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Category Archive:   Reviews


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A few months back i was at Sportsmans Finest looking to replace a five weight line i had that was many years past its prime, due to a wide collection of cracks that looked like it had spent to much time sunbathing on some distant, forgotten beach.  As a long time fan and user of the Rio Grand i was a little hesitant when Casey suggested re-lining my spool with the Short Bellied Taper line from Scientific Angler. As a creature of habit, i tend to find something i like and stick with it ad-nauseum, whether it be a fly line or an entree at a local restaurant. Like a true professional though he explained the differences, laid out the information and related his own experience with what he considered to be the best line for trout fishing on the Guadalupe River.

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Over the course of a few weeks i tried out the 5WT line on my 10′ 3WT and found that much like Casey had said, it was the perfect line for nymphing in tight with a double fly rig and a strike indicator since the bulk of the line lies in the front 25′ of the tip making it easy to load a rod at very close quarters. Due to the extra mass i found this line excelled especially when “flipping” the rig back upstream after nymphing through a pocket.

With a camo tip to keep the curious fish at ease, as well as a strikingly orange belly to cue you in to where the bulk of your line is residing, this is a must have line for nymphing on any smaller waters such as our local Guadalupe River.

Available in 2-6 WT options, this is the line you need if your tossing heavy streamers or throwing heavily weighted rigs. The SBT lines are available locally at Sportsmans Finest and Gruene Outfitters.

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A month ago i was astonished to be gifted a brand new Patagonia – Hooded Nano Puff  apparently for no reason other than i had been a good boss when this individual had previously worked for me at Whole Earth Provision Co. It would be a great gift by any standard, but was especially so because i had been drooling over this exact jacket and color for months!

After putting it through its paces during all of my fishing excursions since then, in this un-naturally cold and wet weather we’re having here in central Texas, i just wanted to give it a few shout outs for anyone in the market for a new jacket. As a note i’ve been in the outdoor retail industry for a couple of decades and have had experiences with a plethora of outerwear.

  • First, it’s Patagonia. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive than other similar brands, but it is going to last a whole lot longer than most other brands in this market. If it doesn’t (rare) they will bend over backwards to take care of you.
  • Like the environment? So do they, the interior and exterior shell is 100% recycled, and they give 5% of their profits to environmental causes, plus a whole lot of other good stuff for the environment that should make you feel good about supporting them with your dollars.
  • Second, the jacket is incredibly hydrophobic (meaning it doesn’t like water). In the above photo after it blew off a ledge i had left it on, it floated 30 yards down a set of rapids to the hole that i was fishing. I panicked, picked it up, shook it a couple of times, put it on, and was stunned to feel almost no moisture at all. Another day i got rained on for hours and eventually the jacket was mostly soaked, once the rain died off it took about 30 minutes (with no sun) to dry back out. Like i said, this jacket does not like water and goes to great lengths to distance itself from it.
  • It’s comfort range is ideal moderate winters. It’s good-by itself in anything from 30˚ to 60˚ and makes a great insulation piece that can stuff down into its own chest pocket and be about the size of a large size bag of beef jerky in your pack (though regrettably it’s not as tasty.)

Check it out at www.patagonia.com

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One of the biggest advantages to pouring our heart and soul into this blog is that over the years we’ve met many people who are just as passionate as we are about fishing and adventure. Chase and Andy surely fall into that camp as they’re both living the dream as two of the founders of Howler Bros. As any long time reader will know, i’ve been a longtime fan of not just their style, but also their quality and vision since the beginning. They’re equal parts surfing / fly-fishing / and art, which more than sets them apart from your usual “fly-fishing wear” companies (which are normally boxy, unstylish, and usually only available in khaki, white or some awful color that a conch shell spewed forth after one to many mai-tais at the luau.)

Recently Howler was generous enough to send me a package containing two of this seasons styles, the Gaucho Snapshirt and the Workman’s Shirt, to test out both on the water and living out my mini urban adventures around Austin (and a whole lot at work).

howler workmanimage from www.howlerbros.com

The first piece is the Workman Shirt, a new offering for this season. The 100% cotton fabric is a bit thicker than most other Howler pieces (think light flannel), making it ideal for cooler weather “work” like splitting wood or gathering wild berries. The shirt is prewashed which gives it an incredibly soft hand that provides that “worn in” feel straight out of the package. If you like playing the “Mad English Professor” as i do, you’ll surely appreciate the elbow patches that are especially pronounced on a few of the color options. While this shirt could undoubtedly be used for cool weather fishing, it’s much more likely to become your “go to” shirt when it’s time to keep it classy but casual.

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The second shirt needs no introduction as the Gaucho has become the de facto staple piece for Howler Bros. and with good reason. Over the years it has played host to custom embroidery from pelicans, bass, and hula dancers to roosters, hibiscus and dancing prawn. These shirts have always had style and flair, but the polyester / nylon blend tended to be a bit warm when the heat and humidity climbed during our Texas summers. Fortunately, starting this season all the Gauchos are a much more comfortable blend of 65% Polyester / 35% Cotton which makes them significantly cooler while stalking the flats in the oppressive mid-day sun.

This year the Gaucho came in a plaid pattern in addition to the embroidered styles and all i can say is that it quickly became my favorite shirt to wear both on the water and at work. The pearl snaps, and western style pocket flaps, give it some style points while the pleated chest pockets (for fly boxes) and vented back yoke add to the overall function. As with all Howler shirts, the arms are cut longer to add mobility without binding for those Hail Mary casts you might have to make at a moments notice.

I might add that both of these shirts go well with a straw fedora. Trust me, i’ve tested.

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Most people don’t expect to trip and fall while walking from the cubicle to the water cooler, just as most fly fishers don’t expect to end up ass over tea kettle in the waters they’re plying. However, as we all know, things happen, and it can be a relief to know that thanks to a weatherproof pack your day isn’t shot just because of an errant foot.

Weatherproof packs are nothing new, dry bags with pack straps have been around even before i got into the outdoor industry some 25 years ago. While those packs were easliy capable of descending class IV rapids in one piece, they were hardly suited for day hikes and easy access. Their roll top design assuredly kept out the water, but it also kept one from casually entering and exiting the pack on a regular basis, point A to B being it’s call in life.

As all fly fishers know, constant access to tippet, flies and snacks is a must, and it’s here that the new era of weatherproof fly fishing packs shine. The Gale Force Pack from Orvis is a prime example of a simple pack that is fully capable of handling all the abuse that a sane (or semi-sane) angler can dish out while simultaneously protecting the contents and allowing easy access to them.

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The body of the Gale Force pack is constructed of a polyurethane-coated nylon fabric that not only shuns tears and scuffs while entering and exiting various watercraft, it also brushes aside the menacing branches of cedar trees with aplomb while bush whacking, something the constantly ravaged tissue of my forearms surely aspires to. The YKK water-resistant zipper that provides such easy access to the packs innards is also non-corrosive making it highly suitable to the harshest salt water conditions that i hope to eventually subject it to.

One of the highlights of the pack is the outside pocket with a vertical zipper that allows easy access by removing the right shoulder strap and slinging the pack around, perfect for retreiving items like flyboxes that require constant access to. While the easy access is awesome, my only issue with the pack is that i wish the zipper was located on the opposite side so that the dominant right hander in me could sling the pack around to the much more convenient right side of my body (petty, i know.)

Other well thought out features such as external side pockets that double as water bottle or rod holders (in conjunction with the two side straps), an inside mesh organizer and external clips that allow you to add additional packs will give you a bag that can grow as your wallet and needs see fit. All of these features and more make this a pack to be reckoned with, especially for the price.

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While any pack out there will doubtlessly get an angler by, there is a lot to be said for a pack that can be stuffed with all matter of gear, including cameras and dry clothing, strapped to the deck of a paddle board, or slung on the back and forgotten without further thought as one paddles on, or stealthaliy skirts the waters that fish call home. The Gale Force does this to a T, enabling you to focus on the fishing instead of the water. When eventually things do hit the fan (as they did in the above photo) you’ll be happy to know that despite your misplaced foot and consequent dunking, dry clothes and camera are safe and secure, enabling you to get warm, document the misadventure and continue with the fishing.

To check out the Gale Force and the packs it can be paired with, visit www.orvis.com.

Be sure to check out the excellent video review from www.roguefly.com below to see the pack in action.

Truth: To be honest, i did receive this pack for free to review from the fine folks at Orvis in Austin, TX. But as gar is my witness, every word, critical and otherwise is true. Tested with nine months of hard core abuse trout fishing in Colorado and foraging new paths through the thickest cedar jungles of central Texas and it still looks like new.