Fact: You don’t need a lot of gear to catch bonefish – at least not on your person.
A quality dry bag or boat box is great to have in the boat for bulky things like rain gear, extra fly boxes, spare spools, sunscreen, bug spray, camera gear, or whatever else you might need at some point during the day. However, carrying that much gear while fishing can be exhausting.
That’s why we like to also keep a smaller pack in the boat, loaded with just the essentials (flies, leader, tippet, camera, hemostats/pliers, etc), ready for a quick walk in a moment’s notice. After all, you never know when some skinny water tails might force you to hop out of the boat and pursue on foot.
Over the last year, we’ve seen a few of our guests at Andros South with Umpqua’s Bandolier ZS Sling Pack – a minimalist pack designed to carry the bare minimum on the river. It didn’t take long for us to realize how great it would be on the flats as well, so needless to say, we picked up our own! We’re sure glad we did too, and today we thought we’d share why.
What It Is
Although labeled a sling-pack, the Bandolier ZS Sling Pack is a smaller than average fishing pack designed to worn either over the shoulder (in typical sling-pack fashion) or around the waist like a traditional hip pack (see photo below). We find it to be comfortable to be worn either way, although prefer it over the shoulder most of the time.
At only 300 cubic inches (3 liters) it has just enough space for the essentials – A couple of large fly boxes, leaders, tippet, a point and shoot camera, hemostats, nippers, with a little space left over.. Essentially everything you need to walk a flat, in a super compact package, that you hardly even notice you’re wearing. That’s really nice over the course of the day.
As part of Umpqua’s latest ‘Zero Sweep’ line of packs, the Bandolier is designed to eliminate catch points able to snag errant fly line in the heat of the moment. That might not sound like a big deal to the uninitiated, but anyone who has lost a shot at a fish while untangling fly line from their hip pack is well aware of this advantage. Each pack in the series is carefully designed to be virtually snag-free, and from our experience, the Bandolier is no exception. A smooth outer face, hidden tool ports for nippers and hemostats, and a tuck-away fly patch, eliminates corners that could otherwise snag fly line. Translation – Pile up several strips of fly line on top of the pack, and with one quick sweep of your hand, the falls right off.. Brilliant.
What Its Not
First and foremost, the Bandolier is not a waterproof pack. Quite the contrary, two zero-sweep tool ports remain open directly into the main compartment of the bag. In other words, if you take a spill in the water, odds are your gear is going to get wet.
With that said, we try not to make a habit of falling in the water, and on the shallow flats of South Andros, its really rare that a pack on your back would ever get close enough to the water to dunk. Regardless, for our purposes, we don’t find the lack of waterproofness to be a huge issue. When loaded primarily with flies, leader, tippet, and a waterproof point and shoot camera, we make sure not to tote anything that could be damaged if submersed.
We really like fishing out of the Bandolier pack and think it is a great option for those looking to simplify their gear load on the flats. Will it accommodate every need for the average flats angler? Absolutely not. However, in conjunction with a waterproof dry bag or boat box, we think the Bandolier pack makes for a great system to cut down on unnecessary gear on your person.
The Bandolier ZS Sling pack retails for $69.99 – pretty reasonable these days for fishing pack. For more details and features, check it out on Umpqua’s website, here, or by visiting your local Umpqua delear.