A Tackle Showcase

A Tackle Showcase

Here are a few of our favorite items from the most recent fly-fishing trade show

  • By: Ted Leeson
  • , Darrel Martin
  • and Buzz Bryson
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each Autumn, just about every company that makes fly-fishing gear heads to Denver's International Fly Fishing Retailer Show in order to display its latest and greatest products to fly-shop owners and managers from around the world. Also in perennial attendance at the fly-fishing industry's annual get-together are FR&R New Gear editor Buzz Bryson, FR&R equipment editor Ted Leeson, and our fly-tying editor, Darrel Martin. Buzz, Darrel and Ted spend three days cruising the Show floor, talking to the manufacturers and looking for interesting things to write about over the coming year.Our custom at the end of each show is to ask our three gear gurus to write up a half-dozen or so of the most promising new products they saw there. Here, then, are 16 of their picks for the most promising new products of the 2004 season. Keep in mind, however, that FR&R does not have the space to cover all the great new gear in a single issue. You can expect to see more terrific new products reviewed in our upcoming issues. Just turn to Buzz Bryson's New Gear column and read all about them… Winston Boron IIx Rods I was impressed with R. L. Winston Rod Company's new line of Boron IIx rods, made from a high-Modulus boron/graphite composite. In a world chock full of lightning-fast fly rods, a couple of characteristics set this one apart. The rod, and especially the tip, is responsive enough not only to deliver flies close range but also gives the caster good line control and a sensitive feel at short distances-a real virtue in a fast-action trout rod. But they can also really boom out line if that's what you're about. Second, it is light weight and well-balanced in the hand for all-day casting comfort-a blessing for the heavy-duty saltwater models, but they still have plenty of power and range. I think the real gem of the line is the 9-foot 8-weight, which handled like a 6-weight. Seventeen 4-piece models are available from 3- to 12-weigh and retail between $595-$655. R. L. Winston Rod Company 406-684-5674 www.winstonrods.com -T.L. L. L. Bean's Gore-Tex Stowaway Wading Jacket I had a chance to field test this item for a couple of months, and it's one of the best values in jackets I've seen in a while. Constructed of Gore-Tex Paclite fabric (with a new, smooth lining that eliminates those sticky-feeling nubs of the first-generation material), the jacket is superbly breathable, tough and weatherproof. The two-and-a-half layer laminate reduces bulk for a feather-weight, genuinely practical packing. Details are intelligently done-useful pocket configuration, multi-point adjustable hood, and the most comfortable weathertight cuffs in the industry. It's a fisherman's jacket at a fisherman's price, $159. L. L. Bean www.llbean.com 1-800-221-4221 -T.L. Dr. Slick's Sidecutter Clamp Here's one for you gearheads: a pair of high-quality five-inch hemostats with a long sidecutter ground into the base of the jaws. The cutters are sharp enough to trim even 7X mono tippets cleanly, without that flattened, mashed end that won't pass through a hook eye. I'm normally skeptical of multi-purpose tools, which tend to do all things poorly and nothing well, but this combination looks useful. It eliminates the need for clippers, and I'm in favor of anything that reduces the clutter of danglies on my vest. This one is, well…slick. The Sidecutter comes in stainless steel with gold handles or black, straight or curved tips, at $13. Dr. Slick 1-800-462-4474 www.drslick.com -T.L. 1% For The Planet This one is not exactly a product, but if attending the fly-fishing trade show means snooping out new ideas that improve the quality or pleasure of our fishing, I can think of no better choice than the 1% For The Planet program organized by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies. This program asks manufacturers and retailers to donate one percent of their net sales to any of over 2000 approved conservation or environmental organizations. The genius of the idea is that the money goes directly to programs of the donor's choice (thereby cutting out the money-siphoning middlemen) and can be used for local conservation efforts staffed by volunteers. A few bucks in these hands goes infinitely further than it does in administratively top-heavy organizations or government bureaucracies. Participants in the program will display the 1% logo on their products and ads, so keep your eyes open and exercise your power of choice to help preserve our environment. 1% For The Planet (805) 667-4622 www.onepercentfortheplanet.org -T.L. Marryat CMR Online Reel One of the more unusual ideas in reels this year comes from Marryat- the CMR Online reel. This anti-reverse reel has a conventional drag knob on the backplate for setting drag tension in the customary fashion. But it also has a pair of spring-loaded pads on the crank handle. Squeezing the pads increases the drag resistance and can be fine-tuned while fighting a running fish. Since the reel is anti-reverse, the handle is always stationary even when a fish runs, which literally gives you instantaneous fingertip control of the drag pressure. I haven't fished this reel but still find it an intriguing, cleverly engineered idea. It holds a WF8 120 yards of backing and goes for $395. Marryat www.marryat.com -T.L. G. Loomis StreamDance Fly Rods The new G. Loomis StreamDance rods were conceived to cover the trout fishing universe, at least the bulk of it. The series includes two performance/price levels, the StreamDance GLX and the StreamDance Metolius. Within the GLX rods there are three action types, with the names being somewhat descriptive of the intended usage: Presentation (7 rods), High Line Speed (10 rods) and Maximum Line Speed (1 rod). The Metolius rods also include Presentation (2 rods) and High Line Speed (5 rods), plus a Trout Spey (1 rod). Line weights range from 2 through 6, and lengths from a 7-footer to a 10-footer (excepting the Trout Spey, at 13' 4"). In addition to using the namesake graphite, the StreamDance (SD) GLX rods feature the finest fittings (e.g., a California buckeye burl wood spacer and titanium alloy REC Recoil guides). Prices range from $575 - $645. The SD Metolius series uses proprietary graphite blends and high quality hard chrome stripping and single foot snake guides. Prices range from $345 - $445. G. Loomis conceived the StreamDance rods after numerous focus groups with anglers, guides and shop owners. The strong positive reception at the show clearly showed that the Loomis design team, headed by Steve Rajeff, delivered on what the customers' were looking for. I've fished them. They are nice, nice rods. G. Loomis, Inc. 800-456-6647 www.gloomis.com -B.B. Scientific Anglers Ventilated Series Single Rod&Reel Cases Although the inside of your waders will still stink if you stow them wet, your rod/reel combo, and particularly the line and backing, won't any more. Scientific Anglers has brought a breath of fresh air to an old standby with newly designed rod-and-reel cases for 2-, 3- and 4-piece 9-foot rods featuring reticulated breathable foam padding. The patent-pending design utilizes a foam that is a network of fibers, which allows air circulation and thus quicker drying when outfits are stowed with still-wet reels and lines. The idea is so simple and obvious that one immediately assumes it's been done before, and maybe it has, but not that we know of. So, if you're one of those who likes to keep your outfit ready to go by just popping the ferrules together, but are tired of the opening a case that smells like old gym shoes, head to your nearest SA dealer. You nose will appreciate it; heck, the fish will probably appreciate it, too. $74.95 - $79.95. Scientific Anglers 800-430-5000 www.scientificanglers.com -B.B. Ex Officio/Orvis Buzz Off Clothing There's nothing anglers look forward too more than a good hatch on the water-except when that "hatch" is of mosquitoes, no-see-ums, deerflies or other similar biting or boring critters. But now, you can forget about slathering yourself with bug dope, sliming your rod grip and eating the coating off your fly line in the process. Instead, Orvis and Ex Officio have a stylish remedy: Buzz Off. It's a colorless, odorless treatment of clothing that effectively repels those nasty blood-sucking bugs we all love to hate. The active ingredient of Buzz Off is permethrin, a man-made version of the pyrethroid that occurs naturally in chrysanthemums. Interestingly, the stuff doesn't work when applied directly to skin, as it deactivates and dissipates quickly. Instead, through a patent-pending process, the repellant is bound to the garment, invisible to the wearer. Both Orvis and Ex Officio will offer the Buzz Off clothing lines in Spring 2004, including pants, shorts, shirts and socks for men and women. Ex Officio will also soon have a line for children. This EPA-registered treatment is said to remain effective for at least two-dozen washings, which is probably the effective life of most fishing garments. Orvis 802-362-3622 www.orvis.com -B.B. Patagonia Great Divider All it takes is one good dousing from a thunderstorm, salt spray, or leaky boat, and anglers who fish in boats become very fussy about their tackle bags. The overriding criterion for any such bag is that it must be waterproof. Second is accessibility. Third is functionality. Patagonia got them right, and in the right order. The bag (approximately 19" x 9" x 12") is constructed of heavy nylon, double-coated with polyurethane and welded to be completely watertight. The bottom (and top for that matter) features rigid pans and rounded corners, eliminating sharp edges that so quickly wear through and leak. Inside, there's one big compartment, which can be customized by moveable dividers secured with Velcro. Those dividers are just a bit shorter than the top edge of the bag, so a folded raincoat, map, book or similar item can fit easily under the closed top. Two small, removable and zippered pouches sit on either inside end of the bag; they're clear, so you don't have to guess what you put in them. There is also a double-sided, full-width top divider, perfect for tippet spools, passports, maps, spare lines and the like. Those too are clear. The bag's main zipper, although not truly completely waterproof, is offset downward slightly on the bag's side, so that when the lid closes, any water running over the zipper simply cannot get through to the bag's contents. You'd literally have to hold the bag underwater to force water inside. At $165, it's a bargain. Ask anyone who has one of the old originals-or someone who hasn't and soaked a wallet or ruined a camera! Patagonia 805-643-8616 www.patagonia.com -B.B. Rod Mounts Rod Loft Pro I've used the Rod Mounts Deluxe carrier for well over 150,000 miles spread over two SUVs. It works great, easily carrying six or more rigged rods securely inside the vehicle, up close to the headliner out of the way. As good as the Deluxe model was, it's now been surpassed by the new Rod Loft Pro model. New and improved, I should say. Double suction cups replace the single cup, meaning no more fall-downs. Larger openings, plus the ability to cut away a section of the rubber (think "U"- instead of "O"-shaped openings) allow the tips to drop in, rather than be "aimed" in. And a new security strap will keep them in place. The new Pro model has been completely redesigned, and not only with practical efficiency but also with flair: The new inserts are a really red rubber material, contrasting nicely with the black mounts. There are now five (count five) mounting options, meaning the Pro model can pretty much be fitted into any type of auto, with no drilling, gluing or even duct taping. They're better, they're prettier, and best of all, they're only $99. Rod Mounts 888-925-4487 www.rodmounts.com -B.B. Abel X-Stream Rod and Reel Combo Kits Steve Abel built a name and reputation as one of today's premiere fly reel makers, designing and building a reel that was an instant classic. He's also hung his name on some pretty fine rods (the 5-weight was a 2003 FR&R Award winner). What he's done most recently is to produce a reel and a rod that most of us can buy without missing a house payment. I'm talking about the Abel X-Stream 5- and 8-weight rods and reels. The rods are both 4-piece 9-footers, constructed of high-Modulus graphite. They're well finished and saltwater-safe. The reels are, for all intents and purposes, simply less polished and slightly less well appointed versions of Big Game and TR reels. For instance, the reels have delrin crank knobs instead of the fancy wooden ones, and the reels are counter-balanced by porting on the crank side only. In other words, just as bullet-proof, just not quite as shiny. Best of all, if you purchase the rod and reel as a combo, you'll save an extra $50 - $60. Individually, the 5-weight rod is $150, and the 4-5-6 reel is $190. As a combo, they're $290. The 8-weight rod is $175, and the 7-8-9 reel is $370. As a combo kit they are only $485. Abel Quality Products 866-511-7444 www.abelreels.com -B.B. SAGE Xi2 FLY RODS Sage has created a remarkable rod series to replace the RPLXi rods. The Xi2 rods use a graphite core wrap (G5) and a "Modulus positioning system" (MPS) new to Sage. The graphite core wrap forms the basis of G5 technology and the MPS allows for "a precise lay-up of the longitudinal fibers," creating "the smoothest saltwater action possible." The result is a light, smooth and powerful rod. Casting a 10-weight is like casting a 7-weight. Jerry Siem, Sage's rod designer, concludes: "These are hands down the finest saltwater fly rods on the planet. We've spent the better part of three years perfecting them and we think the saltwater angler will agree." Sage describes the Xi2 as an "extremely light, very crisp action fly rod that at the same time is both extremely durable and a dream to cast." No arguments there. All Xi2 rods are four piece and range from 6- to 14-weights. All rods, except the 14-weight, are 9 feet long. The rods weigh about half an ounce lighter and are significantly faster than the RPLXi rods they replace. Retail prices range from $625 to $690 and should be available in shops by November. Sage 206-842-6830 [email protected] -D.M. SIMM'S G3 GUIDE JACKET The new G3 Guide Jacket is a technical masterpiece. It features Gore-Tex XCR three-layer fabric in a dual fabric design with a heavier 100 percent nylon face fabric in high-wear areas and a lighter body fabric that permits "superior breathe-ability and greater pack-ability." Four zippered chest pockets feature YKK thermolaminated water-resistant zippers with anti-corrosion sliders. The center-front zipper is a waterproof Riri Storm specifically developed to keep water out. This zipper resists sun, wind, water and salt. Other prominent design features include bellowed chest pockets, a horizontal zip back pocket and unique cuffs that prevents water entry. The tough simplicity of the G3 Guide Jacket is a solid threat to wind, rain and water. It is offered in Dark Loden, sizes S to XXL. Suggested retail is $399.95 Simms Fishing Products 406-585-3557, [email protected] -D.M. PARTRIDGE OF REDDITCH FLASHPOINT FLY HOOKS Partridge of Redditch offers a new point design for some of its hooks. The Flashpoint is a remarkably fine, sharp point. These chemically sharpened hooks are made by Mustad in Singapore where many of their other quality hooks are produced. For example, the Surehold Upwing Dry Barbless (YDBL) has a slightly longer shank and a longer "spear" with an exceptional point for superior hooking and holding. This is an attractive hook, sizes 8 to 20, for various upwing patterns. The Authentic Czech Nymph Hook (CZ) has a lustrous black nickel finish, an arched shank and offset point (not offset spear) that claims exceptional hold in a barbless design. On a size 10 Authentic Czech Nymph hook, approximately 3millimeters of the flashpoint is offset. These hooks, sizes 6 to12, should be perfect for the Czech nymphing technique as well as other subsurface strategies. For traditional dries take a look at The Dry (TDH) for a flashpointed standard fly hook, sizes 10 to 20. Other specialized flashpointed hooks include the Klinkhammer (YKH) for Kinkhammer nymphs and emergers, sizes 8 to 20, as well as the Goldheaded (GHH) that solves the problem of matching beads to hooks. The Goldheaded hooks, sizes 8 to 14, come with gold bead already firmly attached to a down eye, wide gape, medium shank, wetfly hook. No more matching beads to hooks. The Surehold Upwing Dry, the Authentic Czech Nymph, the Klinkhammer and Goldhead hooks are, at time of writing, available only in England. Soon, however, Partridge of Redditch (USA) will select some premium flashpoint hooks for distribution and sale in America. Mustad Hooks www.mustad.no Partridge of Redditch 315-253-2793 www.partridge-of-redditch.co.uk -D.M. UMPQUA/METZ SILI SKIN Sili Skin is a soft, adhesive sheet that creates some stunningly realistic baitfish, such as Chocklett's Gummy Minnow and Gummy Sand Eel available from Umpqua Feather Merchants. The Gummy Minnow looks like a fugitive from a sardine can. For the tyer, Sili Skin sheets are available from Metz. With the texture and touch and appearance of real baitfish, Sili Skin should create some remarkably authentic and effective baitfish patterns. A Sili Skin pack includes instructions and two 2x 6 inch translucent, one-sided adhesive strips. Though the cost is $6.99 for one pack, the only other pattern requirements are hooks and a touch of thread. Depending upon pattern size, a careful tier could probably produce over half a dozen from a single sheet. This may not be traditional tying, but it certainly creates "fishy" patterns. If you wrap baitfish patterns for trout, bass, salmon or the salt, you will want to experiment with this material. Sili Skin sheets are available in 11 colors, including belly white, mother of pearl, green splash and my favorite, road slick. Sili Skin should create some excellent shrimp and crab for the salt as well as freshwater nymph and larva bodies. Contact Umpqua and Metz dealers for further information. Umpqua Feather Merchants 541-496-3512 www.umpqua.com -D.M. MARC PETITJEAN'S MAGIC TOOL Marc Petitjean of Switzerland is one of the most thoughtful tiers in the world. His Magic Tool creates infinite variations on dubbing loops. The tool makes bodies, wings and hackles (parachute or traditional) with a single dubbing loop. It uses CDC feathers, hackles, dubbing, synthetic strands, body feathers and most other tying materials. The Magic Tool consists of two different transparent, "bulldog" clamps and three different diameter, grooved dowels or "equalizers." As you press a feather or feathers down on the "table," the jaws open, fold and trap the barbs. Both sides of a feather are combined and used in this manner. The "clamp" then grips the barbs as the table is released. Scissors remove the stem or stems and the barbs are then inserted in a split-thread or doubled dubbing loop. The transparent clamps allow full visibility and control of the process. Wrap a spiral of synthetic strands around an equalizer. Place the equalizer on the table and cut the strands apart along a groove. With fine wire, press the strands into the table. Capture the strands with a clamp and trim excess. The "equalizers" allow winding and cutting synthetic materials such as Flashabou and Crystal Flash into short, equal strands that are then inserted and used in a dubbing loop. Tiers should also consider the MP Tools, which are a good complement to the Magic Tool. The tools include small, spring loop clips (these spring clips keep the dubbing loop open or closed as required), a dubbing needle, unique hackle pliers, whip-finisher and a locking MP Twister, short and long-bladed scissors. The Magic Tool is a simple tool that makes complex methods easy. Every tier will benefit from Marc's "Magic" and, in the process, discovers some of his own. The cost for the Magic Tool has yet to be determined. Marc Petitjean Fishing Equipment 41 26 481 17 79 www.petitjean.com. -D.M.