Kudo Awards 2011

Kudo Awards 2011

  • By: Joe Healy
  • , Ted Leeson
  • , Buzz Bryson
  • and Greg Thomas
Kudo Awards 2011

Hatch Reels

Except for the angler, a fly reel is the only piece of fly-fishing equipment with any significant moving parts, and those of us with a weakness for fine reels appreciate them in part as machinery. Some offer the finely tuned elegance of a Ferrari, others the classic, understated solidity of a Rolls or Bentley. Hatch reels are a little different: their engineering appears to derive largely from a Brink’s truck—a very handsomely crafted, precision-made, cleanly finished Brink’s truck, to be sure. But their philosophical core clearly owes much to the armored car.

I’ve fished a Hatch reel every season since 2005, shortly after Hatch hatched as a manufacturer. Though made for a 6-weight fly line, it’s taken bonefish in Belize, carp in Montana, steelhead and coho in Oregon, as well as trout in half-a-dozen states. I’ve fished it with tippets from 6X to 16 pound test without the slightest hint of a hiccup in performance. The stacked stainless steel and Rulon discs in a fully sealed drag engage instantly and apply steady, unfailing resistance through the range of settings. From the smart large-arbor proportions, to the integrally machined reel foot, to the big drag knob and handle, everything about the reel speaks to pure, efficient function.

But perhaps what I’ve come to appreciate most about the reel is the outstanding ruggedness and reliability. It’s sat for hours in funky bilge, been plopped on sandbars and beaches, bounced around in skiffs and drift boats. But except for a quick rinse after salt water use, my “care” of this reel over the years has consisted of “exactly nothing.” It’s responded to this criminally negligent maintenance by just doing what it’s always done—paying out and taking up line with unruffled smoothness. So kudos to Hatch, for whom the term “lifetime product” still has a meaning uncorrupted by advertising slogans. www.hatchoutdoors.com —Ted Leeson

BUFF Headwear

Buffs are like potato chips—you won’t be able to stop with just one. As evidence, I quickly rummaged through my two main (fresh and salt) gear bags. There were four Buffs of various patterns, all of the UV-protective variety. I know of at least one more, of Merino wool, which has to be replaced, in duplicate, as it has become thoroughly ragged, floating between my winter trout gear and my winter jogging (Okay, walking with my aging knees) gear. Buffs aren’t solo headwear—they don’t have the bill caps that hats have. But they do provide sun protection to the face, ears and neck, which a conventional cap just can’t do, at least not as effectively. And the Buff is wonderfully flexible. It can cover your noggin in at least a dozen ways, from a simple neck or head band to a full-face, eyeballs-only-showing covering. Made of polyester micro-fiber or Merino wool, there are models for virtually any weather condition, protecting against sun, heat, cold and wind. And insects. So, the Buff is functional, literally covering and protecting. But function alone, however nice, would be pretty boring and certainly unremarkable. Sunscreen will do the same thing, albeit making you feel like a well-oiled piece of meat being grilled. And protection is only half of what makes the Buff popular. Its attraction comes from the eye-catching patterns—there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens—allowing you to show your colors, and make pretty much any statement you’d care to. Buy it for style or for function—you get plenty of both in the same package. www.buyabuff.com —Buzz Bryson

Redington Sonic Pro Waders

While many of us still feel the current economic woes, there’s a silver lining for fly-fishers—that being a wealth of quality price-point product on the market these days. And one of the most noted items is Redington’s Sonic Pro waders, which use a revolutionary seem design and served me well in 2010 having stood up to the trials of British Columbia and Alaska and numerous ventures on the Northern Rocky’s trout and steelhead streams. I’m notoriously tough on gear, but the Sonic Pro waders with their “sonic” weld having taken a beating in stride.

Of course waders are waders and any pair could fail with one swipe from a delinquent blackberry vine. But chances are these breathable waders—with five-layer material on the legs for durability and three-layer on the upper body for comfort—will provide lots of service. The Sonic Pro’s offer fleece-lined hand warming slots and a unique, zippered pouch that flips out from the inside front top of the wader. That pouch has a large pocket (great for split shot or a small fly box) and several slots and clip tabs for tools. I’ve found that one of those slots is perfect for holding a Backwoods Smoke, attitude adjustment ammo when the fishing turns sour and a recalculation is required. They’re also available with or without a front, easy-access zipper.

George Cook, a revered Northwest steelheader and a rep for the Redington brand, is a huge proponent of the product. “Today’s market/consumer wants the wader-dollar to take him as many stream miles as possible and these waders do it. The Sonic weld has proven to be incredibly strong, smooth and, importantly, non-abrasive. In addition, there are lots of angler-centric features, including a gravel guard clip that stays clipped and doesn’t catch your line.” My final take: I beat on these waders in 2010 and they go into the 2011 season without a leak. Can’t think of a better endorsement for waders you can get into for as little as $249. Kudo. www.redington.com —Greg Thomas

Tomorrow’s Fly Fishers

As the credits rolled, my 2½ year old son Teagan said, “Dada, can we watch it again?” No better review could be written for this DVD. Here is a window for our children and grandchildren, neighbors, nieces and nephews to experience fly-fishing in a fun and easy-to-follow format. Tim Rajeff goofs around and teaches the snap of the presentation cast with wet paint brushes; Lori-Ann Murphy gets in the stream and demonstrates mending; Rachael Andras talks bugs; and über-grandma Fanny Krieger ties it all together with gentle instruction and narration. My son was transfixed. We watched Tomorrow’s four times in one sitting, and weeks later he still chooses it over Thomas the Train and, yes, Barney. For the hope that this DVD brings for future year-classes of fly fishers, it may just be the most important product introduced in the past couple years. The fly-fishing industry has been waiting for another big-name “Movie” like A River Runs Through It to bring new bodies to fly-fishing. Maybe we don’t need a Movie: we need more DVDs like this one. www.fannykrieger.com —Joe Healy