Since the day I first picked up a fly rod, I’ve been trying to figure out the ideal way to carry my gear. Like many, I’ve run through the gamut of vests, hip packs, chest packs, sling packs … you get it.
In recent years, I’ve been using a kind of modular system with different components I could pick and choose to customize it for a specific set of conditions. And for the most part, it’s been working well.
But no system is ever absolutely perfect. The writer Archibald MacLeish said, “a novel is never finished–only abandoned.” And he’s right.
There’s always one more thing you could add (or take away). One more little tweak to make it lighter, more compact, have more volume, be more user friendly, etc..
And so, a few days ago, I saw an ad for the Fishpond South Fork Wading Belt and the lightbulb went off.
The system I use the most is my Yonah Tenkara Simple Pack and it’s the perfect size for all of my local waters. I normally wear it around my neck and while it does flop around a bit, but it’s negligible when weighed against all of its other clever features.
It fits all of my tackle (fly boxes, tippet, extra line, clippers, hemostats, and line spool) but I need to carry other things too like my net, my cigarettes, sidearm, etc..
Note: Yes, I carry a sidearm in the backcountry. No, I don’t care to hear your opinions about it. So please … don’t turn a fishing post into a soapbox for how you feel about guns. Let’s please just stick to tenkara!
I was trying to come up with something comfortable and configurable that would hold my net and afford extra storage if need be for other non-fishing items. And the South Fork looked like a good candidate.
Immediately after putting it on, I knew I was on to something. First of all, it was far more comfortable than it looked. Fishpond overbuilds everything it makes and the belt looked really stiff. But it wasn’t!
In fact, it conformed snugly and cozily around my waist and as perhaps an unintended bonus, the rigidity acts as a back support! I have back arthritis and it’s been a hinderance on-stream, but I thought to myself, “I could wear this all day!”
But aside from the comfort, there three other feature that completely sold me on the South Fork …
I carry a traditional tamo and I carry it in the traditional way: with the handle tucked into my belt (or wader belt) against my back. Iv’e been doing it this way ever since I can remember. I’ve never felt it was that comfortable but I liked the easy access.
The South Fork Belt has a dedicated holster and that was probably the first thing that got my attention. It gives me the same ease-of access but the handle doesn’t press into your back under the pressure of the belt because it’s gusseted.
My net slides in and out much more easily and it’s just a more secure way to carry it.
And Fishpond must have read my mind because they put a small loop right next to the holster where I can clip my net leash. Perfect!
Sliding Pack holder
The real genius of this belt though is the sliding pack strap. Imagine a thinner, narrower strap over a thicker, wider belt. The loop on the back of my pack slides into that top strap but is free to slide back and forth. This means you can keep the pack toward your back so it’s out of the way when you’re not using it or when bushwhacking and want to avoid snags. Then it easily slides forward when you need to access the pack. Brilliant!
The strap is long enough that you could fit another pack, water bottle holder, or other accessories. There’s also another, shorter strap on the opposite side.
I haven’t found a need yet to attach anything other than what you see in the picture and video, though I do want to come up with some kind of rod holder–perhaps an elastic loop. I’ll post about it if I come up with something clever.
A nice touch: there’s a rigid loop at the front near the buckle that I can tuck my hemostats into to prevent them from dangling (one of my pet peeves)!
Multiple Points of Attachment
In addition to the straps, other points of attachment abound. There are multiple loops and daisy chains to completely customize the belt to your liking.
The South Fork is actually sold as part of a system with a lineup of accessories that attach. I don’t plan on buying any of their components because the ones I have are already compatible.
At any rate, I like the fact that it’s easy to add extra storage if I need to carry an extra fly box, spool, entomology kit, or whatever.
Frankly, given the extensive experimentation I’ve done, I’m surprised it never occurred to me to investigate a belt-based carry system. It seems so logical now.
I’ve only had it in the field for one day, but it’s already apparent that the South Fork fits all my needs, yet is still somewhat on the minimal side, striking a good balance of storage and comfort. So for now, this is my go-to system for all of my local fishing. I’m sure I’ll continue to refine it, but it’s nice to have a good foundation upon which to build.