A Look Inside: Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack
Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

I’m trying something new for this upcoming salmon/steelhead season. (No, I am not fishing bait – I don’t want my subscription cost for The Drake to double.)

After using a hip pack for the past several years, which too often came home soaked from winter rains or wading a little too deep, I have decided to switch things up and go with a waterproof backpack.

I debated backpack vs. sling pack vs. hip pack to detriment, and I’m still not sure there is a clear winner, but after seeing my friend Jonathan’s waterproof backpack at steelhead camp last year, I decided to try one out for myself. While I like to travel light, I also do a lot of walking and wading, as well as floating rivers in my Water Master, so I am often finding myself needing extra dry storage (layers that come on and off, a spare rod/reel, fly boxes, etc.).

The three waterproof backpacks that were the most interesting to me were the Fishpond Thunderhead, Patagonia Stormsurge, and the Simms Dry Creek Z (all the same price).

The Thunderhead is regularly the highest rated in online reviews, but I had questions about the bag’s design. Despite the numerous blogs and videos, I couldn’t get a very good idea of what the inside of the pack was like. I was going to have to wait until I was able to make a trip to a fly shop to check out the different bags, in person.

I got to check out and compare these bags at the Caddis Fly Shop on a recent trip through Eugene to fish the Middle Fork of the Willamette. While there were cool and unique features on each pack, the online reviews were spot-on. The Fishpond Thunderhead was the better option of the three.

The hardest part of my decision to purchase the Thunderhead was choosing a color. The pack is offered in three cool colors – cutthroat orange, yucca, and riverbed camo. I went with yucca, though I still go back and forth on whether I should have gotten riverbed camo.

So what sets this bag apart?

First, the size. Coming in at 28L, it isn’t overly big (the Patagonia is 30L and the Simms is 35L).

It is also the only one that comes with a nice, padded hip belt. The others only offer a nylon strap. While a waist strap can add bulk to the bag, it is a fair trade off for the overall comfort level of the pack. Additionally, while the waist strap can be removed, it serves as a way to easily secure the bag to my boat – ensuring it doesn’t end up at the bottom of the lake when I am thrashing around behind the seat of my boat looking for a net when I am trying to land Hog Johnson.

For me, a major selling point of a backpack is the ability to carry an extra rod tube. The included Lariat straps do an excellent job of keeping a rod tube secured (I even did a shake test to prove to a friend that there is no reason to worry about a rod getting lost on the river). As many reviews on the Simms Dry Creek point out, the Rod Cam Straps to hold a rod tube are an accessory that does not come with the pack. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something to remember when comparing/contrasting.

Fishpond also offers a handful of accessories compatible with this pack. The QuickShot Rod Holder is a great way to carry a fully-rigged rod on standby. Since I tend to have a rod rigged for dries and one for nymphs/streamers, this makes life a lot easier.

Additionally, the Thunderhead Submersible Backpack is compatible with many Fishpond chest packs with modular buckles on the shoulder straps and hip belt.

There are a couple features that would make this pack even better. First, it would be nice to have a velcro patch on the shoulder straps, as found on the Thunderhead Submersible Sling, to attach a fly patch. I keep finding myself looking for a place to put my wet flies. Not a huge deal. My lucky hat now has a lot more bling.

With that said, my biggest critique about the pack is that there isn’t an integrated net slot, which can be found on the Simms Dry Creek Z. However, with a Fishpond Confluence Net Release I am able to hang my net off the back. A little more clunky, but it works.

With plenty of storage, options for accessories, and being completely waterproof, I look forward to many dry days on the river with the Fishpond Thunderhead Backpack. Stay tuned for a future blog where I’ll do a “What’s in your pack.”



  • There isn’t much in the way of organization.
  • No integrated net slot.
  • No velcro patch on the shoulder straps like on the sling pack version.

Leave a Comment