On a recent trip down to Alphonse in the Seychelles Islands, I tried out the new Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack. I wanted something that was truly waterproof for long days on the flats, and this thing really is. It has a new patented zipper that can be a little tough to maneuver using only one hand, but it seals tight. In fact, so tight the backpack even floated! It’s interior is pretty basic – one huge compartment and then a low profile, slender but deep pocket along the back interior wall of the pack. It has a regular zippered small pocket on the exterior front that is water resistant and good for holding sunblock, finger striping sleeves or other items that won’t be harmed if exposed to a little moisture. The Dry Creek Z Backpack also has a sleeve for your net and it does have two mounts for rod cam straps. Beyond that, the exterior is clean and unhindered by features that while handy, might get in the way during intense fish battles, casting or stripping. The bare exterior, I’m told, was intentional.
Since I had the benefit of a boat and a wonderful guide, I generally didn’t have to carry additional rods myself. I did not attach cam straps to the exterior as I tend to not trust them a whole bunch with tenkara tubes – which are much smaller than regular fly rod tubs. If it was a dry day, I could have stood them up inside the pack and then snugged the zipper down around them (but obviously it would no longer be waterproof). Instead, I decided to get a little crafty.
That net sleeve really didn’t appeal to me. The few times I did store my net in it as intended, I had trouble reaching it when I needed it. When the backpack is loaded, it fills out. The net was just out of my practical reach. I preferred to slide my net into the space between the backpack and my back. That put it in the same general area behind me, but closer-in and easier to grab without contorting. So I made an alteration: I used waterproof Barge Cement on the back of heavy duty Vecro and adhered two strips along the bottom edges of the sleeve. This allowed me to close the bottom of the sleeve in a pretty darn secure way and use it to hold rods, but also gave me the flexibility to unfasten the Velcro and still use it as a net sleeve the way Simms intended. It took me less than 5 minutes to do and has so far worked really well.
I have used a variety of different packs from different companies and for the day-to-day typical fly fishing/tenkara excursions make, where I carry a snack, another layer of clothing, water and possibly another rod, I tend to always go back to my old favorite, Vedavoo. This made-in-America pack is compact but still extremely roomy. Best of all it has 2 deep side pockets with the added security of adjustable straps that are perfect for holding rods. They’re made with a material that stretches so I can pack more rods than I would ever need, into one. Beyond the two exterior side pockets, it’s a relatively simply pack with one large, narrow, deep sleeve that is on the back interior wall of the pack (similarly to Simms). It has a number of cinch cords and places for external accessories to be hung and attached, plus it came with an additional mini pack that can be attached to the outside or worn alone for those minimalistic fishing days where you only need a small box of flies and some tippet. The mini pack can also hold my phone and a Lifestraw as well as a few snacks (actually holds more than one would expect). I’ve had it for years and it barely shows any wear. I do have 2 issues with this bag: 1) it’s not waterproof or water resistant. Although I have to admit, I’ve worn it in the ran on many occasions and my contents stayed fairly dry…just slightly damp. I had more moisture issues when I waded in deep water and soaked the bottom of the bag. My extra layer of clothing ended up pretty useless. 2) This is more of a wish than an issue…the mini pack is a fantastic size and while I generally don’t like things on my chest because it obstructs the view of my feet, the mini pack is streamline enough that it doesn’t/wouldn’t do that IF, there was a way to attach it to the FRONT straps of the backpack. I get annoyed that I have to remove my backpack to access the mini pack. I suppose I could wear it on it’s own strap, around my waist or over a shoulder, but who wants another thing hanging around their neck? Not me. Scott, the owner of Vedavoo offered to attach clips to my front front straps to allow for this – I’ve just never taken him up on the offer. Maybe this is a good time to call that in?
I also had an older Orvis sling pack that had a similar exterior pocket that was perfect for a tenkara tube but gave it away to an aspiring new fly angler. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t. I also own the Patagonia Hybrid Pack/Vest and that is another one of my favored pieces of gear. I loved having those pockets upfront and accessible but still have an unobstructed view of my feet. Plus it held my net comfortably and simply was a good size for day trips without being overly huge. Simms does make a smaller Dry Creek Z Fishing Sling. It’s 15L compared to the 35L backpack. I LOVE that it’s waterproof (that’s a big deal for me), and is set up similarly to their backpack version with a big roomy interior, a small water resistant exterior pockets, and exterior mounts that accommodate rod straps. Oddly, I actually ended up snugging the shoulder sling strap on my hips and wearing it as a waist pack. It’s very roomy and holds too many fly boxes and line wallets for my real needs, but I like that I can carry another light layer and a Lifestraw or small water bottle, and a snack (I get hungry on the water). This would mean that is I used the cam straps and carried the rod tubs, they would be horizontal and stored on the bottom of the pack. Haven’t tried holding them that way but may give it a go just to see if it’s doable.
If waterproofing is important to you, then the Simms Dry Creek Z packs are roomie, simply, tough and air (and water) tight. If waterproofing isn’t important, and you want slim but solid room to carry “stuff”, then check out Vedavoo packs for efficient, streamline, quality options. And the Orvis sling isn’t too shabby either.