In the September 2016 column, we reviewed several of the many new fly rods unveiled at the ICAST trade show held in July.
But rods weren’t the only items that dominated the New Product Showcase: There were also loads of new fly reels and waterproof bags.
I’ll highlight just a few of the more intriguing offerings.
Let’s begin with Scientific Anglers. My first saltwater fly reel was their System 2. In 1988, this standard arbor, die-cast aluminum reel featured a stainless steel dual caliper disc drag at a price just over $100.
A “reel” bargain for its day.
By today’s standards it was heavy, difficult to set properly and — being an offset drag system — subject to drag loss anytime the reel was submerged.
Eventually, the System 2 became antiquated with the rise of value-priced large-arbor machined reels like the Orvis Mid-Arbor.
While Scientific Anglers continues to make great fly lines, it’s taken awhile for their reels to catch up with the competition.
But at ICAST, they made a strong showing with several new offerings.
The one of most interest to marsh anglers is the Electron. This large-arbor machined aluminum reel features a centerline, stacked carbon fiber and stainless steel washer system. It comes in three sizes, and is value-priced at $165.
And, unlike many value saltwater reels, the Electron has a narrow spool width that eliminates the annoying wobble when a large redfish strips line.
Another strong offering in the value market came from Taylor Fly Fishing, which unveiled its new Enigma ESD reel.
ESD stands for “exterior sealed drag,” a hybrid in which only the bearings are sealed, not the drag.
According to CEO Matthew Taylor, the most likely failure in reels comes from the bearings. By sealing only those, it keeps the cost down.
At $169, the Enigma ESD also comes in three spool colors: red, teal and olive.
Buyers looking for value in an American-made reel will be thrilled to learn that Ross has returned with their new Cimarron II. It’s more than just a large arbor version of their once-popular Cimmaron reel: The RC2 features an updated drag system previously found on their more expensive models.
All at an amazing $215 price tag.
Another “reel” winner at ICAST was the new Orvis Mirage. Made in the USA, it features a fully sealed drag system with 34 drag surfaces. It has a maximum drag of 16 pounds, which is capable of stopping the biggest, baddest fish in the ocean.
The Mirage will be available in March and sell for $525.
For 2017, the popular Redington Rise saltwater reel gets a much-needed update. The new version looks sleek and also gets a U-shaped spool that improves backing capacity. Price is $189 to $219.
Just prior to ICAST, American-made Bauer Reels was acquired by Winston. Bauer has been a leader in innovation, and their new SST reel is being touted as their most advanced ever. Prices range from $355 up to $525 for big-game sizes.
The award-winning 3-Tand has been extremely popular among inshore saltwater anglers. For 2017, 3-Tand is offering a limited-edition Stu Apte Signature reel featuring a fish imprint, and it incorporates exciting features like a sealed nano-carbon drag. MSRP for the 8-weight model will be $300.
Like reels, waterproof bags galore were featured in the New Product Showcase.
The increasing popularity of these bags can be attributed to the rapid growth of kayak fishing, adventure trips and other outdoor ventures with a high risk of getting gear or clothing wet.
Waterproof bags are not cheap. Just zippers that meet IP7 standards can cost over $100 per yard.
The new Orvis Pro Guide Backpack looks fashionable and can go from an airline carry-on to a boat bag to a backpack. With two inside pouches and mesh-zippered compartments, it allows for separate storage. It also has a padded camera section. It will sell for $279.
Another dry bag that impressed everyone was the Patagonia Stormfront, which comes in a bright orange color.
The promotional tag read that it’s large enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop, a camera and a slew of fly boxes. I’d probably pack a few dry clothes instead of a laptop.
The Stormfront also has external loops to hold a fly rod tube and a waist belt to leverage weight for long hikes. MSRP will be $299.
For those needing LOTS of capacity when traveling — such as a separate compartment for waders and rods — the Simms Bounty Hunter rollable bag has a whopping 100 liters of capacity and an external roll-up bag for storing wet gear. It’ll retail for $399.
Finally, the waterproof Fishpond Westwater lumbar pack is perfect for bank anglers on those summer days when showers threaten. It can hold several fly boxes, tippet spools and more. MSRP is $99.