A Tackle Showcase

A Tackle Showcase

Once again we turned loose FR&R contributing editors Buzz Bryson, Ted Leeson and Darrel Martin at the International Fly Fishing Retailer Show. Our trio

  • By: Darrel Martin
  • , Buzz Bryson
  • and Ted Leeson
Once again we turned loose FR&R contributing editors Buzz Bryson, Ted Leeson and Darrel Martin at the International Fly Fishing Retailer Show. Our trio of tackle experts spent three days talking to manufacturers and searching the aisles for all types of innovative tackle that will appear on fly shop display racks in 2006. At the end of the show, we had each of them write up a few of the more interesting items they came across. You will find those write-ups below. But please note that this list contains just a small number of the new products our editors discovered.This is because we simply do not have the space to include all of the great new tackle items in a single issue. You'll find much more tackle for 2006 in the New Gear column of upcoming issues of FR&R. -The Editors RIO AgentX AgentX is RIO's new manufacturing process in which two coatings are applied to the line core. The innermost coating derives its floating characteristics from a super-low-density chemical rather than the more commonly used hollow microballoons. RIO says the specific gravity is as low as 0.65, which is way, way under the specific gravity of 0.85--0.90 of most floating lines. The outer coating is standard PVC, and does contain some microballoons. But because of the low density of the inner core, the outer core can contain fewer microballoons than are incorporated into other fly lines. Thus RIO says the outer core is both slicker and more durable. Overall, RIO says the line has a specific gravity of around 0.70, so the end result is a higher-floating, slicker, better performing line. $58-$154. -Buzz Bryson L.L. Bean Rapid River Vest Pack Vest packs come and go, and ordinarily leave no impression on me other than grooves in my shoulders and a sore back. But the Rapid River Vest Pack promises a distinctly more comfortable experience, thanks in part to a usefully designed waist belt. Unlike the thin, nylon-webbing straps that are commonly used, the waist belt here is wide and fully padded-the kind of thing you find on full-size backpacks. This one actually helps bear the load, taking pressure off shoulders and neck while offering lumbar support. Adjustment points at the shoulders and sides ensure that everything fits right to distribute weight comfortably to your hips. The pack portion presents a slim, non-snag profile for bushwhacking and at the same time it is usefully sized-not pointlessly voluminous, but with room for raingear, lunch, camera, optional hydration bladder and a few extras. The vest front largely avoids the growing trend toward semi-rigid, molded-foam pockets and padding that make you look vaguely like an Imperial Stormtrooper and offer no ventilation. Two drop-down front pockets have ripple-foam inserts that can be removed for ordinary fly-box storage. And there are smaller pockets inside and out, including two pockets on the waistband side. Overall capacity is slightly lower than in an average vest, but it still packs plenty for a day trekking in the boonies. This is an intelligently designed, nicely made item, and one of the best parts is the price, a nice value in a vest pack. $89. -Ted Leeson Skip's Original Yarn Anchor Some products are elegantly simple and effective. One such is the Yarn Anchor, an unusual strike indicator, from Skip Halterman at Skip's Original Fly-Fishing Products. The Yarn Anchor attaches to the leader by passing a soft rubber "anchor" twice or more through a hole to trap the leader. It has two basic advantages: It quickly and conveniently adjusts for various drift depths and locks on wherever it is positioned. Fierce casting will not change the placement. Furthermore, it neither kinks nor damages the leader in any manner. For a smooth glide, wet the leader before sliding the anchor to a different position. The strike indicator, a polypropylene tuft, is treated with siloxane to keep it dry, but it can be coated with flotant for a higher float. $4.99. -Darrel Martin Ross Flycast Reels Low-cost fly reels are a dime a dozen-which is generally just what they're worth. But the new Flycast is a different creature altogether. Like most economy reels, this one is manufactured overseas; unlike most, it is subject to rigorous oversight by the domestic parent company. The Flycast was entirely designed and refined by Ross engineers, who also exercise strict quality control over the finished product, and any necessary service is performed at the Ross plant. The end result is an economy reel with uncommonly close manufacturing tolerances-no wobble or slop in the spool, no chatter or stick in the drag. The frame and spool are machined aluminum castings with an electrostatically applied paint finish that penetrates the metal for greater durability. The drag uses an offset disk design, with all Delrin-to-Delrin contact surfaces that eliminate the wear problems of Delrin-to-metal and makes the entire system self-lubricating. Left/right conversion is a simple matter; remove the quick-release spool, slide the clutch gear off the spindle, and replace it upside down. Four sizes are available with line capacities from 4-weight (plus 100 yards of backing) to 7-weight (plus 250 yards of backing). Not just another cheapie import, these are designed by people with experience and backed by a real-deal company. For the money, these are pretty hard to beat. $60-$75. -Ted Leeson Whiting Farms' Herbert-Miner Dun Hackles Quality medium-gray dun, the Holy Grail of hackles, has always been scarce in the fly-tying world. Past breeding efforts were often inconsistent in terms of barb size and usability. But Whiting Farms' new Herbert-Miner Dun Cape is about to change all that. In 1996, Whiting Farms assumed stewardship of the superb Hebert-Miner gene pool-at that time, the best source of gray dun capes. The 10 subsequent years of intense scientific breeding eliminated the inferior capes, as Whiting kept crossing the top one percent to achieve a new standard gray dun. The result is supremely usable capes commensurate with their cost. The major advancement is an increase in the usable portion-the sweet spot-of the hackle. $36-$70. -Darrel Martin Orvis Zero Gravity Rods I first fished one of these, a 9-foot 5-weight, last spring and, frankly, was a bit underwhelmed-a nice fly rod, but nothing special (I wasn't alone in my feeling about that first 9-foot, 5-weight, and it has since been redesigned.) However, I had the chance to cast several other models in the series at the show, and they forced me to change my mind. Unlike that first rod, the others had an unusually pleasing "perceived weight"-a feeling of lightness in the hand that comes partly from low overall rod weight and partly from a weight distribution that puts the balance point and sense of casting fulcrum well back toward the grip. The result is a crisp, responsive tip and an easy, comfortable swing. The keys, according to Orvis, are completely new tapers, a pure carbon scrim, boron fibers in the butt section, and thermoplastic-toughened resins. The end result is a slimmer, thinner-walled but more durable blank-the lightest Orvis has ever made-and a nicely smooth and sensitive rod that accurately transmits line behavior to your hand for casting control. They're pretty handsome to boot. Twenty-one models are available, from 4- to 12-weight, in both Midflex and Tipflex actions, and two- and four-piece configurations. $625-$675. -Ted Leeson Scott G2 Fly Rods If ever a graphite rod earned the "classic" accolade, it is the Scott G Series. In an era when the lifespan of many rod series is only three to five years, the G rods have been around for 30 years. Not only is that probably a record lifespan, but at their introduction in the mid 1970's, the idea of a 9-foot, 4-weight rod was quite revolutionary. That the original design has been so successful and enduring is a tribute to the design genius of Harry Wilson, and his successors who contributed additional models to the series-Jim Bartschi, the current president of Scott Fly Rods, chief among them. I'm obviously a fan, having bought my first G series rods, the 906 and 904, over 20 years ago. I still fish them regularly; they've become old friends. Thus when Scott announced the introduction of the G2 series, the first thing I told Jim at the show was "I sure hope you didn't screw up the G series." He grinned, handed me a couple and said, "Go cast them and tell me what you think." I did, and my first thought was Wow, this rod is lighter, and a bit quicker, but it is still true to its heritage. I picked up the other, and it was much the same-lighter, quicker, not exactly a G but, dare I say it, perhaps even better. Although the rods clearly cast differently, they retained much of the appearance of the original G rods: the natural "snake belly" finish, the alignment dots and the hand-inscribed logo among others. Jim explained that while the rod was lighter, he'd also moved weight back from the tip, giving it a light and responsive feel. Whereas the original G was sort of "bamboo-like," with the mass of the tip aiding to bend the lower part of the rod, the G2 is flexed by the weight of the line alone. The tip is, or certainly feels, weightless. Calling it the "Ultimate Presentation Tool," Scott is offering the G2 in 11 4-piece models, in 2- through 6-weights. Lengths range from 7' 7" to 9 feet. $595. -Buzz Bryson Lines from Scientific Anglers Scientific Anglers continues to address angling niches, much to the delight of fly flingers. Starting with those who want even more distance than the XXD lines afford, SA is introducing the new Expert Distance lines. There's a long 25-foot rear taper for better control, and a tapered running line for less mass and friction, which adds to distance. It's available in WF floaters in 4 through 9 weights. Redfishing continues to grow in popularity, and guides and anglers alike will welcome SA's namesake Redfish taper. Features include a low specific gravity for good floatability, a stiffer Tropi-Core braided monofilament to reduce tangling and improve shooting in higher temperature conditions, and a dark horizon color to minimize fish-spooking. Since redfishing normally entails using bulky flies, SA shortened the front taper for better turnover. The new Redfish line is available in line weights 6 through 9. $59.95. The Streamer Express has proven to be such a hit that tropical anglers clamored for a stiffer-core version. The Tropic Express is SA's response, featuring the Tropi-Core for stiffness, a 32-foot-long head, and an intermediate-density, AST-coated running line. The tungsten-filled heads are available from 250 grains to 450 grains (at 50-grain intervals), matching line weights 5 through 13. Sink rates range from 6 to 8 inches per second. $59.95. The Bluewater Express is a "big bore" line for big-game anglers. It too features the Tropi-Core design, albeit with a stronger 60-pound core, and 25-foot heads rated at 500, 600 or 700 grains. The shorter head is designed for the short, quick casts typically made to billfish or tunas teased in close to the boat. Lest you think a 60-pound core is overkill for a 20-pound tippet, consider the additional abrasion resistance it offers for fish that bully their way toward coral heads or bottom wrecks. $59.95. SA also introduced some new Professional Series lines, priced at $39.95, compared to the $59.95 tag for the Mastery series lines. The Wet Tip Express combines a floating running line with 30-foot sinking heads in 200, 300 and 400 grains, fitting 6- through 12-weight rods. The Custom Tip Express offers a 33-foot head weighing 14 grains per foot on an intermediate-density running line. The level head can be cut to custom fit any rod between 6- and 12-weight. The fast-sinking head will sink as quickly as 8 inches per second. Although this line will be welcomed by smaller dealers who can't stock a huge selection of sinking lines, they'll be equally popular with anglers who want a head that's easily adjusted until it's "just right." $39.95. -Buzz Bryson Simms G3 Wading Boots Wading gear is tough to assess without field testing, but I was impressed with the look and feel of Simms' new G3 wading boot, designed as a companion to its high-end G3 waders. Uppers are constructed of tough ballistic cloth for lightweight durability; toe cap and foxing are formed of vulcanized rubber. And the construction technique used to join uppers to the sole platform minimizes exposed stitching, protecting the boots from the kind of seam-thread abrasion that is a common cause of wear. Speed-lace hardware is top quality, and the laces themselves are Cordura-smooth and slick for easy cinch-up and long lasting. Full neoprene lining gives cushion for comfort and foot protection, and torsional rigidity promises a stable, non-twisting footbed. At the same time, the boot overall seems flexible for easy walking and sensitivity to the streambed that makes for sure-footed wading. What I like here is that materials and construction decisions appear to have been made in the interests of durability-aside from comfort, my chief demand in a wading boot. At the same time, these boots tip the scales at 48 ounces a pair, which is about, or slightly lighter than, the average. Available in sizes 7-14. $159.95. -Ted Leeson Plus, A Stunning Introduction, And An Interesting Consolidation There's always some wheeling and dealing occurring at the annual fly-fishing trade show, but two developments from the 2005 show stand out. The first is Cloudveil's introduction of a complete line of waders, rain gear and other fishing apparel. Cloudveil has already made a name for itself in the ski industry as the manufacturer of high-quality, high-performance ski and mountain apparel, and the company hopes to do the same in the fly-fishing market. Cloudveil's product line includes Gore-Tex waders and jackets, Windstopper fleeces and lightweight wading boots among other items-all with a strong appeal to anglers who like their gear to look as great as it performs. Look for reviews of Cloudveil equipment in our upcoming New Gear columns. www.cloudveil.com. The other bit of news making the rounds at the show was the disclosure that Sharpe's of Aberdeen, a fishing-tackle company based in Scotland, had purchased Abel Reel Company and Thomas&Thomas Rods. Steve Abel will continue to work with Abel as a product development consultant.