WHAT SETS IT APART?
A convenient size with lots of storage-minded elements, the Yeti Crossroads Backpack 23 looks like a good fit for a quick weekender where you might carry a single tackle tray, a few packs of plastic baits, light tools and a tablet to scout new spots on Google Maps. Made from durable, 1000D Nylon material lined with 420D Nylon ripstop, the space-efficient design holds a rectangular profile that will fit under an airline seat and won’t whack folks near you every time you turn around.
HOW DO I USE IT?
Measuring 12 1/2 inches wide, 18 tall and 7 deep, the Yeti Crossroads Backpack 23 features a roomy top pocket for smaller items like pliers, sunglasses, wallet and keys and two exterior bottle pockets that remain magnetically collapsed between use. The interior design features a main compartment with multiple organizational elements that will hold tackle trays, rain gear, leader spools, etc., and a rear padded pocket for a tablet or a laptop up to 15 1/2 inches. Yeti’s Structure Arc design feature keeps the bag upright and opens wide for loading/unloading, while an articulated back panel adjusts to the user’s shape.
Right out of the shipping box, the Crossroads 23 stands up with no additional items to weigh it down, while the weatherproof bottom material helps protect your possessions wherever you need to sit the backpack. Wide, well-padded straps have a firm feel with smooth edges for a comfortable wear and cleverly concealed attachment loops beneath the exterior fabric. The hidden zippered stash pocket on the back is a nice touch and a convenient reach for passports, cellphones, etc.
Every year, George Anderson, owner of the Yellowstone Angler in Livingston, Montana, assemble a list of the best 5-weight rods, broken into two categories: presentation and performance, available on the market and put them head-to-head against each other. This annual list is an amazing reference point for anglers looking to upgrade their 5-weight, and the insights provided by the list are far worth a read for anyone looking to pick one up. The team at the shop goes into insane detail to show exactly how these rods perform, using the same reel and line in every test. Yellowstone Anglers’ half-century of fly shop and fly rod experience makes these annual lists invaluable.
32, 5-weight rods entire, two leave. That’s how the Shootout works.
For full results and in-depth discussion of reach rod, check out the Shootout’s page, here.
This Year’s Entrants (Alphabetical):
Presentation: Rods “more suited to fishing dry flies that give you the ultimate in accuracy, delicacy, and presentation.”
Beulah Platinum G2 – $550
Douglas Outdoors Sky G 9 – $795
Fenwick AETOS – $199.95
G. Loomis NRX + LP – $795
Hardy Shadow – $359.95
Hardy Zephrus – $699
Orvis Helios 3F – $898
Sage Trout LL – $800
Scott G Series – $845
Thomas & Thomas Paradigm – $875
Winston Air – $975
Power: Rods “that have the strength to cast more wind resistant dries, and also chuck nymphs with indicators, and even small streamers with ease.”
Yakima Double Haul rooftop rod carrier
Yakima’s Double Haul rooftop rod carrier (photo: Chad Shmukler).
Fly anglers are inundated with gear choices—rods, reels, boots, waders, lines, packs, bags, boxes, vests, apparel and more. Each year, it seems harder and harder to know what’s worth coveting and what’s worth ignoring. Sure, gear reviews are a great way to get a feel for what might be right for you, but not every piece of gear is suited to a full-length review and, even if it were, there’s simply too much of it to get to. With that in mind, we’re debuting a new, monthly feature showcasing gear that’s working for us on the water right now, to hopefully offer more helpful feedback on gear that’s worth a second look.
And it’s worth noting that we won’t be restricting this column to only new gear. The goal here is to provide useful feedback on gear that works—not to help gin up marketing for new products. Sometimes, great gear has just hit the market, other times it’s been here doing good work all along.
YETI PANGA BAGS
Last year, we ventured into a remote rainforest canyon in Chile, reachable only via a long horseback ride over some very rough terrain. Even on a typical ride in—one without the 5 inches of rain that pounded down upon us throughout the trek—gear that is strapped to the packhorses gets smashed and scraped against rock, busted through thicket and tree limbs, and slathered with mud. It’s for this reason that, before being set astride the pack horses, all bags get stuffed into incomprehensibly large, roll-top, waterproof sacks that swallow 3 or 4 full-size duffels at a time. But when sack space ran out for our gear-overloaded group, the gaucho was forced to inspect the duffels and select one to make the trip without the extra protection. You might not be surprised to learn that it was the YETI Panga 100L duffel that made the cut—and, despite taking a heap of abuse the whole ride in, arrived in camp no worse for wear.
Like everything YETI makes, its Panga series of waterproof bags are gleefully over-engineered—whether its Panga duffels or the Panga backpack (seen below). And that’s a good thing when you’re counting on a bag to keep your clothes, electronics and other valuables safe and dry. Unlike most of YETI’s lineup, however, the extra engineering and toughness doesn’t come at a premium, as the Panga lineup is priced right in line with other waterproof bags from competitors.
2-for-1. Orvis’ Helios 3 and YETI’s Panga backpack at work on a rain-soaked salmon stream in the Icelandic highlands (photo: Earl Harper).
ORVIS HELIOS 3
The Helios 3 (seen above) isn’t news anymore. It’s been around for a while now. It’s received a heaping of accolades—as well as its fair share of flack for its can’t-miss-it-on-the-water white butt section. But it’s a series fly rods that continues to impress as we continue to explore it. The do-it-all 5 weights (the “D” and “F” variants) are distinct in character while both being incredibly versatile and we’re often torn on which to fish when heading out for much of our trout fishing. The 7-weight D series has logged many hours slinging streamers on waters both big and small—as it has proven equally well suited to throwing big streamers on long, sinking lines as well as up-close and personal streamer fishing, something we do more and more of these days, making technical, short presentations with floating lines and short, stout leaders. In the salt, the Helios 3 series shines too—with both the 7 and 8 weight H3 excelling when stalking tails on bonefish flats. Truth be told, we’ve yet to fish an H3 model that didn’t end up becoming a favorite.
YAKIMA DOUBLE HAUL ROOFTOP ROD CARRIER
Rooftop rod carriers are certainly nothing new. But, not long ago, they were a highly niche-market item with a limited number of choices available from only a few select retailers. Recently, however, the market for rooftop rod carriers seems to be expanding rapidly. Numerous smaller startups seem to be finding success with a variety of different multi-rod carrier configurations, each with their own unique construction and features. Most recently, Yakima—one of the two largest manufacturers of car and truck-mounted systems—entered the fray with their first fishing-focused offerings, one of which is their Double Haul rooftop fly-rod carrier.
Relatively easy to setup and install, the Double Haul swallows 4 fly rods of up to 11 feet in length as well as big spey and saltwater reels (up to 12 weight). The construction is confidence-inspiring and thoughtful features like felt lined reel bays and rubber spacers for longer, bouncier rides don’t go unnoticed. If, like me, you’re already a Yakima user, you’ll also appreciate that the Double Haul’s locking rear hatch fully integrates with Yakima’s SKS (single key system), meaning you won’t have to add more keys to your already overburdened keyring.
PATAGONIA SHELLED INSULATOR PANTS
Are these the finest under-wader pants ever made? Maybe. Typically, I’m not a fan of wearing much besides baselayers under waders. Warm weather under-wader pants never seem to offer much except unnecessary bulk. Under-wader pants made for colder weather offer even more bulk. In my experience, cold-weather under-wader pants often lead to temperature regulation struggles, as well—hiking in to the river tends to lead to sweltering, panic-inducing, sweat-producing heat which then, regardless of how well your gear wicks moisture, leaves you wet and cold once you settle into a beat on the river. Patagonia’s Shelled Insulator Pants, however, seem to suffer from none of these flaws. Their slim fit and lock-down cuffs let them slide into waders neatly and easily and doesn’t offer any movement-restricting bulk. They’re fleece-grid lined, which offers warmth in addition to or in place of a pair of baselayer pants, but doesn’t trap enough heat to lead to overheating. They’re also perfectly well suited to street wear and stupidly comfortable—so much so that they’re getting even more use on the couch than they are on the water.
TRAILHEAD AUTOMATIC TIRE DEFLATORS
Here on the mid-Atlantic coast, October and November is beach season. Not blanket-and-umbrella beach season, but chasing-birds-and-bait beach season—in search of stripers, bluefish and false albacore. And beach runs mean airing down your tires so that your truck doesn’t dig itself a giant hole in the sand. If you’ve ever aired down your tires, you know that kneeling at each tire, manually pressing the valve stem to let air escape and repeatedly checking the pressure until you’ve reached your target is a tedious, enormous time suck. Enter Trailhead Tire Deflators. With these deflators, there’s no manually letting air out and no pressure checking. They come in sets of four, pre-set from the factory at a beach-friendly 13-or-so pounds, and are easily adjustable to other desired pressures. When you’re within a half mile or so of your destination, you just screw them on to your valve stems and they automatically air down your tires as you finish the rest of your drive—stopping when they reach their pre-set pressure limit. While Trailhead Deflators aren’t the only automatic tire deflators on the market, they’re the most well-built (mostly thanks to fewer moving parts), easy-to-use and reliable of those we’ve tested.
Scientific Anglers released their all-new Absolute Tippet this fall at the IFTD show in Denver. During the IFTD show, Scientific Anglers took home the award for Best New Leader/Tippet with Absolute Trout Tippet. So we wanted to learn a little bit more about the tippet so we asked Scientific Angler’s own R+D Manager Josh Jenkins a couple of questions.
Flylords: How is Absolute Tippet (Mono) different from SA’s previous mono tippet?
Josh: Absolute monofilament is completely new material for SA. The magic in creating a great monofilament boils down to material blends and coatings. There are a bunch of varieties and grades of nylon that can be blended together to obtain different properties. For Absolute, we selected a blend to obtain the highest possible wet knot strength. We emphasize wet knot strength because it is the metric that best represents how tippet is used in the field: it will always be used on water and it will always have a knot in it. Once we selected an optimal material, we found a coating that further enhances those properties. The coating is there to limit water absorption (which weakens nylon) and to reduce friction generated heat from knots.
Flylords: What improvements can anglers expect from the new Absolute tippets?
Josh: We’ve been able to achieve a 30% strength gain in wet knot strength over our older nylon material, so anglers have a huge advantage in fishing strength out of the gate. Our coating also means that Absolute has a longer shelf life, so it won’t degrade as quickly as other monofilaments when it’s sitting on a pack or in a boat. We’ve also created new retaining bands for our tippet that are made of soft rubber. Compared to older, metal grommet style bands, these provide better protection from the environment and they eliminate the possibility of weakening tippet through contact with metal.
Flylords:Tell us a little bit about the Absolute Stealth tippet line.
Josh: Absolute stealth tippet uses the same base material and coating, but has a light olive tint. It sounds counterintuitive, because a fully clear tippet seems stealthier, but the truth is that all monofilament casts a shadow when it is floating on the surface of water. From underneath, floating tippet looks like a dark shadow, and on sunny days it can even be fairly reflective. The olive tint helps to absorb some of that light, so fish see less line flash, especially on high sun days.
Flylords: Will Guide-Size spools be offered?
Josh: 100M guide spools are coming in 2021, so keep an eye out!
Flylords: Any other products we should be on the lookout for heading into 2020?
Josh: We’ve added our popular general-purpose Infinity taper into Amplitude, so that is now available with texturing. We also took what we learned from creating the freshwater Infinity and made a saltwater version. Infinity Salt is available in Amplitude and Amplitude Smooth. It has a longer head length than most of our salt lines. It’s great for accurate, long shots but it still has enough mass to turn over large flies and combat wind.
Buying gifts for someone who likes fly fishing can be daunting. What do they have? What do they need? Will they even use something I pick out?
There are some items that will always be useful. Especially when shopping for someone who has just started fly fishing, certain gifts will absolutely make their way onto the water.
I’ve picked out 12 items from 7 companies that I think any angler on your list will enjoy. Most of them are $30 or less. All of them would benefit someone who is new to fly fishing. All of them would be things veteran fly fishers would still buy, use, and enjoy.
Check out these 12 gifts sure to please a new fly fisher… or one who has been doing it for decades:
With the Holidays right around the corner, and Black Friday scratching at the door, the search for the perfect holiday gifts has officially begun. This year, our team at Flylords is proud to present our annual list of the hottest fly fishing gear on the market. From any preference and price range, we have something that’s sure to make you the best catch of the angler in your life.
Image courtesy of AmazonStaying warm has never been easy. Made of super-soft Marino wool, this product offers maximum comfort paired with Buff brand quality.
2. Duck Camp Co. Women’s Longsleeve Bamboo Crew
Treat the lady-angler in your life to the gift of comfort and style with Duck Camp Co’s featherlight bamboo crew neck.
3. Tacky Fishing Original Fly Box
A perfect stocking stuffer for the angler who ties more than they can tote. The Tacky Fly box is a classic that should be a staple in any anglers pack.
4. Orvis Trout Bum Quilted Jacket
Appropriate for a day on the water, or a night on the town. This quilted jacket is a snug fit for anyone looking to pair style with practicality.
5. Rail Riders Faroe Island Field Shirt (Editor’s Choice)
Built with some of the toughest materials available, this field shirt is up to any challenge you can put it to. A perfect gift to those who are never satisfied with average.
6. Buff Aqua Gloves
For those who can’t keep out of the sun. This is the perfect gift to make sure you or your loved one’s hands stay protected from long exposure from harmful UV rays and salty abrasion. Just remember once you catch a fish to keep your hands wet!
7. Yeti Rambler 16 oz. Stackable Pints
The perfect gift for the Yeti fanatic in your life. These low profile 160z. stackable cups are a perfect home for a frothy beverage enjoyed on the water.
8. Flylords Bear Tee
This is your chance. Finally, a shirt worthy of replacing the 25-year-old, pizza stained, Europe ’72 Tee that the deadhead in your life won’t remove from their body. These officially licensed Grateful Dead tees are one of the hottest items in our shop, so make sure to get yours before supply runs out.
9. Marsh Wear Clothing Rutledge Vest
When looking for outerwear, this vest from our friends at Marsh Wear Clothing immediately caught our eye. Designed with the all-around sporting enthusiast in mind, this vest delivers the versatility and comfort your outdoor lifestyle requires.
The Benchmade 980 is a knife that sets the standard when it comes to quality and endurance. Tried and true, this is the perfect gift for anyone who’s constantly putting their gear to the ultimate tests and depends on consistency and strength.
11. Scientific Anglers Grand Slam Amplitude Fly Line (Editor’s Choice)
When it comes to saltwater fly fishing, there is no easier way to lose a fish than with faulty line. Make sure your angler is loaded up with the best fly line in the game before their next trip in the salt.
12. Biolite Camp Stove 2
This thing must’ve come straight from NASA. With the ability to turn fire into electricity, this is a perfect gift for those who care to push their adventures to the edge of the map without losing their ability to document them.
13. Simms Pro Wading Staff
Wading over slippery rocks in fast currents is the most dangerous thing you can do as an angler. This holiday season, make sure those who are closest to you have the tools they need to stay out of harm’s way when on the water.
The iconic Howler Brothers Merlin is now available in Blackout. This all-black coat is the perfect gift for the angler who values quality fabrics and who’s color pallet may indicate the second coming of the late Johnny Cash.
15. Axis Go Waterproof Phone Housing (iPhone 11)
Ever wonder how we get those insane underwater shots? Well, Axisgo underwater cases are the secret to success. For the phone photographer, there couldn’t be a gift out there that offers more bang for its buck. (Available for all iPhone sizes)
16. Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net
Sometimes the difference between the fish of a lifetime, and a night of sorrow is just a few inches (trust us, we’d know). With this gift, you give the gift of a better night’s sleep as well as a practical means of safely handing big fish.
17. Stio Azura Jacket
For the mountain man in your life, trust the brand that lives for the mountains. The Stio Azura is not only a great looking design, but is lightweight, environmentally conscious, and affordable.
Fly Fishing gifts $200-$300
18. Orvis Ultralight Wading Jacket
This jacket is perfect for the traveling angler in your life. With its sturdy, lightweight design this jacket can be packed into just about anywhere hassle-free, to ensure dryness and comfort.
19. Patagonia Stormfront Pack 30L
Making our list as the bigger, badder, sexier sibling of the original Stormfront pack, this pack does not mess around. For those who need gear that can put up with the harshest conditions, this Patagonia pack has got your back.
20. Costa Del Mar Diego Polarized Sunglasses (Editor’s Choice)
New and improved, Costa presents their newest line of Outdoor Sunglasses: The Diego. Freshwater or Saltwater, these are one of the most dependable, as well as functional shades you can gift someone who loves to fish.
21. Yeti Hopper M30 Portable Cooler
For those who live by the Yeti name, this is a great way to keep your drinks/ food icey and fresh without having to lug around a boxy hard cooler. This holiday season, give the gift of mobility with this incredible soft-body cooler.
22. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL Backpacking Tent
Do you know an angler that spends more time in a sleeping bag than in their own bed? Well, the Big Agnes Copper Spur Backpacking tent is tested and proven to be one of the best lightweight backpacking tents you can find on the market right now.
23. YETI LoadOut GoBox Divided Cargo Case
Back so soon with another great piece of gear, we bring you the YETI GoBox. This case is perfect for holding expensive camera equipment, tools, reels, flies, you name it. Whatever you need to be kept safe will be kept safe in this fortress of a cargo case.
Fly Fishing gifts $300 and Over
24. Denver Outfitters Classic Rod Vault 3
For the angler who is sick and tired of breaking down their rod, or risk their rod breaking during every move to a new spot, Denver Outfitters has you in mind. The rod vault is the perfect gift for the angler with no off-switch.
25. Mavic 2 Pro Aircraft
When it comes to filming with a drone, there is no better option than the Mavic 2 Pro Aircraft. The choice of professionals everywhere, this drone is the perfect gift for the restless filmmaker who’s ready to turn their productions legit.
26. Orvis Mission Spey Rod (Editors Choice)
Orvis, a company whose name has helped define fly fishing, has recently released their new Mission Spey and Switch rod. When it comes to fishing for big fish like salmon and steelhead, you need big tools; that’s why Orvis has invested all their effort and brainpower into engineering this exciting release.
27. Orvis Women’s Pro Waders
Know someone who’s waders are made of more duct tape than wader? Well, this holiday season swap out the patches for Cordura shell, and bless the angler in your life with the waders made for made for pros but preferred by everyone.
28. Ross San Miguel Reel (Editors Choice)
When it comes to engineering Reels, few do it better than Ross. With the sleek new design of the San Miguel Reel manufactured to stand the test of long battles, this reel is a must-have for anyone looking to upgrade their rig.
29.Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots
Our friends over at Patagonia have been working hard in order to deliver their new Foot Tractor wading boots. These boots are built tough, made to last, and are a perfect way to give a gift that’ll keep on giving many years down the road.
30. Axis Go Underwater Housing for DSLR
So you’re ready to take your photography to the next level. The AxisGo underwater camera house is the best way to change the game with amazing underwater shots, without ever having to worry about the safety of expensive camera equipment. (We shoot almost all of our underwater shots with this rig)
31. Outcast Stealth Pro Inflatable Pontoon Boat
Every year millions of anglers suffer from entanglement due to tight casting conditions. But now, you can help those in need with the simple donation of an Outcast Stealth Pro inflatable pontoon boat. Deliver all of the versatility of a boat, without the outrageous price of extra weight.
32. Danner Mountain Light Boots
Constructed with full-grain leather and Gore-Tex liner, these boots are an updated take on an old classic. Perfect for those who enjoy hiking and depend on strong boots to take them down roads less traveled.
33. Mac Book Pro (16 inch)
Lightning fast, dependable, perfect for editing those incredible fly fishing adventure shots…need we say more? When looking for a new laptop, check out the model trusted by Flylords, the Mac Book Pro.
34. YETI – Tarpon Book
Packed to the brim with breathtaking shots captured by guide David Mangum and team, there isn’t a book that exists that’s quite like this one. A perfect gift for the Angler who’s blood consists of salt and adventure, this book is sure to complete any literary collection.
35. Wade Deep “The Frost” Hat (Support Small Businesses)
If you follow fly tying mastermind @Svendiesel, then you’ve probably heard about this insanely cool collection of lids. Brought to you by Wade Deep, a company that’s making a splash in the fly fishing industry, these hats are not only stylish, but functional. Designed with a built-in rubberized fly patch, these hats will ensure you never have to rip your seems or worry about losing loose flies ever again.
36. Bad-Ass Fish prints – Jake Keeler (Artist Spotlight)
When it comes to creating fish inspired art, absolutely NOBODy does it quite like Jake Keeler. Feeling as if these prints are drawn straight from a Nordic epic, these prints take a refreshing departure from your traditional painting of a grip and grin, and will surely act as a conversation starter during any gathering.
37. A copy of Live the Stream: The Story of Joe Humphreys (Editor’s Choice)
If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out on a lifechanging experience. “Live the Stream: The Story of Joe Humphreys” focuses on the life of the legendary angler, philanthropist, and educator, Joe Humphreys. Nomadic Studios encapsulates the true spirit of Fly Fishing through a visual and cinematic achievement that will inspire new anglers for generations to come. This holiday season, share the gift of “Live the Stream” with someone who has a passion for fishing, nature, and timeless tales.
38. Flylords Reel Pouches
Here at Flylords, we know that reels are expensive. So, why not treat them and all their beauty in a way that shows we care. Introducing: The Flylords Quilted Rod Case. These inexpensive cases are a great way to keep your rod safe and sound whether it’s mid-transit or tucked away for a long winter.
While catch and release is our go-to, nothing beats enjoying a meal you caught by a roaring campfire. With this tradition in mind, we recommend taking a peek at our friend Kayla Lockhart’s elegant hand-painted filet knives. Each knife can be customized to match any species you prefer, as well as mountainscapes, treelines, or any other outdoor design that holds a special place in your heart.
40. Customized Abel Reel
Speaking of incredible handpainted gifts, our friends over at Abel reels offer an extensive number of incredible and unique patterns in order to make the perfect reel. Freshwater, saltwater, trout or Tarpon, there’s a design that will channel the spirit of any angler.
41. Ombraz Armless Sunglasses
When it comes to sunglasses, Ombraz is far from traditional. With their armless design, these glasses are low profile, and up to the toughest challenges you can present to them. Available in a plethora of colors, these sunglasses are a great gift for those who cant seem to go a week without breaking their shades.
42. Take Someone Fishing!
Whether it’s their first time on the water or their 10,000th, there’s no better gift to give than bringing someone on an adventure. Push aside all the premonitions that clutter the meaning of our true mission as anglers, and go make some memories that could never hold a price tag.
Five years ago I purchased my first pair of waders, which happened to be made by Orvis. After five years of heavy use, I was ready to upgrade to the all new Orvis Women’s PRO Wader. It only made sense as every week I was finding myself fishing in all types of water and weather conditions and whenever possible I strike out for a travel adventure to fish new territories.
So this fall I flew up to British Columbia with Team Flylords and it was time to break these waders in. We helicoptered into lakes and 4 wheeled to various rivers. The woods and the waters were beyond cold but my Orvis Pro Waders kept me warm and dry.
Not only do my waders keep me warm and dry but they fit me well. I am 5’9” tall and I fit a small-tall which are still roomy. Another one of my favorite features is the removable knee pads. I had no idea that was even an option!
The other key features I’ve come to depend on are the hand warming pockets, the handy flip out pouch where I can store all my fishing gear and phone, and a new clip style to their shoulder straps as well as new gravel guards. Orvis waders are not only well made with key features, but they have really stepped up their sizing options for the female anglers.
So we decided to go straight to the source and ask Jim Kershaw the Senior Designer for Fish/Hunt products at the Orvis Company a little bit more about these all-new waders.
Flylords: How long does the overall design process take for a new line of waders?
Orvis: Typically, with a new wader program, the research and design phase is a two year process. For the PRO Wader program specifically, we spent two years working with CORDURA® to develop the fabric in addition to our normal design and development process. Ultimately the additional time spent on the fabric and testing helped us create the best wader Orvis has ever made.
Flylords: How does R&D work when designing?
Orvis: It’s all about trial and error. We spend a lot of time listening, exploring, testing and failing. What we learn through the process often helps guide our design direction. Here at Orvis, function drives Form. In order to build the best gear possible, we need to make sure that it can stand up to the abuse and is rigorously tested, even the smallest things (like a screen-printed logo) gets tested to ensure that the quality meets our requirements.
Flylords: What sets the Orvis PRO waders apart from the rest?
Orvis: CORDURA®. Given these were built with Alaskan guides in mind, guides that are wearing these 12-14 hours a day, jumping in and out of boats and airplanes, they want a reliable and durable wader that is fail-safe… Something they can wear and NOT worry about. CORDURA® uses a blended nylon that’s certified to meet their quality standards for high abrasion resistance and durability. Given the nature of their business, a partnership made sense in developing the most durable wader fabric we have seen. We could have taken the easy way out and chosen one of the traditional wader fabrics, added some new features, changed the fit, but essentially it would be the same as the competition. We wanted to do better.
Flylords: What is your favorite design feature on the new waders?
Orvis: Honestly, it’s the CORDURA® fabric. We had quite a bit of pushback when we started to develop the fabric with the mills… They didn’t want to do it because they said it would be too stiff and heavy. After a couple years of development, we finally had a sample we were comfortable moving forward with to test on a wader. When we got these into the field we learned a lot. We tweaked the weave and finish to get a softer hand, worked on making sure the fabric could live up to the same puncture requirements as our briar pants and wasn’t too thick or stiff for manufacturing. After the tweaks, the fabric and additional testing the fabric exceeded our expectations and was truly something game-changing for our industry.
Flylords: Can we expect a zip-front or convertible model?
Orvis: The product development team is exploring the possibility of a zip-front and boot foot version of the PRO Wader.
Flylords: Tell us a little about the design features for the women’s model.
Orvis: Through a lot of our testing and feedback we heard time and time again that our women’s gear needs to be comparable to the men’s. For the women’s PRO Wader model, we wanted to focus on perfecting fit and offer the same features as the men’s waders.
The Flylords team caught up with the fellas over at Chums, the Utah based outdoor brand is known for pioneering and inventing sunglass retainers. A common accessory among anglers. Check out the interview below to learn more about the company and some of the new products they are offering like the Storm Series Waterproof Bags.
Flylords: Can you tell us a little about where the Chums story began?
Chums story starts back in 1983, when a river guide was sick of watching his glasses sink to the bottom of the Colorado River (pictured above). He had the ingenious idea of holding his sunglasses on the a shoelace. 35 years and a few iterations later here we are with a huge line of sunglass retainers (Chums) and an expanding product line.
Flylords: Where is your company based? What are some local adventures that your team enjoys?
Chums currently has 3 different locations: Hurricane Utah (where we continue to manufacture many of our products), Salt Lake City and Sun Valley Idaho.
Chums was started on the water and our hearts are still out there. Rafting and fishing are what we focus on and how we spend most of our time.
Flylords: I know you recently dropped some killer dry bags (which we had a chance to test out in Belize) can you tell us a little about these products, and what makes them unique?
With our Dry Bags we were really trying to focus on a demographic that we felt like was missed. Not everyone has a couple hundred bucks to drop on a bag from the big guys. We designed a bag that could stand up to the harshest conditions while remaining affordable for anyone.
Flylords: Do you want to highlight any conservation efforts Chums has been working on in 2019?
Here at Chums we are always trying to do a little better, from creating product from sustainable material to donating to local and national non profits. We focus a lot on river restoration and do a lot of work with American Rivers and American Whitewater.
Flylords: If you were going to put together a dream fishing trip for the Chums team where do you think you would go?
It’s hard to beat the fishing in our own backyard of Sun Valley: Big Wood, Silver Creek and Big Lost. But we always love shaking it up and hunting something new, maybe go chase some Marlin around Australia.
Flylords: If you had to name three Chums essential products for a day on the water what would they be?
Our Rolltop Backpack for sure, make sure that you can carry all your essentials and keep them dry. You can’t go wrong with any of our retainers but our Cotton Stripes are a staple for all of us around here. Something we all have on us here at all times is our Surfshorts Wallet, we take them with us everywhere.
Testimonials from our Belize Trip:
“A versatile waterproof bag that doesn’t break the bank. I used the Chums Rolltop Backpack for a couple of days of flats fishing down in Southern Belize and loved how lightweight and simple the bag was yet it still stood up to the saltwater like a pro. The water bottle side pocket is a great feature many other dry bags don’t have.” -Patrick Perry, Managing Editor of Flylords Mag.
Be sure to check out Chums’ Fishing Division online here and give them a follow on Instagram @chumsusa.
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Orvis’ purpose-built pike and musky specialist is a shockingly good value
by Tom Hazelton
Minnesota and Wisconsin must have some of the highest tarpon-rods-per-capita in the country, outside Florida. Most of these rods, of course, will never see a drop of salt water, unless you count tears — because musky anglers shed plenty, whether from icy November gales, chronic tendonitis, or the worst of all, trout sets.
But one thing we aren’t crying about any more is the struggle to find a decent musky rod. Big, stiff, saltwater rods were the only option back when the musky craze kicked off a decade or so ago, but now there’s a fistfull of specialty “predator” rods on the market, some made by rod designers that understand that you don’t use a musky rod the same way you use a tarpon rod.
A saltwater big-game rod is designed to be fast and light, for occasionally placing small flies accurately in the wind, while still having an iron backbone for wearing out giant fish. They are refined and strong, yet delicate, and carefully stowed when not on the bow of the skiff.
A musky rod needs to be fast enough to cast giant, heavy flies on heavy lines, yet still forgiving enough to do so all day long. It needs to battle a giant fish just long enough to get it in the net — think roping a steer, not braking a locomotive — and be durable enough for driftboat duty on the rocky, woody rivers of the upper Great Lakes.
A quick note on rod weight ratings. For the size of musky flies that I prefer to fish — based on ones I’ve been given or purchased from some of the best tiers and guides in the business — a 450-grain full-sink line is perfect. It really takes an 11-weight rod to cast these. A ten with a 400 is fine for smaller flies, and late-season giant hunters might prefer a 12-weight with a 500 or 550-grain line. But the 11-weight class is the bread-and-butter.
Of course — in the hands of the right caster, and paired with the right line, any rod can be workable. Lots of muskies have been landed on unsalted tarpon rods, however inelegantly.
But there is one other major problem with these rods: cost. A budget-minded angler looking for a five-weight or eight-weight rod has plenty of options, and many good ones. Not so with 10 and 11 weight rods, which often approach a thousand bucks. There are budget 10 weights — and a very few 11s — but too often they’re either a telephone pole or a noodle.
But now, we have musky-rod options. Sometimes they’re simply rebadged saltwater rods, and sometimes they’re purpose-built. Usually, you’ll see an extended fighting butt, and sometimes extended full-wells grip. Most of the time, like any specialty rod, they’re placed near the top price level of a given company’s lineup.
Which is why when I saw that Orvis was introducing an 11 weight, 9’4” rod in their entry-level Clearwater line, I was intrigued. I’ve got a couple other Clearwater rods, and find them to be better than you’d expect for the price. They’re made in Asia, like all rods at this price point, but designed by the same rod shop that gave us all three award-winning Helios designs.
The Clearwater rod series is the epitome of my budget gear-buying rule: always choose low-priced models from a high-end company, rather than high-priced models of an entry-level company.
Once I got a demo in my hands, I was more impressed. Our musky camp crew took it on a three-day late October snow squall in northern Minnesota. We had wind, cold, waves, and very few fish encounters. We didn’t have time for lots of line swapping, wiggle tests, or distance casting. We just fished.
The design choices
On paper, it’s almost the perfect musky rod. It’s an 11 weight, which already puts it in the vast minority of budget rods of any style. The extended fighting butt is a great feature for deep figure-eights, or what Wisconsin guide Chris Willen once called “fifty percent of your cast.” Orvis went a step further and actually added the 4” of fighting butt to the rod length — it’s 9’4” overall. They also upgraded the reel seat design from the previous Clearwater models, which is extra nice as reels tend to loosen up when you’re casting all day. The double locking rings are heavily knurled so you can check tightness even with gloves on. One wish-list item left unchecked is an extended grip on the front of the full wells — which adds nice leverage for musky wrangling, and the option of two-hand casting — but that’s surely too much to ask at this price point.
During our blizzard musky camp, this rod handled my standard 10-14” flies comfortably with both the 450-grain Orvis PRO Depth Charge and with my go-to 450-grain Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold. It’s labeled as a “fast” action but it doesn’t feel “fast” compared to the 11-weight Helios 3D, or my 11-weight Helios 2. It’s soft in the right places to cushion the shock of your wet fly when your timing isn’t perfect, while still having a very low perceived swing weight. It’s a highly fishable rod that didn’t wear us out.
As for fish fighting: well, muskies just need to be horsed. You give them no quarter, no slack, no line. As long as it’s not a noodle, any heavy rod will do the job. While we didn’t land any muskies that weekend, a friend of mine landed no less than three in one day on the Clearwater this fall, and said it wrangled them handily.
The overall fit and finish
If you look closely, you can see imperfections in the epoxy and thread wraps; that’s true for most imported rods. But the effect of the grey blank, modern badging that aligns with the H3’s styling, and subdued colors is that of a rod that’s not trying to be something it’s not. Same for the grip: rubberized on the ends, decent cork in the middle. It’s not a fancy rod. It’s a working rod. Get it dirty and slimy, and forget about it. It’ll do the job.
At $249, this rod has no business casting this well, or having these wish-list features. It comes in significantly lower than its closest competitor, the TFO Esox, which is itself a great value. Personally, I think the Clearwater is the better rod, too — especially when it comes to swing weight. And it’s backed by the Orvis 25-year warranty.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
I wish Orvis had released this rod five years ago. I have a pile of cheap-to-mid-priced 10 and 11 weights, none of which hit the spot just right. I’ve been asked “what rod should I get for muskies?” dozens of times, and until now, I had no go-to answer, at any price. The Clearwater fits, for any angler, from dabbler to musky junkie.
Are there nicer-looking musky rods available? Are there lighter, faster musky rods available? Yes to both. But not at this price. Not even close. There are also a lot of heavy, clunky, imported 10 and 11 weight rods out there for this price — and more — that are no fun to cast, let alone all day.
A musky guide boat would be well-equipped with a handful of these in the racks, and so too would a first-time musky-curious angler be well-armed with one as their first toe-dip into the world of Esox.