Rio InTouch technical trout
This line is built to present small flies gently to selective trout at a distance. Our field tester fished this on two different rivers in Pennsylvania, a technical spring creek and a limestone stream. He found it to be a great match for small dry flies, wet flies, and smaller nymphs. A long 52-foot head allowed for tight loops when casting longer lengths of line. It was able to turn over the long leaders needed for spooky fish and present small flies accurately and delicately. The ultra-low-stretch ConnectCore made setting the hook fast and offered a high level of sensitivity while nymph fishing. The sky blue head blends in on a bright day, while the peach middle section is highly visible in all light conditions. Even at shorter distances, the front taper lands smoothly and softly. The Technical Trout series comes in two other versions, a weight-forward (Technical Trout WF) and double-taper (Technical Trout DT) line. $100 | rioproducts.com
Simms Dry Creek Z Backpack
Waterproof zippers have been around for years, but the TruZip toothless waterproof closure on this new submersible pack from Simms is not something we’ve seen before. A normal zipper has hundreds of tiny teeth, and each one has to lock perfectly onto the next to create a waterproof seal. If just one of those teeth breaks or deforms—or if sand and salt jam the teeth—then the bag leaks, or more commonly, the zipper won’t even close. The Dry Creek Z Backpack avoids these hundreds of potential problems with a toothless zipper that is silent, dustproof, and reliable. The bag is constructed from 300D ripstop polyester with a PU coating on the face of the bag, and a TPU coating on the backside. With a 35-liter interior plus a water-resistant exterior stash pocket, this backpack is at home in any boat, rainstorm, or wherever you wade deep. It has exterior cam-strap lash points, a centered D-ring net holder, and a loop field for wet flies. The interior organizational pockets for passports, wallets, keys, and iPhone make this perfect for travel abroad as well. Available in cloud camo (shown) and tan. $300 | simmsfishing.com
Cortland Streamer Series floating, 10' sink tip, 15' sink tip
The new Streamer Series from Cortland has an aggressive front taper to turn over large flies, and a short 26-foot body with a stepped, functional rear taper that gives you some ability to roll cast and mend when you are fishing in tight streams with a lot of brush and pocketwater. The lines are overweighted by a full AFFTA-standard line size (the 5-weight is actually a 6) so it makes your stiff streamer rod bend deeply with just one false cast, and launch quickly. A clear color change at the start of the 64-foot running line gives you a visual reference point so you know when it’s easiest to both pick up and shoot line. The Streamer Series comes in three versions: floating, with a 10-foot type 6 sink tip, and with a 15-foot type 6 sink tip. In rivers this covers 99% of the situations, whether you’re fishing the banks from a drift boat or plunge pools and boulder gardens in freestone streams. Use it anywhere you are sniping specific spots. The only time you wouldn’t use this line is if you are wading large, broad rivers and sweeping runs where you want to make long casts, mend, and control the fly through the entire swing. $80 | cortlandline.com
Scientific Anglers Absolute Leaders
Fly fishers are generally pretty good about picking up after themselves. When I see litter along the stream, it’s often in the form of Styrofoam bait containers, balls of monofilament, or cigarette butts. And walking on isolated beaches it’s water bottles, flip-flops, and other debris. I rarely see leader packages. But when Scientific Anglers came out with an entire new product line of Absolute tapered leaders, someone still had the foresight to responsibly create all the paper-based packaging. The product envelope—including the biodegradable clear cellophane window—is all recyclable. Yes, the leaders are excellent. There are extruded nylon and fluorocarbon leaders for general- purpose trout, long and delicate presentations, streamers, nymphing, stillwater trout, bass, and also for flats species like bonefish and permit. Scientific Anglers came out with 15 new leader products for 2020, and while from a personal perspective, one leader package here and there is a little innocuous in terms of the global pollution, it’s nice to see a company that cares enough to make the packaging of an entire product category fall in line with passionate consumers who care about our rivers and streams. $7 | scientificanglers.com
Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel 100I
I’ve taken the original Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel to Chile, Argentina, Seychelles, New Zealand, Mongolia, and Russia. The wheels have rolled across sandy beaches in Mexico, Belize, and the Bahamas, and through mud and rocks in Bolivia and Brazil. I can tell you that these are the sturdiest, most durable wheels (and retractable handle) I’ve ever experienced. The most important thing Patagonia has changed with this new version is improving the exterior fabric from nylon to a tough 100% recycled polyester ripstop with weather-resistant TPU film laminate and a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. That means the new bags with the new Patagonia logo designs can sit in the rain on airport runways, get pelted with salt spray in the boat, and your stuff will stay dry. The bag has a cavernous 100-liter interior, but there’s also a zippered side pocket and two interior mesh zippered pockets to help keep things organized. $350 | Patagonia.com
Ross San Miguel
The classic San Miguel is instantly recognizable because of its high-gloss black finish on a solid frame, and the “flower petal” porting on the spool. This is the reel that built the Ross brand more than 20 years ago.
The new San Miguel ($595, rossreels.com) has the same design aesthetics, but the updated version has a smooth, wide-range sealed drag system constructed of stacked disks of carbon fiber and stainless steel. The new San Miguel also has an updated canvas Micarta handle, a material used in knives to improve grip when wet. We’ve used the same type of handle on larger Ross saltwater reels, and the material provides more traction—especially when wet—than machined aluminum or plastic handles.
The San Miguel has a large-arbor spool with a stainless steel push-button release and is available in three sizes: 3/4, 4/5, and 5/6.
Costa Diego with sunrise silver mirror lenses
These are the same 580 glass polarized lenses that have already set Costa apart from other brands in terms of clarity and fish-spotting acuity. Sunrise lenses are the best choice when conditions are tough—mornings, evenings, dark cloudy days—in other words, when it matters the most.
However, the Diego frames ($280, costadelmar.com) are new for 2020 and after testing them for weeks in the steamy jungles of Bolivia and Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, I can report they are the highest-performing frames I’ve ever had on my sweaty face. The frames have a nosepad and temple venting system that works in tropical conditions to keep the lenses from fogging, top and side shields to block light, and sweat management channels on the interior to redirect stinging sweat away from your eyes. The arm tips are built with holes for a retainer, and the frames have tough, 100-degree hinges that can stand up to rugged conditions. —Ross Purnell
Orvis Pro waders
Orvis is always pioneering new technology and pushing the limits of design to build some of the best fly-fishing products available. The new Pro waders series ($500, orvis.com), available in both men’s and women’s versions, is the best wader they have ever produced. These waders are “designed for anglers, built for athletes” and after 9,000 hours of guide testing, these waders can take some serious abuse.
The proprietary Cordura fabric shell tops 5 layers on the bottom, and 4 layers on the top, providing a durable exterior that is highly resistant to punctures and abrasion. Low-profile seams and a gusseted crotch allow for a wider range of motion and less stress on the seams. Anatomically correct neoprene stockingfeet have less bulk and fit more comfortably inside your wading boots. Water drag is a common problem with poor-fitting waders. Orvis negates this by making the Pro wader a trimmer fit. The waders also have gravel guards with PU-reinforced mesh in the rear that stretches and grips the heels of your boots firmly, making you more streamlined while wading.
To say this wader is feature-rich is an understatement—it’s a tool-docking and storage dream. The front pocket has a YKK AquaGuard water-resistant zipper, fly patch, and rubberized daisy chain. A flip-out removable pocket acts like a small chest pack with its two pockets and rubberized daisy chain. A kangaroo-style, fleece-lined handwarmer pocket with AquaGuard zippers creates a deep pouch and cozy place to warm your hands. A stretch mesh internal pocket lays flat when it’s empty so it doesn’t interfere with your layering. An interior hook-and-loop patch accommodates the Orvis waterproof pocket (sold separately). OrthoLite removable kneepads offer protection and stealthiness when you are kneeling to cast to wary fish—competition fly fishers will like this addition. Adjustable elastic suspenders have opposing buckles for waist-high conversion. A small D-ring is on the rear connection of the suspenders.
The women’s Pro wader is also an athletic fit, cut for women, and offers a total of 14 sizes, including subcategories of petite, regular, and tall. All features are available on both waders. The men’s version comes in 14 sizes.
Denver Outfitters Rod Vault 2
On my first fly-fishing trip, I slid my assembled rod into the back of our orange Toyota Corolla and snapped the tip cleanly off. I was seven years old, and I cried. Since then, rod-carrying systems have come a long way, and we’ve evolved all the way up to the Denver Outfitters Rod Vault 2.
The vault is slick and easy to install. I was able to attach it in a few minutes, securing it to my roof rack with hardware to withstand the most aggressive automatic car wash. The tubes are aircraft-grade aluminum, and at top speed, the rack stays as silent as a spring creek. When I’m driving, I don’t notice they are up there. The vault holds rods up to 10.5 feet and coddles them in non-abrasive plastic lining inside the tubes.
Although it’s called the Rod Vault, this is a safe, secure place for your reels also, which are meant to be kept on the rods when you store them. The rod safes aren’t cheap, but with a lockable case, your kit will stay safe even while fishing Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek.
When I first fired my rod into the vault I was delighted to find it slid in without catching. Likewise, the simple but practical design allowed me to pull out my rod and dash to the riffles faster than an archer could rip an arrow from a quiver.
The Rod Vault 2 holds two rods, but there is also a Rod Vault 4 that holds four rods ($600) and the company also offers custom lengths for longer rods.
While the Rod Vault 2 is not essential for occasional fly fishers, it’s perfect for extended road trips, guides, and anyone who fishes often and wants to maximize their time on the water. It also just might save you some tears in the end. $400 | denveroutfitters.com –Brian Irwin