Backpacks for fly fishing, this the ONE piece of equipment that I could talk about for days on end! As a passionate advocate on the merits of a pack over a 70’s porn-star style fly fishing vest, the options can be somewhat daunting when considering the features you need. More importantly, we don’t all sport those sketchy moustache’s that seem to be a prerequisite when wearing a vest…
Don’t get sucked in by the marketing hype is my first piece of advice because fly fishing back packs need to be one thing, SIMPLE! You don’t need a million pockets, dangly straps you’ll never use, attachment points and other pointless features. The more pockets something has, the more inclined you’ll be to fill them with pointless stuff you never use.
One of the other important considerations when choosing a fishing pack is will it keep your gear dry? I will only use roll-top, or Tizip packs these days after a few scares on the water. One such occasion I went under in Lake Otamangakau’s bottomless silt. Floundering around to get traction again, I soon discovered that my air-filled, waterproof rolltop backpack was unintentionally keeping me afloat like a life jacket, waders and all! This is an excellent, un-intended benefit of waterproof roll-top packs and stands true should you take an unplanned swim in a river as well, it may just save your life…
MY OBSESSION WITH WATERPROOF FISHING PACKS
Having tried nearly EVERY single waterproof fly fishing orientated backpack on the market from virtually all the major manufacturers over the years, it was refreshing to see Simms bring their Dry Creek range of packs to the table many years ago. Like most of the Simms range, they were well made, simple and ticked a lot of boxes. Although not the cheapest on the market, nor perfect in their feature set for my particular requirements, it makes no sense to scrimp on an essential tool like a waterproof back pack so they utilised some very sturdy fabrics and genuine waterproof Tizips, so longevity was an excellent feature.
What is a Tizip?
A Tizip is a fully waterproof zip. It exhibits the ease of access a traditional zip does, at the same time making the enclosure completely submersible and 100% airtight. However, there is no t-zip on this version of the Dry Creek pack. Just a good old, ultra-reliable, dry bag inspired rolltop fastening system - the benefit, outside of the obvious submersible qualities, is the huge opening for stowing bulky gear and fast access.
HAULING FLY FISHING GEAR
For me, personally, on any given day on the river I will carry camera gear, a jacket, spare spool, safety gear, a PLB, fly boxes, water bottle, net, phone, drone, lunch and a few other necessities. My needs usually render anything under about 30L in volume obsolete, but many anglers will get by fine with a pack whose volume is between 15L and 25L.
One of the other fantastic features of a rolltop, is that a 30L pack, can be cinched down in volume to a very small size, meaning you have both a large volume, and small volume pack in one. Not possible with rigid frame packs or packs that feature zips.
FIELD TESTING THE 2022 SIMMS DRY CREEK ROLLTOP BACKPACK
The Manic lads sent down one of the prototype Simms Dry Creek Rolltop backpacks to try back in November prior to a heli-trip into the Kahurangi and immediately upon pulling it out of the bag I knew I would like it. Why? The material foremost, was easily 300 denier plus in thickness which means it will last very, very well - and there was no stupidly complicated harness system, this is fly fishing, we travel light most of the time.
I have used this pack extensively this past eight months - it’s been kicked along the ground, thrown in choppers, bashed through blackberry scrub, slid on, scrunched up, dragged through mud, pack-rafted with and used as a carry-on for flights - and it’s as good as the day I got it. The TPU backing is like new and exhibiting no signs of stress from repeated folding again and again, and this is the first sign of a quality rolltop as cheaper alternatives out there will show delamination in quick order at folding points, not the Dry Creek.
FEATURES OF THE SIMMS DRY CREEK ROLLTOP BACKPACK
WATERPROOF CLOSURE AND PACK COMPRESSION
This model is simply referred to as the Simms Dry Creek RollTop Backpack which has a full volume of 30L, however it can be cinched down to about 15L in dimensions with a quick pull of the side straps.
One feature I like is you can either use the side compression straps for the purposes mentioned above, and like Jakub Kanok does with his orange version, or what I prefer, just roll the top three times, and join the two buckles in the middle for a thinner profile, faster closing and equally tight waterproof seal. Some packs fall short here having only male buckles, so this is not possible. It’s a nice touch from Simms to give us the option to fasten in one of two ways. There is also an additional compression strap running fore and aft for added security, like if using the pack for rafting trips.
THE PACK HARNESS
The harness of a back-pack is what defines comfort, however when we’re talking about sub 5kg loads here, it honestly makes little difference having a supportive harness or not. These aren’t tramping packs, but small day packs and what matters more is how well the part of the pack that contacts your back disperses heat and sweat. The Simms wins here again, featuring small, well placed elevated pads, airflow is great on long, hot summer days.
The pack has an outside pocket for things you need at the ready, for me, that means my fly box, tippet, floatant, and nothing else. The pocket is small, but big enough for standard sized C&F fly boxes and works well. The zip here is not submersible but water resistant enough to shed any rain or a short submersion should you take a tumble, which you won’t if you’re wearing the latest Simms Flyweight Access boots, but I digress…
THE SMALLER DETAILS
- Side pockets are mesh, top cinching and deep enough for rod tubes or in my case, a folding McClean’s weigh net, a commonly carried net by kiwi anglers. Or simply drape your nets over the top of the pack and secure with the heavy duty welded loop on top.
- There is a handy fly patch on the front left strap which saves me digging superfluous flies into my cuffs!
- The water bottle holders make for a great rod storage solution and what 99% of anglers will use them for. Using the above-mentioned top fastening method, this negates the need for adding an upper strap too (there are pre-welded loops here for this), the rod tube simply sliding between the top fasteners then slotted into the side bottle holders, all very secure for bush bashing.
- There are additional lash points which are low profile and will accept any 25mm webbing which is fantastic, if I’m adding an additional rod or wading staff to the pack.
- The pack has a removable waistband, however, I don’t often use waistbands unless doing a prolonged walk, they tend to get in the way when trying to control line in windy conditions so it’s a nice touch to be able to have the ability to clip this off.
- There is a chest compression strap to stop that side-to-side movement when negotiating steep country which helps a lot, and also internal organiser pockets I use for key safety gear like PLB and first aid kit, along with access to my mobile phone to send photos to you all when you’re working, and I’m fishing…which is most of the time.
This new Simms Dry Creek Rolltop Backpack comes about as close as I have seen to the perfect kiwi fly fishing backpack, and in case you haven’t guessed, this is a piece of gear I am extremely fussy about.
What would I change? Not much really, one day I would love to see full length rod pockets running each side of a pack, but as an all-rounder, you simply cannot go past this pack from Simms, it’s near perfect, and that’s saying something coming from me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrew Harding is a die hard fly fisherman that spends more time on the water than most of us do at work. Check out some of his amazing fly fishing film work over on his Youtube channel.