From Bamboo To Boron

From Bamboo To Boron

New rods from Winston, Orvis and High Sierra; L.L. Bean's gearbag; and more

Cloudveil 8x Wading Boot The target customers for Cloudveil's 8x Wading Boot are those adventurous anglers who hike or bike several miles from the popular access spots before wetting a line. For these folks, a boot needs to be both light and sturdy and should work equally as well while wading or hiking. These needs are reflected in the 8x's design and materials. Synthetic leather uppers provide stability, a webbing strap keeps things tight around the heel and molded midsoles give torsional rigidity to the felt sole.The boots come with two removable insoles--4mm and 8mm--that allow the boots to be worn with our without waders. I spent the past spring, summer and fall wearing the 8x boots on rivers from western Wyoming to western Maine, and found them to be a welcome alternative to the heavy boots I'd worn (and worn out) in the past. They felt good on my feet, were supportive while wading and worked well on the trail. The only criticism I have of these boots it that they are very well-endowed in the laces. Also, if you try a pair of these, make sure you get them in your shoe size: They run slightly big, so your regular shoe size will be large enough even while wearing waders. The boots retail for $115. --Jim Reilly

Orvis Saltwater Zero Gravity Rods Orvis has expanded its line of popular Zero Gravity rods to include a number of new saltwater models. I recently fished the 8- and 9-weight versions for a few days and spent some time casting the 10- and 12-weights. Do they get the job done? Absolutely, which is the minimum one might expect from the current generation of booming saltwater sticks. What sets the Zero Gravity apart, though, isn't so much casting distance (you get plenty) or power (there's lots) but handling. These rods have a lightness of feel in both perceived weight and in balance in the hand that gives the impression of casting a rod a couple of line weights down the scale. I don't fish saltwater terribly often--I'm basically a trout guy--and perhaps that's what impressed me most about these rods: They have the kind of deft touch and responsiveness that I associate more with a light, quick stream rod than a saltwater bazooka. The casting characteristics will quite likely feel familiar to a trout fisherman and require less adjustment than other rods in moving from fresh water to salt. To get the most dramatic sense of what I mean, test-cast the 12-weight if you have a chance; it's one of the only rods in its class that I (and my lame rotator cuff) could cast all day. The technology that reduced weight and increased strength in trout models really comes into its own in these big boys. The new rods are 9-foot models, in 7- through 12- weight, 2- and 4-piece versions, in both Tip-Flex and Mid-Flex actions. Retail is from $625 to $675. --Ted Leeson

Patagonia Sol Patrol Shirt I wore a Sol Patrol shirt this past July during a steamy, week-long trip to Belize, as well as on a couple of day-long float trips down the Madison River in late August. This shirt's main claim to fame is sun protection--the moisture-wicking polyester weave boasts a sun-block rating of 40 UPF--and it worked as advertised in this regard. On both trips, not only did I not get sunburned on the parts of my body that were covered by the shirt but, owing to the lightness and breathability of the fabric, I also remained as comfortable as possible given the intensity of the sun on both occasions and, in the case of Belize, the wilting humidity. Although the Sol Patrol's fit is relaxed, it looks good enough to be worn almost anywhere. The two mesh-lined pockets are large enough for stashing travel documents and other slender items--but unlike the pockets on a lot of technical fly-fishing shirts these are too small for all but the tiniest fly boxes. So if you're planning on doing any wading while wearing the Sol Patrol shirt, be advised that you'll also need a vest or chest pack. The Sol Patrol shirt comes in five colors and sizes from S-XXL, and it retails for $80. --Paul Guernsey

L.L. Bean Kennebec River Boat Bag My job requires that I carry a couple of cameras just about everywhere I go. The cameras themselves require protection from rain, waves and accidental splashes. Of course, in addition to my photographic gear, I've also got to pack along a few reels, some flies, a number of fishing tools and all the other odds and ends that make a fishing trip work. Because of this, I'm always searching for new and better ways to carry everything; in fact, I seem to be trying out a different camera/gear bag every six months or so. My most recent discovery is L.L. Bean's Kennebec River Boat Bag. I like this one not only because it's named for my home river, but because of the rigid waterproof bottom--especially great for boat use--and the intelligent compartment and pocket sizes and configuration. My bag has a total 20 pockets by the way; more than I've yet found a use for. The main compartment can be divided several different ways by rearranging the movable foam panels and, owing to its rugged construction (nylon canvas over rigid foam), the bag doesn't sag even when it's filled with gear. Bells and whistles include an attached pull-out rain fly to protect your stuff during a storm; a reinforced pocket that's specifically made for holding pliers (the nose won't bore a hole); a waterproof top pocket that keeps maps, charts and other literature visible; a flip-down work station; an external rod-case holder and an ergonomic handle. It also has a padded shoulder strap. The bag I'm using is the smaller of the two boat bag versions: It's 10x18x11 inches, and retails for $89. The larger bag--recommended for saltwater storage--has 28 pockets, measures 12x23x13 inches, and retails for $99. --Paul Guernsey

High Sierra Rod Company's Brookie Rod Although I admire bamboo fly rods and the anglers who use them, I grew up with graphite, and I am comfortable with a rod built of man-made material. On those occasions when someone has stuck a bamboo casting tool into my hand, I've found them to be interesting, beautiful and not without other charms as well--but also a little heavy, and a bit slow. Recently, however, I had the chance to fish a small, overgrown central Maine brook- and brown-trout stream with a couple of High Sierra Rod Company bamboo rods built specifically for this sort of close-quarters fishing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. These were two different models of the Brookie Rod from High Sierra's Trout Scout Series--5'6" 1-piecers, in line weights 3 and 5. I fished the 3-weight rod first, and though I wasn't surprised at how light it felt given its diminutive length, I was astonished by how responsive and quick it was. In fact, I've fished plenty of lighter graphite rods that were nowhere near as lively as this one. The 5-weight was every bit as snappy and fun to cast, but with more backbone for longer casts. Another surprise for me was the price of these nicely finished rods: Although they're handcrafted in California, they retail for $499.99--quite reasonable compared to a lot of bamboo rods. High Sierra also offers a 2-piece version of the brookie rod for $599.99; and $799.99 for a 2-piece rod with an extra tip. --Paul Guernsey

Winston Boron IIt Rods Back in 1998, the Twin Bridges, Montana-based Winston Rod Company hit a homerun when it introduced the BL5 series of fly rods. One of the most impressive things about the BL5 was its powerful boron butt, which in combination with the rod's overall lightness, made it an immediate favorite for many saltwater anglers. But Winston's boron-rod technology has continued to evolve. Two years ago the company produced another powerful boron casting tool: the IIx. And new this year is the Boron IIt series--the "t" stands for "traditional," which is a good description of this rod's action. Fascinated by the differences among these products, I recently visited Sam Drukman, the rod designer who turns fibers into fly rods at Winston. Drukman told me that this second generation of boron fibers Winston now uses resulted from the company's partnership with some fly-fishing aerospace engineers and has produced a new boron that is lighter, stronger and made exclusively for fly rods. Boron has properties that are more like metal than carbon, and all of Winston's boron rods are very crisp and stable. In addition, they are arguably the lightest rods around. But while the Boron IIx's are fairly fast rods, the new IIt's are something completely different, as I found when I cast them. Fast action is not always an advantage in very light fly rods, especially in many trout fishing situations. Consider, for instance, today's modern nymph/indicator and double-fly techniques, which often result in frustrating tangles when combined with very fast, tight loops. Instead, the new IIt's--while every bit as strong and crisp as their forerunners--have a very traditional trout action. Design changes in the taper and layout of the boron matrix slow the action while preserving all the reserve power inherent in the material. This allows for more open, delicate loops that are requisite for accurate and subtle dryfly presentations. These rods smooth out the power stroke, promoting delicacy, yet retain a pile of reserve power. Winston offers 7 IIt models, in line weights from 3 to 5. They retail for $625. --Rick Ruoff