Salomone: Don’t leave home without a mini bug out bag

Michael Salomone
Vail Valley Anglers
My mini bug out pack on the Eagle River.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Behind the rear seat of my Tacoma is a security blanket of sorts. It is a small pack with a shoulder strap, and it has saved many a day from being fishless. I call it a “mini bug out bag,” as it only has bugs in it. It’s a compact collection of fly fishing necessities that always rides in my truck for those days when I would rather cast a fly during my lunch than eat a burger.

Form follows function here, and function is lightweight and compact only the necessities. Smaller is better. Little nippers or line cutters. The construction of modern monofilament and fluorocarbon lines possess a hardness unlike the Berkley Trilene of my youth. As a result, the lines are more durable and will chip a tooth with ease.

Deep Creek angler Drew Musser with a Fishpond hip pack.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Short hemostats, not going for pike so the need to reach deep is fairly diminished. Short-handled hemostats are lighter, nimble and effective with super small flies. Uses will primarily be removing flies and squeezing small weights onto your line. The need for a heavy, commercial-grade set isn’t necessary here.

This pack is for a quick stop at a pond on the way home, lunchtime casting or a short walk up a creek. All of this fishing is convenient and short-lived. The mini bug out isn’t an all-day type pack. Although it can be.

Creating a pack like this doesn’t require much cash. A thrift store purchase is perfect. Fanny sack, slightly loved sling pack or discarded backpack all fill the niche.

Support Local Journalism

Angler Bob Fowler going light on Gore Creek with a waistpack.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Things to include:

  •  Floatant
  •  Tippet 3X and 5X are perfect
  •  Leader, a three-pack of 9-foot 5X
  •  Strike indicators, go small little Airlock, small yarn or foam pinch on
  •  Small assortment of weights

A couple of fly boxes are all that’s needed. Small, multi-compartment boxes hold flies and prevent crushing. Smashed flies don’t float right. A box that’s crush-proof helps prevent fly deformation. Slim boxes are an excellent choice for nymphs. They fit well and stack easily in my pack.

Flies comprise an eclectic array with attractor patterns held in high regard. Searching patterns such as small wooly buggers, squirrel tail leech patterns and zonkers in a few colors. These are all lightweight streamers that can be fished very shallow. But with the addition of a weight up front, they become deep, probing tools that can be used to pick apart beaver ponds, slide into undercut banks and swing around deep pools where the big dogs live.

Deep Creek brown trout
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

You don’t need to pack a dozen of any pattern. One or two is a conservative number that won’t clog your fly box but still gives you a wide variety at hand. Nymphs, dry flies and streamers cover the bases well. I lean more heavily on the dry flies because I’ve found most of my forays are during the warm weather months, when opportunity is more common. I will confess that this pack has provoked a few outings in the winter months and performed well, too.

Generic patterns like the Parachute Adams and Elk Hair caddis should be favored for a reason, they work. A Parachute Madame X in any size has a lot of attractive characteristics, which makes it a great choice for the mini bug out bag. The Royal Coachman dry fly is another classic pattern that catches fish regularly. Humpies, Patriots and the Purple Haze would be good selections as well. There is always an errant grasshopper bouncing around in the boxes.

Pheasant tail nymphs in a small selection of sizes cover a tremendous amount of insects. Zebra midges are teeny, making them easy to stack and pack as well as being an effective fly twelve months a year. A couple of stonefly imitations provide a big underwater offering and can anchor a nymph rig in rocky water. This isn’t a pack for hardcore head-hunting. It is a “sneak off for ten minutes” safety blanket.

There are always a few dirty bugs in the box too, things like squirmy wormies, yarn eggs and scuds. Slowly swimming a scud above weed beds or down deep in a beaver pond is going to get devoured.

The grins you create sneaking away to fish hold a residual effect over the rest of your day. One way to give yourself that little touch of happiness is to have your own mini bug out fly kit handy. Call it your American Express bag, don’t leave home without it.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River Valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in magazines and websites including, Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow Labrador retrievers.

Support Local Journalism