New Gear

New Gear

Patagonia's nano puff, Abel's lifetime nippers…

  • By: Darrel Martin
  • , Ted Leeson
  • and Jim Butler
Ross Evolution LT Reel

Rx Rods & Evolution LT Reels

A couple of seasons back, the introduction of the Orvis Helios marked the beginning of the current trend toward super-light fly rods. While reduced weight can improve the ease and comfort of casting, particularly in heavier saltwater rods, the more compelling reason involves performance. With the right design, a shaft with lower mass recovers more quickly after it’s flexed, diminishing the bounce and wobble that can rob distance and compromise accuracy. And the new Rx rods from Ross Worldwide have the right design. These are fast rods, with a quick, light-tipped delivery and fast-damping shaft, that produce tight loops, high line speeds and precise presentations. Good balance and smooth loading/unloading make these a pleasure to cast. Though powerful rods, they have an almost delicate feeling owing to the exceptionally light weight. What’s particularly impressive is the cost. There are 10 4-piece models, ranging from 3- to 8-weight, that run $299 to $319, and offer high performance at less than half the price of other premium models. For anglers who appreciate an affordably priced rod that really throws darts, the Rx is just what the doctor ordered. (Forgive me, I couldn’t resist.)

The Ross Evolution reel was one of those pieces of fly tackle that became an instant classic when it was first introduced, and since then it’s proved an enduring favorite, particularly of trout fishermen. This year, Ross redesigned the reel, and the new Evolution LT incorporates a drag knob, spool cap, escapement cover and clicker components made of aluminum—replacing the plastic components that many anglers felt compromised a reel otherwise so cleanly and handsomely made. Adding metal naturally increases the weight, and to compensate the new reel is more extensively ventilated, particularly the spool, which is constructed with a rim-and-spoke design. It has a minimal, skeletal look that, to my eye anyway, is rather elegant. The guts of the reel, fortunately, are unchanged—the same sensitive, smooth drag system and redundant pawl engagement for reliability.

Dimensions, sizes and weights of new LTs are comparable to those of the original Evolution. An increased hub diameter, for strength, has reduced line capacities somewhat, though in my estimation they’re still plenty adequate, particularly in the trout sizes. And here’s a novelty in the modern world: The price is reduced by about $30. Six sizes, $245 to $315. —Ted Leeson

Nano Puff Pullover

Building on the remarkable success of Patagonia’s Micro-Puff Jackets and Puff Pullovers, the company’s new Nano Puff Pullover weighs a scant 9.4 ounces. The word “nano” comes from the Greek for “dwarf” and into English as a fractional number—one-billionth. Small indeed. The Nano packs down to nil and stuffs into its own left-chest pocket. The highly compressible, hydrophobic, “warm-when-wet” 60-gram Primaloft traps heat with extraordinary efficiency. The synthetic insulation is quilted to prevent clumping or drifting. A half-front zipper vents excessive heat. A full-zipper version, which I would prefer, will be available this fall, the company says. The elasticized cuffs and hem trap warmth. A wind-blocking, moisture-shedding DWR shell and lining create a tough, practical garment. Recently, in a damp, windy northern Spain, my Nano accommodated a remarkable range of weather conditions: wind, rain, drizzle, cold and even sun. It truly is Puff the Magic Pullover. Only the warmth tells you that you have it on; $150. —Darrel Martin


When Orvis introduced their nipper more than a quarter-century ago (this magazine bestowed a Kudo Award on the gadget in 1985), it caused quite a stir for a small tool. Plenty of us already had standard nail clippers hanging from our vests. But making the blades straight (flat) instead of curved, and adding a needle at the back to remove head cement and what-have-you from hook eyes? Genius. The basic design has become nearly ubiquitous.

Now along comes the Abel nipper. Certainly, one could never accuse Abel of underbuilding anything. Reels that could be used to defend yourself in a bar fight? Check. Pliers that would be the envy of your dentist, for professional use? Got ’em.

The Abel nipper is right in line with this sturdy tradition. The body is anodized aluminum, the jaws (replaceable!) are of heat-treated stainless steel, the various screws are stainless. And yes, there’s a pin (also stainless), but cleverly hidden in the jaws. The tool cuts everything from 100-pound mono down to trout tippets, as well as braid. I was even tempted to try it on knotable wire, but before I risk destroying the jaws (however replaceable) on a $50 nipper, I’ll buy a pair of Abel pliers. The jaws do boast a two-year warranty.

Most nippers are either of a one-piece design (steel bent into a long U), or two pieces with their rear flats fixed to each other. In either case the body of the tool provides the spring that keeps the blades apart. Abel’s design is multi-piece, with a hinge at the back. And there’s a true spring, riding on a post at one end, sitting in a well at the other.

This outstanding handiwork and these top-flight materials don’t come cheap, of course. In any of 11 solid finishes, retail price is $50; it’s $100 for one of Abel’s Fish Graphic finishes. —Jim Butler

FWX Reels

One consequence of the current trend toward lighter rods is the need, at least for some, for lighter reels to optimize balance. The new FWX reels from Nautilus fill that requirement handsomely. A heavily ported frame and spool minimize the weight of this large-arbor design; the 5/6-weight model, with a 3.5" spool diameter, tips in at a trim 3.5 ounces. Despite the skeletal chassis, the reel is surprisingly rigid and resists deformation from torque or lateral pressure applied to the spool. I wouldn’t exactly hammer nails with it, but it should easily answer the demands of ordinary use. The drag is precisely what you’d desire—instant spool engagement, smooth and consistent pressure, a good adjustment range—and the mechanism is fully sealed, a necessity to prevent contamination with the open architecture. One particularly nice touch: a laser-etched white spot on the inside face of the spool on which to record the line weight with a waterproof marker; it can be erased with alcohol if you change lines. The FWX has a push-button spool release, easy L/R conversion, and a price that’s reasonable for a high-quality reel. Three models handle 3- to 8-weight lines and range in price from $240 to $280. —Ted Leeson