2009 Kudo Awards

2009 Kudo Awards

Recognizing the best fly-fishing products...

  • By: Darrel Martin
  • , Ted Leeson
  • and Joe Healy

Exceptional products deserve recognition. And so we set out each year to reinforce some of the best and brightest ideas in fly-fishing with Fly Rod & Reel’s ultimate sign of respect: a Kudo Award. Our winners for 2009 have helped to make fly fishing more comfortable, more enjoyable, more doable and more fun. And in this our 30th year, we award an Innovation/Achievement Kudos for a product that’s aced the test of time. We’ll award this I/A Kudos to one product in each issue this year, to commemorate 30 years of innovation in our sport.

Hardy Perfect Reel
Many years ago, while I was still a young shucking dun, I entered The House of Hardy on Pall Mall in London. There I bought a Perfect. I cannot recall when I lost it, but I still remember the smooth pleasure it gave.

The Perfect, coveted by generations, is perhaps the most famous reel ever produced by Hardy Brothers of England. First introduced in 1888 and patented in 1891, the Hardy Perfect fly reel is legend. The first Perfect was brass, each part (including the spring brake and ivory handle) made by the hands of one person. Hardy catalogs advised the angler to strike the fish from the reel, letting the check system set the hook and hold the fish. Although the six-inch Brass Perfect weighed 46 ounces, the smaller Houghton model was significantly lighter. Some early brass models, if tilted, had open bearing races that allowed the brass ball-bearing to fall out. Hardy then enclosed the races to capture the bearings. Constant modifications, such as the line guard, allows dating of many early models. Before the turn of the century, Hardy experimented with alloys to make a lighter reel. However, Victorian anglers believed in brass.

After the demise of the brass-faced Perfects around 1912, the alloy Perfects, begun in the early 1890s, dominated the market and were scattered throughout the Empire. The alloy reels were cast from “alumin,” a rigid and strong aluminum alloy, and then machined to final tolerances. A coin disassembled the three-part reel: frame, line drum and revolving plate. By 1896, Perfects had ball bearings, a regulating check-drag and a unique agate line guard. All parts were eventually standardized and interchangeable, a first in reel-making. Hardy produced a few reels in the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. Some special and limited editions came out in the 1990s. Today, an antique Perfect can bring thousands of dollars at auction.

Returning to its past, Hardy’s new Heritage Range now includes a modern Perfect. They are made, with technical improvements, in the original Hardy factory at Alnwick (pronounced “annick”), Northumberland, England. Rather than cast like the originals, these reels are machined and hand-finished from 6061 bar-stock aluminum. This makes a lighter and stronger reel than the original. “The other materials,” says John Shaner of Hardy North America, “are faithful to past construction and include nickel silver, naval brass, a distinctive ‘ivorine’ handle, and the traditional natural agate line guard.” They have the traditional and durable anodized gunmetal-gray finish. Shaner concludes that the new Perfect is actually better than the original Perfect.
There is a sense of sepia, a warm tradition about Hardy’s new reel. For the angler who wants a fabled icon, an elegant investment and quality tackle, the new Perfect is perfect. It certainly has traveled the long road home. There are three new Perfects; $850 for 2-weight lines, $900 for 3- and 4-weight lines, $950 for 5- and 6-weight lines. www.hardyfishing.comDarrel Martin

Interlock Sunglasses

My first pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses celebrated the concept of three sunglasses in one. The Leupold shooting glasses had three lens tints—smoke, green and yellow—which you clipped with metal hooks into a thin, black frame. These were the oversize aviator style favored by, say, Saudi oil sheiks and now certain tiresome Hollywood starlets—with mondo lenses to fill your face from above-eyebrow to past the cheekbone. They weren’t polarized, but I fished with them anyway. Eventually, someone told me they looked like a flashback, and not in a good way. I got a pair of Smith Interlocks this year. You don’t clip anything anywhere to change the lenses; you simply twist the stems on the frame to loosen the frame and remove one lens (say, Polarized Copper) and install a different tint (say, Polarized Yellow). About the lenses: They are 8 base Carbonic, offering maximum peripheral coverage and impact protection while protecting the user’s eye from 100 percent of UV A/B/C light. About the frames: This is the best lens-switch system I’ve used to date. $159. www.smith.com. —Joe Healy

Give-N-Go Underwear

ExOfficio received a Kudo Award from this magazine in 1996 for the company’s Baja Plus shirt, which at the time was leading-edge travel wear for anglers. With big, deep chest pockets and vented back and sides, the shirt defined fishing comfort. Ted Leeson called the shirts fishing “equipment.” Now we go a little, er, lower, with a Kudos to ExO for Give-N-Go performance underwear. Yes, that’s right—performance underwear. In the spirit of participatory journalism, I’m wearing ’em as I write this. And they are comfortable and bunch- and bind-free. They perform.

But they really shine when you take to the road. The undershorts are mainly nylon with a little bit of spandex spun in, which means they dry quickly (we mean after washing, potty-brain); they also have an AEGIS Microbe Shield finish to fight odor and bacteria. I’ve been traveling with them for more than a decade (not the same pairs!), wearing one boxer and packing another, washing the worn pair each night, switching back and forth. It saves the hassle of dirty laundry and also saves a little room in the duffle. Even the Give-N-Go packaging is cool: each pair comes in a clear-plastic bag with a snap top, which makes a perfect holder for shooting heads, tarpon leaders and larger streamers. Briefs, Sport Briefs, Boxer Briefs and good ol’ Boxers are available. www.exofficio.com. —Joe Healy

The Patagonia Pack Vest ($180) is a talented hybrid, a combination of a fishing-specific daypack and a quality fly vest. First introduced in 1993, the newly revised features increase the Pack Vest’s remarkable comfort and function. Depending upon need, a detachable, adjustable harness allows combining the vest and pack or the separate use of each. Made from a 300-denier polyester double-weave gray “gravel” fabric (47 percent recycled), the pack and pockets have a polyurethane and DWR (durable water repellent) coating.—Ted Leeson

HMH Standard Vise
It’s worth remembering, amid the fetish for the new in general, and the popularity of rotary fly-tying in particular, that conventional stationary vises continue to serve tiers handsomely, as they have for a long, long time. And none of these stand out with greater distinction than the HMH Standard, one of the very first precision-machined, fine-quality vises built for lifetime use. Though it has been tweaked and tuned a bit over time, the essential design has remained unchanged for 34 years under the very sane, but currently unpopular, theory that you don’t fix what ain’t broke, that change for its own sake is the pursuit of novelty, not improvement.

The HMH Standard was also one of the first vises to offer 360-degree jaw rotation, and some tiers do use this vise in rotary mode. But I find the Standard at its very best for stationary tying. The long barrel provides ample hand room beneath the jaws, and a clean design overall makes for an uncluttered tying field. The three interchangeable jaws and a sturdy, substantial cam lever with a positive-locking flat put the death grip on virtually all sizes of hooks and give the Standard a useful and pleasing versatility. But, in my estimation, where Standard really shines is in tying small flies. The Micro Jaw tapers to an unobtrusive slimness and grip a hook solidly with a remarkably small contact area, while the infinitely adjustable head-angle allows you to raise the jaws to a more vertical position. The upshot is a degree of hand access to, and working room around, tiny hook shanks that I think is unsurpassed in vises. For its quality, utility and enduring design, the HMH Standard is one of the very few pieces of equipment in fly fishing that can legitimately be called a “Classic.” www.hmhvices.comTed Leeson