Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Vest: Top 5 – 2020 Edition

// by Leonard Schoenberger

Many fly anglers consider a fly fishing vest a crucial piece of equipment. Here is why and what you should consider.

When it comes to fly fishing vests the ghosts are divided by fly fishermen and women. Some fly anglers love to head to the water with the least equipment possible. They want to keep it light and simple.

What is the best Fly Fishing Vest on the Market?

Others swear by their fly fishing vests. It gives them plenty of pockets and possibilities to store their fly boxes, tippet spools, measuring tape and other small times.

We want to give you an overview of what types of fly fishing vests there are. We check all the features that make a great fly vest:

– Pockets, shape and wearing comfort, material, features and price.

We will take an in-depth look at the following fly vests:

– Simms Freestone Fishing Vest

– Patagonia Mesh Master II Vest

– Orvis Pro Vest

– Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest

– Bassdash Strip Fishing Vest

Simms Freestone Fishing Vest

If you are a fly fisher already we certainly don’t have to tell you about the quality of Simms products. The Bozeman, Montana, based brand manufactures some of the finest gear in the fly fishing world. They have a whole spectrum of fly fishing vests. These range from the Freestone model that we chose for our test all the way up to the G3 Guide fishing vest which has a price tag of $249.95.

At only $99.95 the Freestone model offers many features of their Simms siblings at a much lower price.

The Simms Freestone vest comes in three colors: Hex Flo Camo Carbon, Striker Grey and Hex Camo Loden (the color we used in our test). The Freestone vest features 19 pockets on both sides of the frontside, both sides of the insides and even more pockets on the backside. It holds so many pockets that you will have a hard time filling all of them.

The Simms Freestone Vest is a lightweight fly fishing vest making it a great choice for summer fishing in warmer temperatures as well. The mesh fabric on the inside of the back gives this vest a lot of breathability and keeps its weight down on top of that at only 17 oz. (482g).

Simms Fly Vest Backside Pocket
The Simms Freestone Vest provides high breathability

The low weight also makes it a good choice if you spend long days on the water. The nicely padded collar further adds to the wearing comfort of the Simms Freestone fishing vest.

Simms Fly Fishing Vest Inside Collar
A nicely padded collar adds to the wearing comfort

On the back of the vest there are two zippered pockets which allow for storage of additional gear like a rain jacket or a small lunch.

Simms Fly Fishing Vest Retractors
Several additional features make the Simms Freestone Vest a great choice

The Simms Freestone Vest has a number of nice little features. Two built-in attractors on the front side allow you to quickly access your most crucial gear like a pair of fly fishing pliers. Additional loops along the lower front pockets allow you to attach even more gear. On the back of the vest there is a loop to attach a landing net.

At only $99.95 the Simms Freestone Vest feels more like a high-end fly fishing vest. Compared to its Simms siblings it doesn’t have to hide. If you want an all-around great fly fishing vest that will make you happy for a long time during all seasons the Simms Freestone Vest is an excellent choice.

Get it here: Simms Freestone Vest

Patagonia Mesh Master II

Patagonia Mesh Master II Fly Vest Front View
The Patagonia Mesh Master II Fly Vest

The Patagonia Mesh Master II Vest is a great choice for people who would rather not wear a fly vest. It is as lightweight and simple as it gets.

Patagonia Mesh Master II Fly Vest Inside
The minimalist Patagonia Mesh Master II

The front pockets of the Patagonia Mesh Master II are stacked vertically rather than horizontally like in most other fly vests. This makes the Patagonia vest less bulky and gives you more freedom of movement when casting. Besides the six front pockets the Patagonia Mesh Master II Fly vest has additional zippered pockets on the inside of the vest. This is a good place to store a car key for example.

Patagonia Fly Fishing Vest Mesh Front Side Pocket
The mesh fabric makes the Patagonia Mesh Master II extremely light

On the backside of the vest there are two zippered pockets to hold extra gear. Their high position ensures that the gear inside stays dry when wading deep.

An EVA foam collar provides all-day comfort and increases an equal weight distribution. You have to load your Patagonia vest heavily though to feel any weight at all.

Patagonia Fly Fishing Vest Backside View
The Patagonia Mesh Master II with two zippered back pockets and D-ring

Weighing in at only 12oz (340g) the Meshmaster II fly vest is designed for the fly fishing minimalist. The entire vest apart from the pockets and collar is made of ultra lightweight mesh material ensuring a high breathability. The blue and grey colors add an extra bit of elegance to your day on the water.

The Patagonia Mesh Master II is not as feature-rich as the Simms Freestone Fishing vest for example. It doesn’t feature any built-in retractors. Still there remain plenty of options to attach gear on the frontside along the pockets. At $179 it does not come cheap but as all Patagonia products it is built to last a lifetime. The perfect choice for the minimalist fly fisher.

Get it here: Patagonia Mesh Master II Vest

Orvis Pro Vest

Orvis is another big fly fishing brand offering a solid fly fishing vest with their Pro model. Similarly to the Patagonia Mesh Master II Vest, Orvis stacks the front pockets vertically. The lower pockets are much bigger than the Mesh Master ones’ though giving you the possibility to store even large fly boxes (for streamers for example).

Featuring 18 pockets in total, the Orvis Pro Vest comes close to the Simms Freestone Vest. Just like the Simms and Patagonia model the Orvis Pro Vest also features two back pockets. One of them is a reach-through and the other one closes with a zipper.

The material of the Orvis Pro vest promises to be extra abrasion resistant. On the flipside the vest does not come in as light as the Patagonia Mesh Master II. At 17.5 oz (496g) it does not feel heavy either. It comes across as more sturdy overall since the fabric is not made of mesh but nylon. The nicely padded collar adds to the comfort and makes it a good choice for long days on the water.

The Orvis Pro Vest features a number of neat tool ports and elastic loops to attach your gear such as a pair of fly fishing pliers or extra tippet spools.

At $198 the Orvis Pro Vest is the most expensive one so far. However, Orvis is known beyond the fly fishing world for their long-lasting quality products. The Pro Vest should be no exception here and last you many years of fly fishing.

Get it here: Orvis Pro Vest

Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest

The Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest comes as close to a traditional fly fishing vest as you can imagine. If Brad Pitt had worn a fly fishing vest in A River Runs Through it he would have worn the Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest.

The Filson vest is the only one in the test that’s “Made in USA”. The Portland, Oregon based company builds all their products on the West Coast. Their reputation to build long-lasting gear precedes them.

The fishing vest comes in a beautiful green color. The front pocket zippers have small leather applications that contribute to the overall high quality feel of the Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest.

The Filson fly fishing vest feels more like a jacket than a vest when wearing it due to its wider shape. Its wearing comfort is high nevertheless since the vest is still lightweight at 18oz (510g). The dry fishing cover cloth of the vest is machine washable.

The Filson vest does without gadgets like the Simms Freestone Vest which features built-in attractors. This simplicity makes it the right choice for fly fishing traditionalists. With a price tag of $300 it doesn’t come cheap though. If you want a fly vest to last your lifetime and remain in style over the years the Filson model could be the right choice for you.

Get it here: Filson Fly Fishing Guide Vest

BassDash Strap Fishing Vest

The Bassdash Strap Fishing Vest is the outlier in our test in several aspects. It is the only one from a non-traditional fly fishing brand. The Bassdash Strap Fishing vest only comes in one size. However, thanks to its versatile system in can be adjusted to fit fly fishermen and women of different builds.

The first thing that catches the eye when looking at the Bassdash Strap Fishing Vest is the amount of pockets it features. This makes it a great choice for people who like to carry a lot of gear. The flipside of this design is the fact that the vest gets a bit bulky. This might provide less room of movement when casting a fly rod.

The Bassdash Strap Fishing Vest is made of premium polyester and mesh fabric in the back of the vest. This gives it a good breathability even on hot summer days. The collar is not as well padded as in other models such as the Simms or Filson but still provides enough wearing comfort. The wide shoulder straps add to that since they distribute the weight of the vest equally.

At 19.4oz (550g) the Bassdash vest is the heaviest one in our test. That comes as no surprise given the amount of pockets of the vest.

The Bassdash comes in a traditional green which gives it a classic look. Another option for traditionalists is the grey version. If you are into colors you can choose from a bright red or blue.

At only $45 the Bassdash Strap Fishing Vest is by far the cheapest in our test. It certainly is a good choice for the money conscious fly fisher. Will it last as long as a Filson or Patagonia product? We can’t answer that question yet since we need to test it for a couple of seasons.

Get it here: Bassdash Strap Fishing Vest

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What is a fly fishing vest?

A fly fishing vest is a piece of gear that you wear over your waders. Made of lightweight material such as nylon it can hold many items you need when fly fishing, such as fly boxes, tippet spools, pliers and clippers.

What do you put in a fly fishing vest?

You can put a number of things in a fly fishing vest. These could be tools you need on the water such as fly boxes, tippet spools and pliers. A small lunch should also fit into your fly fishing vest.