It is a nice time to revisit a blog I had written a few years back and revisit about the benefits of owning a fishing vest.
The fishing vest has been one of the best evolutionary developments of modern fishing within the UK. Go back almost 20 years and you could probably recall most fly anglers wearing the traditional wax jacket and bush hats and a side satchel game bag while our US and New Zealand counterparts were well ahead of the game with their baseball hats and fishing vests.
Within the UK we were still very much on the back foot once they arrived at these shores. Our variable climates seen our first influx of vests as body warmers. Great in winter but in summer they were about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike! The lighter developed ones were very flimsy and often not sturdy enough to be worn over a coat. Well the ones that I owned were anyway! I found myself still carrying a side satchel and setting it wherever I intended to cast.
As I said in a featured blog many years ago, the fishing vest went from an unnecessary fashion accessory to an essential piece of kit.
But one could argue that the progression of the fishing vest, saw the decline of the satchel. With all flies, boxes, tippets, accessories being contained within a vest, the need for the side satchel waned. Fishing vests then evolved into the one stop shop that we see today as they went on to contain backpacks. These allowed the angler to bring additional layers, food, cameras etc. I should know, I loved one and before I knew it, I had half my house with me on the bank.
I owned one, I loved it, I still love it. But….
There Was a Problem
Like the end of most good relationships where you must let the other person down gently, we would often say, “It’s not you, it’s me!”. The reason I say this is while the vest and backpack combos are excellent for all anglers and I still truly believe everyone should own one, for me I made it become a problem.
I am a hoarder. Most anglers are. A hoarder is someone who acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. This is what my vest and backpack combo had become. I would find more things that I would never normally bring fishing in the off chance that I might need them. I never did. As a result, my backpack got heavy. The bit that irked me the most was that I allowed so many accessories to accumulate around the chest, to the point where they began to catch and trap my line when both casting and playing a fish. The final straw came when I was fishing and decided I needed something from my backpack. I had to take it off, set it on the wet ground rummage, rummage some more then put it back onto my back as the lumbar support became saturated. I thought there must be a better way to carry less clutter and be able to access it without taking everything off. The very same day I coincidently watched Russell’s video of the Snowbee Slingbag. A neat little bag that did not need to be removed but carried everything and could be accessed with ease. I didn’t want it…. I needed it!
The Slingbag – Key features
A short web sift showed the following little pointers:
- A lure bag you can wear while casting.
- Generous Main Compartment
- Extra Storage
- Offers the roving fly and Lure fisherman the convenience of a rucksack or backpack
- The sling bag prevents movement restrictions imposed by twin shoulder straps
- One diagonal shoulder strap leaves your ‘casting arm’ completely unrestricted
- When you want to access the bag, you don’t have to take it off. Simply unclip the side strap and slide the bag around to the front
- Cleverly designed pockets to now be facing upwards for easy and convenient access
- 42cm x 24cm x 18cm dimensions
That was all I needed to read. It appeared to be the solution to all my problems, no clutter and tangle at the front, generous space to continue to hoard (the more useful items), and full accessibility without having to find a dry bank to set my bag on to put things in or take things off. Even the traditional olive/black colours were dull and discreet. By dull and discreet, I would have some level of comfort that I am going to blend in with my surroundings and not stick out like a sore thumb and spook fish.
First thing I did was put it on and tighten it up then bring it over my shoulder and once I felt comfortable with that, I brought it over my hip as well. I loved it. Both options are quite easy, and I soon found my own preference and began to make it look as effortless as Russell did on Youtube.
How did it cope in the field?
The first outing was a trip to the clifftop wilderness of Lough Fadden. No shops for almost several miles, yet a pub within half of that, like most of the Emerald Isle! The point I am trying to make here is the sheer isolation, ironically at a time when it is necessary. Therefore, it is likely that I am going to be deliberately encumbered with flies, tackle, food, sun cream and water! The Snowbee Slingbag handled it all! I was comfortably able to stay well away from the car, without having to go back until it was time for a proper meal. More than enough room for perhaps even a camera!
Once you get your hands on the bag you find 8 external storage points with 1 large internal storage space which contains a further 3 small storage points. To break that down slightly,
- A drawstring mesh bottle holder
- A compartment on the strap to hold, forceps, pliers etc
- 3 x D ring loops
- A sizeable compartment for a camera with another smaller front mesh zipper compartment
- 1 x large main storage space, containing 2 x smaller zipped mesh internal pockets and 1 x smaller mesh pouch with a soft fabric sleeve for cleaning glasses.
Despite being heavily encumbered, the weight was not an issue. The way it was distributed across my back, I was not as aware of its existence. As an ex rugby player, I know all too well how weak my own body can be where carrying additional backweight is concerned. Absolutely no issues. In fact, I only realised it was still on my back as I sat behind the steering wheel to go home.
Accessibility was fine in the field. Clip and swing, swing and clip. Rinse and repeat. Did I encounter the same old issues where I had to remove the backpack for anything? Absolutely not! Did I have to leave the river, or water to access my stuff so on subsequent trips? Absolutely no need. Did I have to untangle my line around all the chest clutter? No, I didn’t.
Casting and Playing Fish
Referring back to one of my original problems where I allowed so many accessories to accumulate around the storage area on the chest of my old vest/backpack, to the point where they began to catch and trap my line when both casting and playing a fish. This had become a major issue for me. However, with the slingbag, it’s worth pointing out that with all the storage to your rear and the fact you have one casting arm free, it happens to be that you also have one landing arm free too! The diagonal strap does not interfere with casting, playing, or landing and with an additional securing strap, it prevents movement.
Vest/Backpack Combo vs Slingbag
“But Dave, back in 2018, you said vest/backpacks were the way forward.”
Yes, I will stand over that comment 100%. It negates the need for a giant coat full of clutter and allows you to whittle down the layers in warmer weather instead of wearing a big coat or bodywarmer just for storage.
The combos are certainly a fantastic option but for someone like me, I allowed something so good to become a bad thing. I stored so much that I found myself using the fly boxes on the vest combo to throw flies in until I got home and then never actually looking at them. I began to avoid those pockets. Being OCD with organisation from time to time, I just became ashamed and annoyed. If you are a hoarder, you will find somewhere to put it. If you can find the time to be tidy and organised, the vest combo will work for you.
If you can’t be tidy, nor trusted with your hoarding skills, or if you anticipate that you are going to require continuous access to your rear backpack, the slingbag is for you, You have your same amount of space but it is better accessible and distributed from your body and therefore does not impede you in any way.
Conclusion – Would I buy?
Well, it coped very well in the field and addressed every single one of my previous issues which would have impacted my fishing in the field, rendering me devoid of excuses.
It certainly negated the need to remove the slingbag fully to access any stored items, as I would have with anything stored in a backpack or vest/backpack combo. The slingbag essentially provides a smooth transition from backpack to chestpack to backpack in seconds!
A special mention to the comfort aspect of the slingbag. As I stated earlier, I have been that relaxed, I’ve forgotten it’s on my back until I sit down in my car. There is very little mention of the added comfortable padding to the rear of the bag, preventing any corners or odds or ends sticking into your back!
One of the main things that surprised me was storage space. I have been able to store 8 x flyboxes, 2 x spare spools, 1 x additional reel, lots of leader, strike indicators, pliers, forceps, a 500ml drink bottle, a camera, another baselayer, suncream and spare glasses. When you look at it, you can’t see where it will all fit it all in, until it actually comes to packing it! I know I squished 7 flyboxes into it, but had they all been slimline fly boxes, I reckon it could easily accommodate at least 16 of those alone. So maybe good to ditch the old bulky ones!
For me it provides extremely good value, retailing upto £65 at the most. People will focus on rods and reels as an essential item but for me, you can’t put a price on good efficient bank storage.
I was honestly more surprised to see that it had been on the market for almost 10 years! If I had seen the mechanics of this type of product 10 years ago, I would have been jumping in with both feet. I have showed a good few of my angling colleagues and their reactions have not been too dissimilar with more of a “How have I never seen these before?”
Amazing the power of a small video and for me, this is a product that deserves a lot more promotion and credit than it currently achieves.