Wash Your Fly Vest?!

As fly fishers, we spend hours tying flies, researching rods and reels, talking about streams, and debating nymphing versus dry fly fishing. But other than just before buying your vest, when did you last think about it at all? Once you have one, you take it for granted. Now, with the temperature in the teens, this is the right time to think about my great old vest.

I really like my vest. It is a Simms Guide Vest. I bought it in 2000 for about $90. Seemed pretty steep at the time, but I’ve never regretted it. After 13 years of solid use, it is still like new, as you can see in the picture (click to enlarge). Well, not quite like new. It’s been 6 years since I washed it, so it is a bit dirty, and if I am to be honest, it smells a little of the that wonderful bouquet of sweat, fish, campfires and sunscreen. What a wonderful aroma. The scent of memories of great fish, and great trips. So you might say it is better than new.

Well used and well stocked fly vest

Well used and well stocked fly vest

There is fear in washing a fly vest. Why do it? It won’t make it work better, hold more flies or catch more fish. It is possible washing it might make it lose it’s mystical ability to provide the right fly or indicator or spare tippet just when you need it. Even more dangerous, it might not feel as comfortable after washing. What if it shrinks, or is stiffer, or if the zippers aren’t as smooth or silky? These are real concerns, of course. But the last time I washed it (I think the only time) after a trip or two, I forgot I had done it.

Yes, I didn’t even think about washing it again until a couple years ago, when I began to notice the dirty corners and pockets. And when rummaging around in a pocket, I found an increasing collection of crumbs, feathers, and other such treasures. As a trusted and respected part of my fishing experience, I began to feel that the vest deserved a bath. But I didn’t want to rush into it. Like a ball player who won’t wash his socks for fear of snapping a hitting streak, or Michael Jordon who wore his UNC shorts under his Bull’s uniform for luck, it’s hard not to be a little superstitious.

But in the end, it comes down to respect. This is a great vest and deserves to be treated like a valued fishing partner. So I will empty all the pockets, sort through the junk and think back on how this got there and why I put that in the back pocket. I will remember the fish and streams we experienced together. Then after my wife does her thing, I will restock it, looking forward to many more years together.

1 comment to Wash Your Fly Vest?!

Leave a comment if the spirit moves you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.