rest your rod in the integrated fabric loop when you need 2 hands free to retie a fly, change a rig or take a quick pic.

The integrated hydration bladder compartment is great for those long days on the river.

This is a great allrounder fly fishing vest, it has sufficient pockets for storage and provides a slight warmth for those colder days. It’s one of the more popular vests on the market and at its price point is a great choice for all.

Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack

Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack

Available at: Trident Fly Fishing and Amazon

Specs

  • 17 exterior and interior pockets
  • Vertical chest pockets hold large and medium boxes
  • Gear attachment tabs, cord loops, D-ring net lash
  • Hemostat keeper
  • Two signature, zip-down fly benches with replaceable foam
  • $149.95

Pros

  • Great selection of pockets
  • Weight distribution well thought out for when the vest is fully packed
  • Breathable mesh backing
  • Made from recyclable materials
  • The base design is lightweight and it can hold sufficient gear with back up

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Slightly larger in sizing
  • No extra plastic clips to hold excess strapping
  • Doesn’t take larger fly boxers

Review

Fishpond fly fishing gear is serious stuff, they pride themselves on quality gear aimed at mid to upper skilled flyfishermen who know what they need and are happy to pay for it.

The Fishpond Gore range tech vest is one of the more modern fly fishing vest designs. It’s a fly fishing vest that functions more like a fly fishing pack.

It is made from recycled material and comes in an attractive neutral beige/ brown color with the classic fishpond multi-colored straps and tags.

The breathable mesh back allows for great breathability during those warmer days and adds to its lightness.

With over 16 inner and outer pockets there is plenty of space for all your fly boxes and tools. The cleverly thought-out forceps holder allows for easy use without it dangling around and getting caught up.

The Gore tech fly fishing vest has it all! Whether you are a seasoned guide or just want more space on your day trip fly vest then this is the fly fishing vest for you. I wouldn’t recommend this for a minimalist fly angler as there will be way too much unused space.

Patagonia Mesh Master II

Mesh Master II Vest

Available at: Avid Max

Specs

  • Mesh body ventilates in hot weather and won’t hold water in wet or cold conditions
  • Pockets made of 3-layer 100% nylon with a waterproof/breathable barrier
  • DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • EVA foam collar provides comfort and equalizes weight distribution
  • Vertical front pocket design provides low-bulk storage and easy access
  • Stacked upper pocket on the back is set high on shoulders to keep contents dry during wading;
  • Multiple interior zippered pockets for tippet spools; hidden rod holder
  • Adjustable front closure allows for layering
  • 340 g
  • $179

Pros

  • lightweight and breathable
  • Vertical pockets for low-bulk storage and easy pocket access
  • Designed for both hot and cold use
  • Fair Trade Certified™ sewn.

Cons

  • Less pocket space than previous models
  • No inner pockets
  • The Fleece fly patch is too high on the left shoulder

Review

Patagonia is no stranger to the fly fishing world and has been producing quality fly fishing gear for years. They pride themselves on the minimalist approach with a fair sewn stamp of approval.

The Mesh Master is the ultimate mesh vest. It has breathability for those hot days and is lightweight and comfy to put over a bigger jacket in the colder months.

Its verticle pocket storage is a great addition allowing the angler to store those bigger fly boxes with ease. The pockets are deep and easily accessible.

The forcep protectors are great and the vest has extra plastic rings ideal for those anglers that carry a few extra dry fly dusts and oils.

This is one of the best mesh vests on the market and will be with you for a lifetime.

If you are looking for wading jacket by Patagonia, see our Patagonia Wading Jacket Reviews here.

What are the advantages of Fly Fishing Vests?

These vests keep the weight off your neck and help you improve your posture [1] while casting your fly rod. (You can also see our How To Cast A Fly Rod for an in-depth guide on fly rod casting). The higher-end vests have pockets on the front and back. Therefore, the weight of the tools you are carrying is distributed around your body just like a backpack, helping with balance when you’re out in the water.

With the many pockets fly vests come with, you have storage space for all your tools and gear other than your rod. When there is a pocket for each fishing gear, you can easily find what you are looking for when fishing.

The best fishing vests ensure there is no interference when you are swinging your rod. Your range of motion is not limited as your hands and arms are free to move. You don’t have to keep holding equipment you are no longer using, as there is a pocket for it. Plus, many fishing vests have mesh areas to keep you cool, even on warm days.

Because there are many pockets, no pocket will be stuffed with gear. When you have that fish of a lifetime on the line and you need your best fishing multi tool (or even one of our recommended best fish fillet knife options), you’d better know where it is! Fly fishing vests enable to keep your gear dry as you wade through the water too, something pockets or even a backpack isn’t so good at doing!

Things to look for in a Fishing Vest

There are a number of things to look out for when looking for the best fly fishing vest for you. I would suggest first decide on the type of fly fishing you will be doing in the vest. This will lead you to whether you need a shorter or longer vest. If you will be doing a lot of wet wading a shorter fishing vest is recommended.

It’s important that the fly vest feels comfortable and make sure you would be happy to wear it all day.

If you are buying from a fly fishing shop, try the vest on and get a feel for it. Try to figure out in your mind where you will put all your gear, this really does help.

Finally, the balance of pockets is important. You need a fly fishing vest that has a good front and rear balance so you arent front heavy when fishing, yes all your technical gear will be in front but the vest needs to have a rear pocket for a water bottle or hydration pack to balance it out.

You can also check our full breakdown of the Best Wading Jacket here.

Storage

First off in our guide to the important factors in a fishing vest, the number of pockets should be the number one factor you consider. Base this on the equipment and gear you usually take when you go fishing. Ensuring that every tool has its pocket helps you know where things are.

You need a fishing vest that can hold everything you need, so you have your hands free for your rod. But you need to get the balance just right. Don’t go for a vest that is too big and can hold everything, if you end up taking stuff you don’t use. It’s better to go for a vest that can hold exactly what you need, rather than extra stuff which will weigh you down unnecessarily.

Having too many pockets in your vest could also be a problem. Sometimes a simple solution is better. You’ll know the type of person you are and whether you prefer to look like inspector gadget out on the water, or just have a few extra pockets for the essential gear.

Durability And Fabric

The fabric used to make vests should also be considered as it determines the quality of the product. You can choose from nylon, cotton, polyester, or mesh fabric among other options. Water-resistant fabric is a brilliant idea if you’re fishing in rainy weather to keep your gear dry.

Go with nylon if you are fishing in the summer and cotton or polyester fabric if you are fishing in a much cooler climate. Mesh is also a great option for summer fishing trips.

Size

Sizes also matter when you are purchasing a vest. Ensure you purchase products from manufacturers who make vests that are tried and tested for a good fit. Consider purchasing a vest with variable waist and shoulders straps, so it fits perfectly. You don’t want something bulky that will get in the way of your rod.

fishing the rivers in autumn

Number of Pockets

A fishing vest is the ultimate fly fishing accessory as it allows you to carry all the tools you’ll need and have them within reach when you’re in the water. The less time you spend rummaging through your backpack the more successful you’ll be. I always remembered the saying: “you can’t catch fish if your line’s not wet!”.

A functional vest allows you to organise all your tools so that you don’t dig through a heap of items trying to find one thing. How much gear you usually carry as you go fishing should determine the kind of fish vest you purchase.

The best fishing vests are designed to have enough space to accommodate all your tools and gear. Vests with pockets that are strategically placed for proper organisation offers you convenience so that you focus on having a good time while you are out in the water, chucking bugs for fish. Mesh pockets are also handy, as you can see your tools through the mesh and locate them quickly.

Comfort and Weight

A trout fishing vest also needs to be lightweight so that it doesn’t weigh down your shoulders [2] when you’re fishing all day. Consider shopping at online shops that also have women’s fishing vest. You want it to stay comfortable around your waist and across your shoulders, especially when loaded up with gear.

It is possible to get a waterproof vest. However, most vests aren’t designed to be completely waterproof, so consider carrying a waterproof pouch for important belongings like your keys and phone to avoid unlucky accidents in the water.

Price

Price is always a factor to consider when buying a fishing vest, especially if you’re on a budget. You’ll find fishing vests on sale from low price points, to high-end, high price vests. We’ve reviewed a range of products across all price points, so you’re sure to find something to suit your budget.

Fly Fishing Vest Set Up

Having a logical organisation when you are packing to go fishing helps you avoid spending too much time looking for items. Because your fly box is frequently used, you should consider having it to your left if you are right-handed or to your right if you are right-handed. See the best fly box options on the market today here. Having it at this position ensures you can easily access it with your dominant hand.

Purchase a vest with appropriate pockets so that your tools easily fit into them. Have small items in small pockets so that the bigger pockets are left for larger tools and equipment. Some of the small-sized equipment you will need to take include

  • Leaders
  • Tubes of flotant
  • Fly Boxes
  • Nippers
  • Pocket knives

The frequently used items should be closest to the outside of the vest while the less frequently used gear should be placed further away. Consider purchasing a vest with retractable leashes as well as zingers for your nippers and hemostats.

Tippet tenders that are easily attached to the vest enable you to access your spools easily. If you are one to go fishing for a whole day, remember to take your lunch, snacks, and drinks so that you don’t have to interrupt your day. Pack your vest ahead of time so that you don’t forget to carry any essential gear.

fly fishing basics

Wrap Up

My choice for the best fly fishing vest is the SIMMS Headatwer Pro. I have fished with one for years and haven’t had an issue. It’s comfy, practical for my needs, and is very durable.

I also like that the pockets and gear storage compartments are on either side and higher which gives me an uninterrupted view of where I’m walking and the higher pockets are essential for when I wet wade.

I hope the above will assist you when making your next purchase.

Remember not to take too long with your decision and get out on the water and catch fish!

Happy fishing and tight lines.

References

[1] https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment

[2] https://uihc.org/health-topics/your-backpack-too-heavy

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