Best Fly Fishing Vests: Buying Guide and Reviews

Review and Buying Guide for the Best Fly Fishing Vests

A tackle bag is not an option when you are wading for brook trout. You’ll need to bring all your equipment with you when you go fishing, which means you will need a fly fishing vest.

A good vest is an essential purchase for fly anglers. It can hold your leader, tippet, and pliers as well as your net and insect repellent.

It must also be durable and comfortable!

Fly fishing is something we take seriously. If you are looking for advice on your next vest, this is the place to go. Below is a short buying guide and reviews of some of the best fly fishing vests.

Here’s a quick look at the top fly fishing vests.

  • Simms Freestone
  • Orvis Pro
  • Simms Headwaters Pro MeshBest Hot Weather Fly Fishing Vest
  • Simms G3 guide best Fly Fishing Vest
  • Anglatech Fly Fishing Backpack (with Water Bladder)Best budget fly fishing vest

The Best Fly Fishing Vests – Reviewed

Simms Freestone

Simms Freestone Fishing Vest, 19 Pocket Sleeveless Vest, Smoke, Large

Simms’s Freestone flies fishing vest is a thoughtfully designed, mid-range option between products like the G3 and the entry-level Anglatech. It’s packed with features that appeal to fly fishermen and is a great option if you are looking for high performance at an affordable price.

It’s a purpose-built tool for angling. The vest is designed to fit comfortably on the back and abdomen of the user, protecting gear from deep water. This is a crucial feature in my opinion, as vests too long to reach your waist will get you wet.

It is made from nylon that is durable and quick drying. The front is secured by a strong, adjustable plastic fastener. It’s a light, comfortable, and cool-wearing vest that many anglers love.

It runs true to size so you don’t need to go up to have enough space to cast. The Freestone is well-designed. Your shirt or jacket will fit comfortably and provide plenty of “give” to allow for angling.

Simms is an expert on fly fishing and this vest has 19 pockets that will allow you to organize all your gear like a pro.

You can store fly boxes in two large vertical pockets at the chest. Below their Velcro closures, you will find small stash pockets that are perfect for items such as indicators. There are also two Velcro slash pockets on either side of your chest opening.

A fly-drying patch will be found on the left breast.

Expect two large horizontal pockets at your waist with durable zippers. Each pocket has two flap-closure pockets.

You’ll find four Velcro-closure drop pockets and two large mesh pockets on the inside.

A large zippered pocket is located at the rear.

It has enough storage to hold even the largest gear collection. The layout is simple and easy to use.

There are two Hypalon attachments to your tools on the chest and a D-ring for your net on the back. These are located above the zippered pockets.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Good air quality
  • True to size
  • Great storage options
  • Includes net attachment points and tool
  • Durable and fast-drying

Cons

  • This vest would be almost perfect if it had retractors

Orvis Pro

Orvis PRO Vest

It’s hard to find a fly-angler who doesn’t know Orvis, so it’s no surprise that their Pro vest is a valuable addition to our list.

The Provest is made from nylon that resists abrasion and has Spandex panels on the shoulders for increased comfort. The Pro’s thoughtful design features, such as the large armholes and padded collar, along with its padded shoulders, can make it easy to forget that you are wearing it.

Instead of a zippered front closure, you will find a single adjustable fastener that can be adjusted up or down to create a customized fit.

However, the Orvis Pro is a long-legged option that can get wet in deep waters.

The Pro has 18 pockets for organizing your gear. I like the layout of them.

You have plenty of chest storage with two medium-sized zippered pockets. Each pocket also has a fly-drying patch and hideaway port. This is a nice addition and the ports work well.

You’ll find below the two large, compression-molded pockets that have small zippered pockets at their fronts. To the right of the main entrance is a large vertically zippered pocket.

You’ll find the large mesh pocket to your rear that allows you access to the interior and large zippered compartment.

Although the interior pockets are made of stretchy, capacious mesh, I would like to see Velcro or zippers.

You can expect the D-ring to attach your net to the back, along with a loop for additional tools.

Overall, this may be the most comfortable vest on our list, but while there’s plenty of space for gear, I think the vests from Simms offer more–and better–organizational options.

Pros

  • This vest is the most comfortable you can get
  • Good air quality
  • True to size
  • Storage options that work well
  • Offers tool and net attachment points
  • Durable and fast-drying

Cons

  • It would be great to have some retractors
  • I would like to see interior pockets that have better closures

Simms Headwaters Pro MeshHot Weather Fly Fishing Vest

Simms Headwaters Pro Mesh Fishing Vest, 20 Pockets & Rod Holder, Boulder, XL

Simms Headwaters Pro Mesh vest is perfect for fishers who live in areas where the sun shines and the humidity is high. You won’t find a better design for hot temperatures than the tough nylon mesh.

Simms vests are padded as you would expect. The collar is also padded to provide comfort. The Headwaters vest has a single adjustable connection, making it easy to find a comfortable product.

The Headwaters has the majority of the pockets found in the Freestone but minus the two Velcro pockets at the sides of the front seam. This doesn’t reduce storage but the Headwaters makes up for it in terms of hot-weather comfort and additional mesh storage options in the rear.

The Headwaters also includes two built-in retractors, one for each side of your chest. This is a huge deal, and it’s awesome to have your hemostat and nippers securely attached.

Two front D-rings are still available for additional tools and a D-ring at the rear for your net.

The Headwaters Pro Mesh fly vest is the best money can buy if you are prone to heatstroke or fish in hot regions.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Breathability unbeatable
  • True to size
  • Great storage options
  • Points for tool and net attachment
  • Two built-in retractors
  • Durable and fast-drying

Cons

  • ?? ??

Simms G3 guide best Fly Fishing Vest

Simms’s G3 Guide fishing vest may be the best you will ever find. It’s made with features that you will love.

As you would expect, the G3 Guide is cut high. This helps keep your lower pockets dry as you dive into deep water. Simms has similar products with the collar and shoulders.

The G3 has a zipper that is heavy-duty and instead of one adjustable fastener. This vest may be considered an improvement, but it is still up for debate. It is also a touch warmer than the Freestone, and definitely a lot warmer than the Headwaters.

It’s a comfortable vest that fits true to size.

My eye sees the G3 wearing thicker, more durable, rip-stop nylon. If you take long, difficult hikes through the brush to get to your favorite spots, this is something you will appreciate.

The G3 Guide’s storage capacity is unparalleled: 24 pockets are thoughtfully placed in a way that allows you to store all your fly-fishing essentials.

This vest has everything that the Headwaters offers, plus two additional weather-proofed horizontal zippered pockets and two additional cargo pockets on the chest. There is also a fly-drying patch to the right.

Simms added four D-rings to the front of his gear and two magnetic docking retractors. Although I don’t think any angler would need these many, the D-rings provide unparalleled options. Where Attach your tools.

This is awesome because the G3 is as close as you can get to custom!

You’ll find four Velcro-drop pockets on the interior. On the back, there are the usual deep bellows pockets, the zippered compartment high up, and a Dring for your net.

The G3 Guide, Simms’ top-of-the-line product, is not cheap. The G3 Guide is a top-of-the-line fishing vest that flies anglers love. I think it’s worth every penny.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Good air quality
  • True to size
  • Amazing storage options
  • Many tool attachment points
  • Two built-in retractors
  • Extremely durable

Cons

  • It’s expensive!

Anglatech Fly Fishing Backpack With Water BladderBest budget fly fishing vest

Anglatech Fly Fishing Backpack with Water Bladder Adjustable for Men and Women

Anglatech’s “backpack”, which is actually a vest, is actually a vest. It’s a great option for anglers who cannot afford the Simms or Orvis prices.

The Anglatech is, to my eyes, a modified PFD. This makes a lot more sense. The Anglatech is a high-cut, narrow-backed, and features the same adjustable closures as its life-saving counterparts. These closures are available in one size. They do a good job and provide a snug fit.

The vest is closed with a zipper at the center. This is a problem to fix. It can break completely, come unzipped or function poorly. You should prepare for some jury-rigging.

You can’t really expect Simms or Orvis to offer the same level of comfort, but Anglatech can be tailored to fit nearly anyone.

The interior padding on this fishing vest is nice, but it will heat up. It’s the warmest vest we reviewed, so I recommend keeping it in reserve for colder weather. Anglatech has added a 1.5-liter water reservoir to the rear and a handy drinking tube to the left chest as if they were reading my review.

This is a nice touch and it’s important to hydrate!

Two large, vertical pockets are located on the front with separate zippered areas. These pockets are large enough to store a few fly boxes or other items. You’ll also find a mesh pocket to the side and two zippered pockets high up.

This doesn’t leave you with a lot of storage options, but you won’t run out of places to tie on your tools. There’s a loop or reinforced eye for attaching hemostats or nippers to almost every surface. With so many attachment points, it’s easy to customize your tool positions.

You’ll find a large zippered pocket in the back to access your water bladder. There is plenty of room to store rain gear, line, or any other items. You can also attach your net using the ripstop nylon loops. The D-ring is usually high up.

The Anglatech fishing vest is not something I want to criticize. This vest is a great option for budget-minded anglers, as it has many tool attachment options and reasonable storage.

It’s a great budget-friendly spring or fall fly fishing vest that is well worth another look.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Comfortable
  • One size fits all
  • Options OK
  • Many tool attachment points
  • Hydration is provided by a 1.5-liter water bladder

Cons

  • Poor zipper quality
  • Warm!

How to Evaluate a Fly Fishing Vest

Comfort

Although it may seem odd that I value comfort so highly, think about this: If your fly fishing vest rubs or fits poorly or burns you in the sun, it’s not going to be worn.

You should look for features such as mesh panels, adjustable straps, and true-to-size.

The icing on top is adjustable closures, padded collars, and stretch panels.

Storage

A fly fishing vest can hold everything you need, from tippets and floats to fly dressing and flies, but the main purpose is to organize your gear so it’s always at your fingertips.

Pockets will be of different sizes. Some pockets are for fly dressing, indicators, or fly boxes, while others are for leader or spools tippet.

Don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellent, and a knife. The list is endless, as you know.

A vest with a variety of pockets is essential to accommodate all your belongings.

Also, I consider how easily these pockets can be opened. Is it possible to open the pocket and get what you need, then put it back in the pocket and close the zipper again? Do they have a zipper, button, elastic, or Velcro-closure?

How about the interior pockets? What about the rear pockets?

Retractors are great for items such as hemostats or pliers. They keep your tools in place and allow you to use them without getting lost in the water. A few D-rings are also useful for rigging line nippers or other useful tools.

Although retractors are not necessary, once you start using them, you will see why vests that offer them are worth the price.

Durability

Every part of the fabric, from the zippers and seams to its primary fabric, must be strong enough to withstand a beating.

Make sure the zippered closures, especially the one at the vest’s front, are of high quality. You’ve probably experienced a zipper catching on the interior lining or separating.

The vest should be made from durable nylon ripstop nylon and treated with a water-repellant by the manufacturer. This will keep your gear and you dry while fishing, and should also help to shed fish slime, dirt, and mud.

Last Thoughts

We hope this article helped you choose your next fly fishing vest. If not, we would love to hear about it!

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.