In our September column, we highlighted the many new rods coming out this fall and next spring.
The fact that I dedicated an entire column to just one facet of the annual International Fly Tackle Dealers Show — now merged with ICAST — says everything about what’s happening these days in the fly-fishing industry.
Since its inception in 1998, the Fly Tackle New Product Showcase has had its up years and its down years. But 2015 was a bumper crop.
Why are there so many new products? Blame the Internet.
In the past, companies got feedback from their pro staff members or from the occasional letter from a customer. Nowadays, they have a variety of review sites, forums and other avenues to get ideas for product innovation or improvement.
The turnkey response has gone from years to months.
In addition, the Internet has become the birthplace for business incubation.
Taylor Reels is a prime example.
When Matthew Taylor, owner of Taylor Fly Fishing, had a concept for a new high-performance fly reel, he went through the online Kickstarter to get funding.
Taylor’s new Revolution series of reels — funded by Kickstarter — created quite a buzz at ICAST. It features a sealed, heat-dispensing, multi-disk drag system with an incredible 25 pounds of drag strength.At $339, it could be the best value in a big-game reel.
Another new reel with lots of buzz was the TFO Atoll. It’s built from T6061 aluminum, like most quality reels, but it’s cold-forged instead of machined. The drag has a hubless design that spreads the stacked drag system over a larger surface area, making it ideal for kings, tuna, permit and other finned Ferraris. It will retail for $399 to $499.
One new reel that didn’t get the kudos it deserved was the Orvis Hydros SL. The super-large arbor SL has a sealed carbon drag capable of 14 pounds pressure. It boasts 8.2 inches per retrieve and a very impressive price tag of $198.
Out of nearly two dozen entries, the winner of the Fly Reel Best of Show was the Nautilus X-Frame, which offers a sleek design with a sealed Teflon drag at a sub-$400 price. Might not sound like a value, but in flyfishing circles the American-made Nautilus is considered elite. At $350, it’s like getting a Jaguar for the price of a Buick.
For the budget-conscious, there’s Redington’s new Behemoth reel that offers a large, carbon-fiber disc drag found in more-expensive reels for only $109. According to their product manager, this saltwater-capable reel has a lifetime warranty.
With respect to accessories, new fly-box toting backpacks and waist packs were profuse.
The Downstream waist pack from Chums got my vote for Tackle Management Best of Show. The main compartment is waterproof with welded seams, and the zippers are water resistant as is the front pocket. Similar packs sell for nearly $100, but the Downstream is priced at only $45.
My runner-up choice was the lightweight Cedar Creek Sling Pack from Allen Fly Fishing, which could be worn nine months a year here in Louisiana. Features include a padded sling strap, multiple D-rings and a water bottle pocket.
Another common item in the showcase were shirts.
The two types most often worn by fly anglers are performance and technical. Performance shirts are typically collar-less and made from ultralight polyester. Technical shirts have collars and pockets, and are typically nylon or cotton.
In the performance category, two companies really impressed me.
The first was BigFish. Their knitted poly shirts offer UPF 50 protection and stunning designs of various species of fish. They use molecular ink adhesion to the fabric to ensure fade resistance. Their most-popular makes are tarpon and redfish.
Tormenter Products was the other performance shirt winner in my book. In addition to great UPF protection, their shirts are snag-resistant. Whereas Velcro can ruin a normal poly shirt, Tormenter shirts can have repeated run-ins with the sticky material with no ill effects.
In the technical shirt category, nearly all the new offerings came in plaid, as opposed to the solid pastel colors that dominated this category for many years.
According to Edward Han of Pacific Fly, one of the largest suppliers for independent outdoor retailers, “plaid is the new chartreuse.” Their Wilderness Pro Shirt is on my Christmas wish list.
In the fly-tying category, there weren’t many entries, but one item registered a 9 on the Richter scale. It’s the new Jurassic vise from Peak. Unlike most vises that depend on friction to grip the hook, the Jurassic locks itself around the hook wire — supposedly making the hook unmovable.
Peak was giving a demonstration at their booth when I got the chance to test it myself — not with thread, but with a pair of pliers. A size 6/0 hook would bend and never displace, no matter how hard I pushed down.
Even if you don’t require such a titanic grip on your hook, the Jurassic’s easy-to-use knob rotary feature and lifetime warranty make it worth strong consideration. Suggested retail is $319.
I’ve listed just a few of the many new products available for Christmas. Hope Santa brings you one or more.