Simms' new waders, Sage's Z-Axis and more...

Simms' new waders, Sage's Z-Axis and more...

Orvis Tri-Spectrum Sunglasses Just last year, I wrote a roundup article on polarizing fishing glasses, the best of which were real eye-openers. While those

  • By: Ted Leeson
  • and Darrel Martin
Orvis Tri-Spectrum Sunglasses Just last year, I wrote a roundup article on polarizing fishing glasses, the best of which were real eye-openers. While those products were still fairly fresh in my mind, I had the opportunity to check out the new Tri-Spectrum glasses from Orvis. Figuring I'd seen it all, I wasn't prepared to be much impressed, but after using them for more than three months on flats, rivers and lakes, I am now forced to eat my skepticism. In terms of image clarity, contrast and resolution, I don't believe I've worn a better pair of glasses.Most sunglasses produce optical enhancement by partially blocking the blue end of the spectrum. These glasses, however, adopt a different approach, allowing transmission peaks of wavelength bands at the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue), while reducing light transmission between those bands. It is, I am told, similar to the way digital images are enhanced. I have no understanding of such things, but the effect is perceptible in better sharpness, contrast and image definition. Add to the package glass lenses--a superior optical material--hydrophobic and anti-reflective coatings and you have an imposing pair of shades. Tri-Spectrum glasses are available in two frame styles and in three lens colors (rose, brown and copper). At $229, these are a real value at the high end. --Ted Leeson Patagonia Merino Wool Performance Baselayer Certain ironies are delicious. One of the most appealing new products I saw at the 2006 fly-fishing trade show last fall was a line of merino wool baselayer pieces--undershirts and longjohns--from Patagonia, a foremost innovator in synthetic fabrics. Put aside any preconceptions about scratchy wool--these are made of merino wool fibers so fine that the finished clothing is softer than a cotton T-shirt. The insulating properties of wool, particularly when it's wet, are well known; but these fibers are so thin (about a fifth as thick as a human hair) that they do what other wools won't--wick moisture away from the skin, rather than absorbing it, to keep you dry as well as warm. This wool has other virtues. It is machine washable, naturally odor-resistant and obtained from a few New Zealand ranches held to strict environmental standards. I put the machine-washing claim to a test, laundering tops and bottoms half-a-dozen times to see if the fabric softness changed. The clothing held up fine; it still looks like it came fresh from the package, and I can now claim, for the first time ever, to own the cleanest underwear on earth. Tops come in four styles (both men's and women's), bottoms in one, and retail for $72-$88. For spring, they are available in a light, Category 2 weight; look for the heavier Category 3- and 4-weights come fall. --Ted Leeson Simms G4 Guide Waders These are undoubtedly the most advanced waders ever made--and they cost a nickel short of $700 a pair; clearly this is a case of getting what you pay for, and paying for what you get. A major feature is the YKK Aquaseal waterproof center-front zipper, which does more than merely accommodate those moments of necessary relief. This zipper, unlike some other waterproof zippers, is smooth and easy. (I would, though, recommend periodic silicone lubrication for a long and easy life.) After my recent knee surgery (evidently too much stumbling on "slime-stone" rivers), I had qualms about getting into any waders at all. But after unzipping these waders, getting into them was like pulling on a pair of comfortable pants. No longer is putting on waders like stuffing a caddis back in its case. Although these waders may be an absolute blessing to those anglers with restricted movement, the G4 is user friendly to all. But this is only the beginning. The new suspender system, with a wide, adjustable "stretch spacer mesh" construction, is as comfortable as it gets. The suspender adjustments eliminate all loose, flopping straps while the stretch mesh virtually eradicates the weight. There are micro-fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets with thermolaminated zippers. The multiple Gore-Tex layers create a durable upper (three layers) and lower (five layers covering the waist, seat and legs), more layers than any other wader. The co-extruded nylon-polyester outer fabric adds puncture resistance. But in spite of all this layering--which comprises most of the reason for the eye-popping price tag--the garment is still breathable. Value is in the details: Every inch and stitch proclaims quality. An adjustable belt system has both removable and built-in belt loops (center back) for Simms' 2-inch-wide neoprene wading belt. Two thermolaminated Schoeller fabric chest pockets hold two medium fly boxes. On the center back suspender hangs a D-ring for nets and such. The patented, pre-curved leg construction improves fit and articulation while decreasing seam abrasions. Accessories include a unique forceps docking station, retractor, removable foam fly patch, built-in gravel guards and repair kit. The 4 mm neoprene stocking foot has an hourglass seam for increased durability. The G4 Guides weigh 51 ounces, only 7 ounces more than Simms' former top of the line G3 Waders. (The G3's are still available, by the way.) The G4 may be purchased in a dozen stock sizes and, through the "Custom Shop Program," individual sizing and customizing is available. In brief, the G4 is a thoughtful, comfortable and tough utility product. --Darrel Martin Sage Z-Axis Fly Rods There is a disturbing fact about rod companies: Just when I think I have bought the best fly rod available, some rodmaker produces yet a better rod. Although I don't mind spending half of my limited income on rods, there never seems to be an end to it. I wish a rod company would create the best rod possible and then stop all research and development for five years or so. This would give me quality time with my rod, allowing me to develop a relationship with its smooth grace and to share a few quiet, sunlit moments with it. But, no: I have to build an extra rod room just to store my once best friends. Here's the latest example. A few months ago, as I was enjoying some moments with my current best rod, along came Sage's Z-Axis. Although a complete stranger, the Z-Axis certainly wanted to be my friend. I mentioned to Sage marketing director Marc Bale that the label "Z-Axis" sounded too contrived and technical. Bale agreed that the name does sound "quite techy," but added, "you have to call it something." And, apparently there is something called a z-axis on a flyrod blank--and it is this axis that makes these new rods what they are. Jerry Siem, Sage flyrod designer, explains it: "The longitudinal axis of a rod blank is the x-axis, the rod length. The y-axis is around the rod blank, the circumference. And the z-axis penetrates the wall dimension of the blank; it represents the wall thickness." Got that? In any case, it is within the rod wall of the Z-Axis that Sage's new G-5 technology resides; as a result, the rod's wall is stronger than that of most other rod blanks. Usually, woven fiberglass forms some of the scrim material of the rod blank. On this rod, however, the glass is removed, leaving only a fine glass-carrying agent, most of which is pure graphite and a proprietary resin. This resin--a component often overlooked in rod design--forms about 30 percent of the total weight. The result is a tight, light rod blank. This tighter wall transmits sensation faster and damps the tip quickly. When I cast these rods, the lightness was apparent. At 37/16 ounces, a Z-Axis four-piece 9-foot 6-weight is lighter than the rod it replaces--the XP, which weighs 39/16 ounces. And the four-piece, 9-foot 3-weight is a mere 3 ounces. The Z-Axis is well behaved. Described by Sage as a fast-action rod, it delivers smooth acceleration and abrupt damping for solid stops. There is no bounce or swagger in the casting stroke. It draws a smooth, straight line that encourages a long, flat trajectory. Siem also notes that the unique G-5 construction limits torque, or twisting force. There are no erratic movements; only quick damping that promotes drawing that imaginary, straight rod-tip line in the air. Furthermore, the stiff, damping tip--the last lever in the casting stroke--produces power and punch. According to Siem, the casting tempo of the Z-Axis is similar to the popular, but discontinued, XP rod. It is designed to be friendly and fishable. Sage has created a Z-Axis for all occasions. The 2-piecers--a 9-foot 4-weight, an 81/2-foot 5-weight, a 9-foot 5-weight, a 9-foot 6-weight and a 9-foot 8-weight--range from $585 to $595. The 4-piecers--27 models from 3- to 10-weights--range from $645 to $670. In addition, several models are available with fighting butts. Also listed are 4-piece Z-Axis Spey rods: a 121/2-foot 6-weight, a 131/2-fooot 7-weight, a 14-foot 3-inch 9-weight, a 15-foot 10-weight and a 16-foot 10-weight, from $720 to $850. The 9- and 10-weight Speys have extended handles. The cosmetics on these rods are restrained and functional. The attractive rich-green rod blank has subtle multicolor windings, browns with gold highlights. A minute ramp of epoxy prevents any line from catching between the guide foot and rod blank. This attention to detail has made an attractive rod. For my final fly-casting class of the season, I was able to use a 6-weight Z-Axis. Needless to say, I was impressed by what the rod could do with so little encouragement. After I had shot an entire fly line with a double-haul, one student wrly commented, "Is that done just to show off?" I replied, "Why, yes, this rod does like attention." Although Sage claims that the Z-Axis replaces the XP, I think the Z may replace a lot of other rods, as well. --Darrel Martin