New Gear

New Gear

A special report from the 2011 IFTD show.

  • By: Zach Matthews
  • , Buzz Bryson
  • and Ted Leeson
Hardy Fortuna X Reel

Hardy
Fortuna X Reel

Why on earth do we need a fly reel that pulls over 30 pounds of drag? That was the question when Hardy unveiled its new Fortuna X fly reel at the recent International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, in New Orleans. Jim Murphy, President of Hardy North America, and Andy Mill, renowned tarpon angler and author who helped develop the product, said it’s all about big fish. They explained: If you’re fishing IGFA class tippet, you are limited to a maximum10kg breaking strength, so you don’t need that much drag. If you’re going for big billfish, tuna, shark or the like, however, and aren’t concerned about records, this reel allows an angler to really put pressure on a fish. That said, if you’ve never fished an outfit with 20-plus pounds of drag, especially on a longer rod giving more leverage to the fish, you’ll quickly find out why people use fighting harnesses. Surprisingly, this reel is not the anvil you might picture. It is milled from aluminum bar stock, but all excess weight has been pared, leaving only the metal that is necessary and attractive. The Fortuna is available in four sizes, beginning with one sized for an 8-weightish line, up to a big five-inch-plus diameter model, sized for . . . well, for whatever challenge you might undertake. Bottom line: The small reel is a shade under eight ounces, and the large one just shy of 14 ounces. For reels of this size and capacity, those are pretty comfortable weights. Yet the guts of this reel are impressive. The stopping power is generated by a sealed, multi-carbon-disk drag system. Mill described his testing of the reel using 150-pound-test line (“rope,” as he said) and similar-strength wire leader to catch big sharks. The point, he said, was simply to ferret out any weaknesses in the design and construction. If the reel stays together under really tremendous drag pressure, “normal extreme” conditions are no challenge, and IGFA-legal tippet loads won’t even make the reel breathe hard. The Fortuna offers every promise of being a beast tamer; $695 to $845; www.hardyfishing.com
Buzz Bryson

Redington
Women’s Sonic-Pro Wader

Women are, well, different. Most guys figure that out early on. For some reason, plenty of wader designers can’t seem to get their hands around that idea. But Redington has, and they are introducing the Women’s Sonic-Pro Wader, a stockingfoot chest wader, specifically built for those …uh… differences. OK, OK …boobs. And waists and hips. Got it? Jeez—I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, where one doesn’t talk about such things! The wader is built with 4-ply, DWR-coated breathable nylon, using welded, double-taped seam construction. The cut is more shapely than in the similar men’s version of the Sonic-Pro, but the main difference, fit- and comfort-wise, is the incorporation of stretchy neoprene panels on either side, under the armpits, which allows the top to …well… cup a bit as needed. The wader is zippered in the front, which makes putting it on easier, and allows a bit of extra temperature adjustment on hot days. The more comfortable, proper fit aside, the wader features lined, zippered and ergonomic handwarmer pockets; zippered exterior pockets; integrated gravel guards; and neoprene booties sized for women’s generally smaller feet. The wader is available in eight sizes, including two long and two queen sizes; $349.95; Available beginning February 1; www.redington.com
Buzz Bryson

Scientific Anglers
Titan Taper Fly Line

Scientific Anglers’ new Titan Taper was put together using all of the arrows in SA’s quiver, in an effort to create the best big-fly, long-distance line in existence. Tim Pommer, the line’s chief designer, explains that the coating (or “jacket”) on the head section was blended to be harder and thinner than normal, while the running line (which is also a different color) was formulated out of a softer material to help it float higher and cut tangles. The head is long and unusually heavy: “One-and-a-half times heavy for the 6-weight, one-and-three-quarters for the 7, and twice as heavy as normal for the 8- through 10-weights,” Pommer recently explained. The result is, essentially, a super-long integrated shooting head, which is exactly the kind of line most distance casters prize. In addition, the line has a short, powerful front taper for turning over huge flies. On top of the chemistry and construction of the line, SA has also applied its “Textured” emboss, a golf-ball-like dimple that helps the line float high and slide easily through guides. The result of all this technical wizardry is one of the best big-fish/big-fly lines I’ve ever thrown. For tossing 1/0 and larger striper or saltwater patterns, this line comfortably handles 60- to 100-foot casts all day long. Thanks to the texturing and SA’s mixed-in slickener technologies (which they call AST, but which they’ll admit is similar to the chemical used to make cooking pans slick), the line shoots like a dart. That means even with huge flies and heavy rods, you don’t have to work as hard to throw an outfit and you won’t be as tired after doing so at the end of the day. Pommer also points out one more use of the line: “It’s great for overhead casting on a switch rod,” for instance, in the surf zone, “but you’ll want to overline it by one or two sizes for the best results.” Overall the line was the best I tried at the recent International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, and well deserving of mention here; $79; available beginning October 1; www.scientificanglers.com
Zach Matthews

Waterworks
Force SL Reel

Waterworks has always stood apart as something of a maverick in fly-reel engineering, and the new Force SL series continues this tradition. These extensively ventilated reels are as much about what’s not there (superfluous aluminum) as what is—strategically designed structural and mechanical components. The result is quite possibly the lightest machined reel ever made; the Force SL2, for 4/5 lines, weighs only 2.85 ounces—about as much (or little) as a 5-weight rod built of the latest generation of featherweight materials. Shaving weight through a skeletal reel design, particularly of the large-arbor sort, is not a free lunch; it can compromise rigidity, allowing the frame to bend or wrack under the force of a running fish. Waterworks addresses this problem by machining the reel foot and the stout frame pillar from a single bar of aluminum, which gives the reel an impressive structural stiffness. The single-piece frame/foot design also makes for a reel that mounts closer to the rod, bringing the reel’s center of mass nearer to the rod’s axis for, theoretically, improved casting performance, though I can’t say I noticed this particularly during use. But the reduction in reel weight is certainly noticeable and presents some advantages. First is day-long casting comfort. Second, anglers who are choosy about tackle balance should find the Force SL a pleasing match with the new ultra-lightweight rods. And third, the SL gives fishermen the option of using a bigger reel with a larger spool diameter without additional weight. The resulting increase in retrieve rate and backing capacity and decrease in line coiling are particular boons to small-stream, short-rod enthusiasts (who are often forced to use tiny peppermill reels with abysmal retrieve speeds) and to saltwater anglers (for whom fast line pickup and lots of backing can be crucial). The drag on the Force SL is the same conical system that has proven itself on previous generations of Waterworks reels. It’s smooth and reliable, controlled by a knob that rotates through 2 ½ non-detented revolutions for precise tension settings and is large enough to operate with gloved hands. The reels are available in eight sizes for lines 4 through 12, including Spey; $449 to $639; www.waterworks-lamson.com
Ted Leeson

SIMMS
Stone Cold Shirt

It isn’t often that a mere clothing technology gives you goosebumps, but with Simms Fishing Products’ new Stone Cold Shirt, that is (quite literally) the case. The shirt is actually cool to the touch, offering the sensation that it’s just been removed from a refrigerator. When I recently interviewed her at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show Diane Bristol, Marketing Director for Simms, said, “Your skin temperatures will be about a degree cooler on average [when wearing] the shirt.” When we asked what the secret was, Bristol initially smiled and simply claimed the shirt was “magic.” Eventually she confessed that the Cool Control technology is a sophisticated weaving technique employing what Bristol described as a flat yarn. These flat yarns are woven in a configuration that greatly increases the surface area of the fabric, thereby allowing heat to dissipate more efficiently from the cloth. Physically, it works kind of like a car radiator. Because it’s structural rather than based on a coating (Bristol disabused us of rumors that the shirt had a spearmint treatment applied), there’s no risk of the effect wearing off. The unusual texture of the shirt isn’t really noticeable at a glance, either. The Stone Cold Shirt will be available in cement, wasabi and river (or in other words, gray, green and blue). In appearance it is similar to most of the other Simms shirts of recent years, which feature smart designs, like flat pockets (so your casts don’t snag) and hidden buttons to pin down the collar. Anyone who has ever been slapped in the cheeks on a fast boat ride over open water will appreciate the need for that! For the time being they are the only Simms garments with Cool Control. However, Bristol admitted, “We are looking at expanding the line of sportswear utilizing the Cool Control technology,” but not until at least spring 2013. $79.95; available beginning in January; www.simmsfishing.com
Zach Matthews

Patagonia
Rio Azul Waders

Recent years have brought a number of heavy-duty, full-featured, bombproof waders into the market, and they’re always welcome. But the fact is, many anglers are served as well, or better, by lighter (and less expensive) waders. This season, Patagonia introduced the Rio Azul Waders—at 2.2 pounds, the lightest pair of waders in its line. The 4-layer construction incorporates a polyurethane ply designed to improve overall fabric performance, particularly the durability of waterproofness, and to aid in moisture transport. The upshot is a shell that offers good suppleness for greater comfort and easier mobility than the heavy-duty waders, which can hang on you like a suit of chainmail by day’s end. The neoprene booties are cut individually for left and right feet to give a tailored, non-bunching fit. The legs are not articulated, but the design promotes good freedom of movement for kneeling, climbing or bending. The waders feature integral gravel guards with elasticized cuffs and sensibly stout bootlace clips. Wide suspenders secure with big buckles that are easy to operate with cold, wet or gloved hands. In a nice touch, the interior pocket is fully waterproof, sealing with a press-track closure—a rugged version of the type used on zip-closing plastic bags. A Hypalon patch on the front provides a dock for pin-on zingers and hemostats, and a rear loop keeps the belt (included) in place. Light weight and good packability are strong points here, particularly for backcountry fishermen who want waders light and supple enough for hiking or sufficiently low bulk to stash in a daypack, and for traveling anglers who need to minimize the ounces and cubic inches of their gear. With that said, however, there’s no reason to regard the Rio Azul as a specialty wader. I fished much of this past season in a pair and found them plenty durable and entirely practical for everyday fishing. The material is light, but rugged, the design simple and functional, and the warm-weather comfort excellent. And I like the price; these are high-quality waders for $239; www.patagonia.com
Ted Leeson