February 22, 2022: Mike's First Fly Fishing Season Gear Review

 

As you may have already read in my fly fishing articles last summer (which can be found on the Crew Adventures page) 2021 was my inaugural year for both fly fishing and salmon fishing. I had some fantastic and patient teachers who often took time away from their own fishing experience to help out this rookie fly fisherman. I purchased a bunch of gear at the start and throughout the 2021 season and I wanted to post an article on how well the big ticket items worked. I will also include what/if anything I would change if doing it over again, and what I may upgrade now that I truly enjoy the sport.

 

 

Rods & Reels:

I started out the season with this beautiful gently used Scott A2 fly rod I purchased from crew member Terry Slaney. It's a very nice rod, this one is 9foot 8wt and is what I learned to cast with in my backyard.

 

I paired it with a reasonably priced Okuma SLV reel and a 9wt line as my supplier did not have 8wt in stock.

 

This set up worked well and is what I caught both my first trout (1st pic at top) and my first two salmon during our Lomond trip.

  • I found the set up hard to cast on windy days, I believe there is a better matched line available for this rod that would alleviate that problem. Definitely do your research and pick a line that best suits your rod.

  • This model real does not have a sealed drag system. I found that when the reel got very wet from rain or dunking into the water the drag internals would swell making the adjuster nut go bar tight. This happened to the point of having to use pliers to loosen the drag adjuster. I would recommend a reel with a sealed drag system

  • I broke the tip off the Scott A2 during our Lomond trip which was completely my fault, I am very sending it off to the manufacturer to be professionally repaired.

 

Breaking the tip led me to the purchase of this LOOP Q-series kit. This is a factory matched setup, I chose the 9 foot 7wt version which is paired with a Q-series large arbour metal reel and matching Q-series line, even complete with leader and a case!

 

 

Atlantic River Outfitters also allowed me to purchase a 2nd tip section of rod for the out of warranty replacement rate which was very reasonable.

  • Overall as a new fly fisherman I am very pleased with how well the LOOP Q setup casts. I can cast it better than my Scott but I truly believe that is because these components are evenly matched together vs. what I put together in my other set up.

  • Warranty and out of warranty repair/replacement rod sections are easily attainable over the counter at our local LOOP dealer which is a definite advantage when you break something mid season.

 

Bags:

Having hunted for years and acquiring lots of experience with various backpacks, duffels and other bags, I wanted something better suited Fly Fishing than a regular backpack. I came across Sling Packs and liked the idea that by letting go one strap you can sling the bag over your shoulder to access the large compartment without having to take off the pack. This I presumed would be very convenient especially while stood up in the middle of a river.

 

Then I found the Patagonia Vest Front sling pack at Outdoor Pros which took another leap forward in the convenience factor! Now I have a sling pack with 2 immediately accessible, decent size pockets on the front main strap. These easily hold one fly case, my phone, clamp etc., and have hanging points for tippet, Gink, nips and more. Next it has 2 adjustable straps for tying something long outside on the main compartment. I used this to hold one of my rolled up Loop jackets in preparation for changing conditions, either my bug jacket or rain jacket.  Finally it has a water bottle holder on the base of the main compartment.

  • I absolutely recommend a sling pack. If you travel light as most do, most sling packs will hold everything you need for a day on the river. I wore this bag comfortably every single day both trouting and salmon fishing so that all my gear was with me regardless of whatever other clothes I was wearing.

  • Always wearing my sling pack ensured that I always have all my gear including license. I have a bad memory and don't like moving gear from coat pockets, to waders to sweater, etc. Something will get forgotten, the sling pack saves all that trouble.

  • It would be acceptable if the Vest Front Patagonia pack had a larger rear compartment. I can make do with it as is but I could fit a better lunch with more space. Unfortunately this is the only model from any manufacturer I can find with the vest front pockets on the main strap and that's a feature I will not sacrifice, it's awesome!

 

Jackets:

Before even starting the season I knew I would need a quality lightweight rain shell/windbreaker. Comfort and reliability is something I won't sacrifice so I invested in a quality LOOP Gielas LW jacket. This jacket has a 3 layer construction including Sympatex membrane which is LOOP's version of Gortex. It's a breathable waterproof material that worked perfectly as both a windbreaker and raincoat on many fishing trips last year. It has held up perfectly and should provide years of service.

 

My biggest pet peeve fishing in the summer definitely has to be flies and mosquitoes. I knew I needed something great, I wasn't a fan of head mesh caps or mesh jackets and fortunately stumbled across this awesome product at AROC. I purchased the LOOP Mygg 2.0 bug jacket and it was one of my best investments last summer. This pull over style jacket is made from a material pre-treated with permanent fly repellent and has a stow able fly screen as part of the hood. You can wear the jacket hood down and look normal, but if the flies get troublesome, particularly at dusk, you can raise the hood, zip the fly screen closed and enjoy the rest of the evening in comfort.

  • In review I strongly recommend quality foul conditions gear, but buy the best your budget will allow. Comfort and reliability often come at a price but can make or break your trip and overall outdoor experience.

 

Waders:

I began my fly fishing journey with a set of very reasonably priced ($200ish) Compass 360 Stillwater stocking foot chest waders. They are 4-layer polyester construction with Neoprene booties and marketed as breathable and waterproof. They have elastic gravel guards, a zippered pocket, hand warming fleece lined pass through pocket, suspenders and wading belt.

 

Of all the waders I looked at I still believe these are among the best value for money. I used them all last season without any trouble. I found them very comfortable in a wide variety of conditions and will definitely see service next season.

  • My only con with these waders, and this would apply to 90% of chest waders on the market, is that while wearing a jacket its a PITA to pee. You have to remove your jacket, disconnect the suspenders, and take off wading belt just to get to work. Unfortunately there are just a handful of chest waders on the market with a zipper front and they are considerably and in one case drastically more expensive than the Stillwaters.

 

Boots:

Over the years I've had various foot issues so once again I wanted to invest in a pair of quality wading boots as sore feet will quickly ruin your day on the river or even an entire trip. I picked up the Korker Darkhorse wading boots at Outdoor Pros on the recommendation of Bassan's product review right here on Shed-Headz. I loved the feature of quick change soles, it was quite convenient being able to put on rubber soles for long hikes to the river. It's not only safer but saves wear and tear on your felts too.

  • These boots performed flawlessly all season. They were very comfortable, swapping of soles was easily accomplished even while wearing the boots and the BOA lace system is unbeatable for convenience and performance.

 

Misc:

I picked up some Fly Agra which is a pre-treatment for dry flies to keep them floating better and longer without the need for additional floatant being applied in the field. It lived up to its name and performed very well particularly on bugs and bombers.

 

Its worth the price and effort to pick up a bottle just for the label!

 

I'm not usually one for accessories recommended as "one you gotta have" but I have to say this is one accessory that having used it a lot, now I don't want to go without. I picked up the 3rd Hand Rod Holder at Outdoor Pros and used it all last season. It attached securely to my wading belt and was an unbelievable help.

 

Being able to hold my fly rod when stood up in the middle of a river was a great benefit. This gave me 2 free hands while swapping flies, taking pics or any other task. I know many people hold their rod with their legs but that's not always an option in deep water, or fast moving water when you need your feet firmly planted.

 

I got so used to using it that I started using it all the time. It was great for holding my rod secure even when on shore instead of laying it down on the rocks. The rod holder pivots separately from the waist band clip so you can keep your rod tip high and out of the way. For a reasonable price of $35 I found it to be a great investment and definitely recommend.

 

 

What will next year bring?

Well one thing is for sure I am truly hooked on Fly Fishing and have acquired enough equipment to get the job done, and in some cases get the job done extremely well.

 

Definite Upgrades:

  • I've already picked up a pair of stocking foot wading pants. More than 80% of the time last season I could get away with wading pants vs chest waders as I rarely went into deep water. Having my stillwaters in stock still allows me that option. Pants will be cooler on hot days and much easier to pee as there is a zipper, less material in the way and no shoulder straps to let go and reattach.  I will be putting my SIMMS Freestone wading pants to the test this season.

  • I will definitely be replacing the line on my Scott A2 setup for one better suited to that rod. It's a great rod and I want it to perform to its maximum capability.

  • I would like to upgrade the reel on my Scott to one with a sealed drag but will likely hold off for now as the Okuma performs very well outside of getting wet.

  • Now that I have a quality 9 foot 8wt and a quality 9 foot 7wt rod in stock, I may take the opportunity to add a high quality 10 foot 7wt rod and reel to my arsenal. A wise seasoned fly fisherman once told me you can never have too many rods!

 

Looking back, would I have changed any of my equipment starting out?

In short, NO. I am happy with all of my purchases and I believe I invested wisely for quality long lasting gear where necessary and scaled back in other departments to ease the financial burden of starting out. Everyone has to start somewhere. With some equipment it's better to start on the lower end of the scale to truly appreciate the performance of fancier equipment such as rods & reels. For personal comfort I recommend buying the best you can justifiably afford, especially boots and raingear as those are 2 items that can ruin a trip if they fail you.

Stay tuned this season for my continued journey into this fantastic sport!

 

Cheers, MIKE

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Copyright 2011 Michael Smith