Fly Fishing Lanyard Setup for Beginners

Part of the allure of fly fishing is that you can pay attention to a thousand little details such as setting up the lanyard, and it can make a big difference in your fishing. If you are just beginning as a fly fisher, the idea that having your lanyard set up perfectly before you go may seem like a detail you can ignore for a while.

Truth is, you'll need to get your fly fishing lanyard setup skillfully to have the perfect fishing expedition. Sure, you can just go fishing and leave everything to chance. Or, you can optimize your lanyard and its contents to help you realize some of the best days on the water you’ve ever had.

What Is a Fly Fishing Lanyard?

Using a fishing lanyard that fits and that is long enough can be a great way to fly fish efficiently as you're standing in chest-deep water. A lanyard is a simple piece of cord or thin rope with many small clips which facilitate holding your fishing gear in a place you can easily reach it. This tool can help you easily hold small or medium-sized gadgets like flies, tippets, pliers, and other essential fishing accessories.

Before lanyards were available, anglers used to wear shirts and pants filled with pockets. Items that could touch the saltwater without a problem were stored in these wet pockets. You had to ensure that the pockets had good Velcro or zippers in order to hold your accessories inside securely.

The great thing about using a lanyard today is that you can put your essential gear on this cord and reach it instantly by sight or feel. It wasn't always easy for me to remember where I put some items when I had no lanyard, so I might end up fishing through four or five pockets before I found what I was looking for!

RELATED: Trout Fishing Basics

So, lanyards make arranging your gear easier and less frustrating. It also accomplishes something that you may not have thought much about. It helps you to lessen the amount of movement you do in the water as you reach for your gear. Your lanyard can be pulled up out of the water to remove some items and dropped down slowly. Causing little commotion like this is ideal when fly fishing when we need to be stealthy and move quietly and slowly.

It’s also just not a great idea to keep tools in your pocket where they can fall out and pollute the water, but also leave you without some crucial tool you will need at some point. While wade fishing I have often thought I put a tool in my pocket, but it turns out I dropped it outside the pocket and it fell on the bottom of the stream next to me!

If everyone walking the streets wore lanyards to keep their most often used things easily and instantly available we'd see people with GoPros, Keys, Cameras, Phones, SD cards, Headphones or AirPods, Tissues, and Wallets/purses hanging off them!

Read on to learn how to set up your lanyard and which models are best for fly fishing.

Why Is it Called a Lanyard?

lanyard on man

The word lanyard originates from the word laniere, a French word meaning strap. The first ones used were made of leather and rope and were tied to knives, whistles, and other important (life-saving) gear. Today we can find lanyard holes in our multi-tools, knives, parangs, GoPros, and other gear.

In the west, lanyards are used to hang placards around the neck. These are common in offices. You can hold security badges, press passes, or anything else you need to show to someone often or in a hurry. Fishing lanyards are the same, but they are not for cards as much as for essential tools you'll need easy access to while fishing in the water (wade fishing).

Fly Fishing Lanyard Setup

Hanging a fly fishing lanyard around your neck isn't all that useful until you load it up with your most needed gear. If you load your lanyard correctly, it will be like a toolkit on your neck that you can use to attach your vital accessories. Kind of like those peg boards you can install on the wall of your garage to hold all your tools. This is a much smaller version of that same idea!

Here are some items you can consider attaching to your fishing lanyard to make it useful while standing in the water and fishing.

  • a small box of fly fishing flies
  • surgery forceps or needle nose pliers to grip small things
  • fingernail clippers, scissors, and a small knife to cut line
  • a small tippet spool holder
  • a box or bag of floats to keep flies floating on top of the water

With these tools, you'll have most of it covered, but you should still put some thought into this and see if you can come up with anything else you'd like to hang around your neck while fishing.

I'd caution against putting the keys to your vehicle on your lanyard, as tempting as it may seem. Store them on the bank somewhere you know you'll find them so there's no risk of dropping them into the water.

RELATED: Types Of Fishing Reels

Best Fly Fishing Lanyards on the Market

Making a choice among hundreds of fishing lanyards isn't easy. There are a lot of junk options, but there are also plenty of viable ones you could use and be fairly happy with – at least for a while until something on it breaks down and doesn't perform. We'll steer you away from those with our top choices.

Below we give a quick overview of three of the best fishing lanyards you can buy. If you choose one of these you won't need to worry about the quality as these are well-tested and used by top anglers nationwide.

Best Fly Fishing Lanyard At A Glance

1. Best Overall: Ultimate Fly Fishing Lanyard – Green – PRO 

This high-quality, soft but strong lanyard includes big and strong clips to allow you to attach any heavier fishing gear you choose. This one is lightweight and the design in the back of the neck ensures the loop stays wide and won't pull against your neck when fishing.

Lanyards are much more comfortable than a fly fishing vest which is going to soak up the water and weigh you down. There are four hooks to hold your fishing tools and accessories like floats, nail cutters, forceps, a knife, thermometer, flies, or whatever you must have available. The cord also has a loop to allow you to fasten a couple of zingers (retractors) to allow you to easily put your other gear on it.

What makes this lanyard unique is that there are two foam fly holders, one on each side, to hold your fly assortment safely. Easily attach a dozen of your favorite flies to the fly holders, and you are ready to hit the water!

At the bottom, you'll see a little shirt clip. Clip this to your shirt to secure your lanyard so it doesn't flop around and get in the way when you lean forward.

The total length is 22.5 inches and it has an adjustable length selector to ensure it fits well. This one makes a great stocking stuffer!

Ultimate Fly Fishing Lanyard

2. Best Runner-Up: SF Fly Fishing Lanyard Unloaded Necklace Black Adjustable

This lanyard has an interesting design with the addition of a horizontal bar that can hold other small fishing tools like spoons and small lures. It also comes with five clips and quick releases allow you to change it up and hold other fishing gadgets like foam pads, tippets, floatant holders, fly boxes, or something else. It is a good organizer of your fly-fishing tools and conveniently optimizes your time on the water.

Its comfortable design includes EVA foam on the neck area to cushion the weight and strong paracord construction makes it one of the top choices for our team. This lanyard is made from lightweight and long-lasting materials. You can see in the image, it comes with an easily adjustable length and lock system.

This one is suitable as a gift for the anglers in your life. The beads of course help separate the tools and are well chosen. We love the design of this fly fishing lanyard and you probably will too. 

SF Fly Fishing Lanyard Unloaded Necklace Black Adjustable

3. Best for Versatility: Orvis Lanyard/Only Lanyard – Unloaded

Another interesting design, this one from Orvis, the fly fishing company we're all familiar with. This fly fishing lanyard has a flat cord design with six textile paracord loops, a drying patch for flies, and a Forcep dock. You can choose to load it up with your own choice of go-to gadgets and tools for this "Unloaded" version of their lanyard.

You can carry your flies and tools in small rivers and streams with everything you need in one place. One thing not many people mention is that you can attach multiple tools to the same loop, or use a carabiner and attach a couple of tools to that. Opens up some more possibilities, right?

Orvis makes great-looking and highly functional products, you'll love this practical lanyard. But wait, there's more! 

If you buy the LOADED Model, Orvis gives you the gear to put on your lanyard. It includes Comfy Grip Forceps, Comfy Grip Nippers, Hyflote Gel (to float flies), Floatant Holder, Tippet Bar, and 3 spools of 30-meter-long SuperStrong Plus Tippet (3X, 4X, 5X). This is probably a good idea because as you know, Orvis is one of the most trusted fly-fishing resources in the world.

Orvis Lanyard/Only Lanyard – Unloaded

Minimalist Fly Fishing Lanyards

Some lanyards come with beautiful designs with nice-looking buckles and buttons designed to catch your eye, and others have dull beads or muted colors meant to be less gaudy and more minimalist. They may not be the best lanyards to choose from because of their complicated designs focusing on aesthetics.

You can try your hand at making one of your own fishing lanyards if you want. It might take you a day or two, but who knows, you might be creative like that! Another idea is you can purchase a heavy nylon cord Buddhist charm necklace that has eyelets for 7 or 9 different tools. They are super cheap, and while not made for fly fishing, if you're looking for the ultimate in minimalism on the water, this might be a good product for you.

If you make your own, you can customize it to suit your needs. You can make it yourself by using paracord or some thicker cord. Double it up in the back where it sits on your neck to make it more comfortable. Find your own clip-on hooks or use small carabiners.

What Is a Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor?

Fly fishing zinger retractors might sound like they came from the future but once you know what they are, you'll agree this is one of the most useful things you can add to your fly fishing lanyard.

Though lanyards are efficient and put tools right in front of you where you can use them quickly, the one issue is that you have to keep detaching them from the lanyard to use them. Then attach them again.

What if you had your tools on a leash? You probably see what I'm getting at.

These zingers are like putting your attached items on a leash that retracts with a spring when you're done using them. Super helpful! The retractors usually have a leash that allows around 20 inches of pull away from the main unit.

They have a big loop where you can attach multiple tools or gadgets and use only the one that you need. We highly suggest you get a couple of these for the items you most use on your lanyard, especially the forceps, knife, and clippers (nippers). 

Best Fly Fishing Zingers

Here are some best fly-fishing zingers to attach to your lanyard.

1. SF Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor Steel Cord (3 pieces)

Using a zinger to attach your best gear and gadgets to your fly fishing lanyard is one of the best ideas we've heard. This SF Zinger has a built-in spring made of high-quality stainless steel, making it resistant to rust and good for use in freshwater and saltwater (rinse/dry after use).

When used with the stainless steel ring, you can put it on any part of your lanyard for easy use. You can use SF zingers to hold items like line clippers, carabiners holding more gear, and other fishing accessories that will help you catch fish while wade fishing. These are also ideal for those of you who prefer to wear a fishing vest. You'll find a place to clip them on.

We chose this one because it's well-made and easy to attach. Use these for no other reason but that they will help keep you from dropping items into the water – always a pain! We think these are necessary to have for fishing, mountain climbing, caving, hiking, camping, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.

1. SF Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor Steel Cord (3 pieces)

2. SAMSFX Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor for Anglers Vest Pack Tool Gear

This stainless steel ring and copper buckle can be used in freshwater and saltwater applications because of its anti-rust and corrosion-resistant properties. It comes with a 24-inch line on each retractor – perfect for carrying small items.

The moderate 1.5 oz. retraction force enables you to hold onto small fly fishing tools safely. As they say in the item's name, it is also easy to attach to your fly fishing vest, fishing backpack, or belt loops. These are just brilliant solutions for keeping all of your important gear easily accessible and protected.

2. SAMSFX Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor for Anglers Vest Pack Tool Gear

3. Boao 5 Pieces Magnetic Net Release Holder Net Release Clip Keychain

This Zinger tool comes with five magnetic release holders in black, blue, green, yellow, and red colors. Choose the colors to match your gear or color code to easily find it on your lanyard.

This one has no cord retractor, but it has a very strong magnet that can hold up to 4 lb. of weight for each keychain! It comes with strong magnets made of metal and acrylic, which are not easy to break. It will work well even if you have to pull down hard on them sometimes.

With the handy magnets, this tool instantly detaches from and attaches to the main clip unit and makes the process much easier than squeezing to unhook carabiners or other smaller clips like you might find on a fishing swivel.

3. Boao 5 Pieces Magnetic Net Release Holder Net Release Clip Keychain

Fishing Lanyard Accessories

The kinds of things you can add to your fishing lanyard are nearly limitless. You can add all of the essentials and then some of the optional gear that you might like to have sometimes. Enjoying your fishing time is very easy and relaxing when you have everything you need around your neck. Here are some of the options you can put on your lanyard.

  • leather leader straightener
  • zinger retractor
  • fly drying chamois
  • hook holders
  • floats and floatant
  • small knife, clippers, forceps
  • GoPro
  • flashlight
  • fishing license
  • shirt clips

Having some of these essential accessories attached to your fly fishing lanyard will keep you better prepared than one without it!

How To Make a DIY Paracord Fly Fishing Lanyard

If you're creative you might want to think about making one of these paracord or fly fishing line lanyards yourself. Why not try to make one? It isn't very difficult to make one from recycled lines or new and cheap to get paracord.

You will need to get a few things in order to make your own lanyard so just follow the instructions given below to learn everything that you need and the steps that you need to take to make it happen.

Items Required

You’ll need the following items for making your DIY lanyard.

  • retractors
  • badge clip
  • beads
  • snap-on clips.
  • recycled fly line for the fly line lanyard
  • paracord for making the paracord fly fishing lanyard
  • cord locks

The Process of Making a Fly Fishing Lanyard

Take a measurement around your neck to see exactly how long you want the fishing lanyard to be when you are finished. Consider doubling up on the line in the back where it will rest on your neck so that you have a little more comfort.

The lanyard needs to be long enough to hold your tools and short enough to clip to your shirt around the waist or belly. Add hooks, and beads to separate items, more hooks, and more beads. Follow one of the product images of recommended lanyards above to copy the design. Ensure there are enough hooks for all of your gear.

Maintain a certain distance between the clips you attach. Don't forget the shirt clip at the bottom to keep the lanyard from swaying out when you bend over like when you land or release a fish.

Benefits of Fly Fishing Lanyards

Many beginners have the notion that they don't have enough gear, only to realize quickly that they have too much gear once they get into water up to their waist or chest while wade fishing.

You only need to carry the necessary fly fishing gear for a successful fly fishing expedition. Having a lanyard to carry the real essentials can help you with organizing by giving you another amazing place to store gear.

Either that, or it may lead you to add even more gear. When you add a lanyard and take some of your most utilized gear out of your fishing vest and put it on your lanyard, you now have empty pockets on your vest!

Some people stuff those pockets with stuff. I would. That's just what I like. I enjoy having every possible bit of gear on my body when I'm fishing so I can easily reach it. I also include snacks in that! Beef Jerky anyone?

Carrying less gear is more enjoyable for some people. So, go minimalist, and don't wear a vest. If you customize your lanyard you should be able to fit the essentials right there. That's super minimalist and you might enjoy it.

Here are some key benefits of a fly fishing lanyard.

1. Help You Carry Enough Flies in a Fly Box

When it comes to flies, more is better. Instead of sticking a few flies on the foam portion of your lanyard, attach a small box filled with flies to give you more options. You'll love yourself for it later. Make an effort. You may have to drill a hole in a plastic box to get a metal ring through to add it to your lanyard, but go ahead and make that effort!

Ensure the fly box contains the fly patterns you use most often on the pond, river or stream where you're fishing. There are many different sizes of fly boxes out there, but consider slender boxes that fit neatly into small pockets and take up less space if you want to put it on your vest instead.

I can go either way with this. It's nice to have it on the lanyard, but if I'm not switching flies every ten minutes, the box can go in a pocket on the vest.

Some lanyard manufacturers even include a fly box in the design of the lanyard. Golden Trout Lanyards is a company that does this. It is really nice to have a small box that is very versatile for storing small bugs and nymphs.

2. Helps Leverage Chest Pockets

If you don't want a vest, use a shirt with 2-4 pockets on the front. Fishing shirts have at least 4 pockets, two high and two low. This can work for a lot of items in addition to your lanyard. You should have your mobile phone, snacks, and other things in your chest pockets.

You can also get an exceptionally light waterproof shell with chest pockets that can keep you dry in the rain.

3. Supplementing Your Vest

Even after switching from fly fishing with a vest to using a lanyard, you will probably want to continue to wear your vest or bring it with you.

You can use it to store your fishing gear and other extra stuff such as a net and even some flies. Tippets, leader pieces, and fly boxes also fit well in a vest. As another option, you can use a fanny pack (runner's pack) around your waist that can carry larger items, soda, or other things.

Fly Fishing Lanyard Setup Skill Levels

First of all, when you try to set up your lanyard you're going to assess which tools you need most frequently and most importantly. Take those out of your vest and try to attach them to your lanyard. You may need to modify the lanyard that you buy at the store, and most people do this. I have attached a new paracord between the left and right sides in order to add more items.

You might think you have a great setup until you see somebody else's so keep your eyes open for what other people are doing. Functionality is the most important feature. A great lanyard system that works for you is much better than having everything in a vest and difficult to access.

Even if you love your fly fishing vest, functionality is more important. A great lanyard system that works for you is far more optimal than just using a vest, a backpack, a lumbar pack, or even your pockets.

So, do you have a system that you like? Something that works for you? 

FAQ About Fly Fishing Lanyard Setup 

There are many things to learn about fly fishing lanyard setup and its gear. So, here we’ll try to answer the most frequent ones.

How do I organize my fly fishing gear?

Lay out all your fly fishing gear in front of you on the floor and then choose the top 10 items that you need most frequently and most urgently. Take your lanyard and retractors and try to come up with a configuration that will allow you to attach everything to your lanyard that you need.

If you don't have enough space see if there's something that you could live without or you could just put it into your fishing vest to access it a little more slowly but at least you have it.

It is useful to organize all your fly fishing gear based on the fishing technique or fish species that you plan to use it for. Remember I mentioned the pegboard wall in your garage? I add my rods, tackle boxes, vests, lanyards, and everything to a wall like that. I separate my fly rods from my deep sea rods and from my inshore rod setups.

I also have boxes of extra accessories I bought that I frequently need like lots of extra lines, leaders, tippets, floats, weights, lures, and literally everything.

Flies, fly lines, leaders, and tippets are easy to store by labeling and putting them in plastic bags to make them easy to find.

Do you need a fly fishing vest?

Lanyards help you access the most crucial gear in a hurry. A fly fishing vest under your lanyard can serve as another layer of storage for bigger items or less-used items while you're out on the water.

Vests are very practical for carrying your fly fishing gear. All of us old timers have worn fishing vests in the early days when a lanyard hadn't even been thought of yet! If you want to embrace the traditional fly fishing culture shared by the generations of anglers before you, wearing a classic fly fishing vest is the perfect way to do it.

What do you keep in a fishing vest?

The fishing vest can carry so many little accessories, and I used to fill all my pockets up with flies, weight, floatant, lines, snacks, hand warmers, and all kinds of things!

Other things you are going to need are leaders, floats, powders that help to dehydrate the water, small pocket knives, knot tying tools, lip balm and sunblock, antacids, and anything else I can think of. Oh, I always remember to bring scissors too. All of these things can fit neatly in the numerous small pockets on your fly fishing vest.


Having the right fishing gear can significantly enhance the way you fish and contribute to your satisfaction on the water. Fly fishing is especially challenging because you have few places to put gear, and you need some things to be accessible immediately to keep fishing.

It's a real drag to keep walking out of the water to go find what you need in your tackle box. Lanyards are like portable tackle boxes.

We hope this guide has answered all of your questions and concerns about fly fishing lanyards. You can attach anything to them that you like or need, feel free to experiment. Let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can improve our own fishing lanyards. We are always open to questions and suggestions in the comments! 

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Surf Fishing The Gulf Coast Of Florida

Photo of author

Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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