Reviews by Dan A. Nelson
The best gifts for anyone are those that the receiver will use throughout the year. The gifts that can be appreciated season-to-season, give receiver joy all year long and keeps you in their thoughts whenever they put the gift to use. We think we found a few such gifts that are ideal for the angler on your holiday list.
Orvis Recon 7’-6” 3-wt
Casting small dry flies – a pale October caddis, for instance – on skinny water requires a light touch with a sensitive rod. Enter the Orvis Recon. The short (7-foot, 6-inch) version of the Recon 3-weight is ideal for small streams and delicate flies. The Recon features a slick, smooth casting action and, thanks to its soft tip flex, a soft presentation on the water. Borrowing from the award-winning technology that went into the incredible Helios 3 series of rods, the Recon series is an affordable sibling of those high-end rods.
The 3-wt Recon features a stiffer lower section for backbone strength and a flexible mid and tip for feel and casting accuracy. With reaching across small mountain streams, side-arm casting under hanging maple vines, or roll-casting into pocket water, the Recon gives you power and precision. For small streams and big fish, this rod proved itself to be one of the most versatile dry fly specialists we tested in the last 30 years. $598, Buy now.
NOTE: After just a week of testing, I managed to false cast the rod back into a heavy maple limb, snapping off the top 10 inches of the rod. Realizing this was a unique opportunity to test Orvis’ repair program, I created a new account, paid the $60 processing and shipping fee, and ordered a new tip. I broke the rod on a Saturday in August. Ordered the repair piece on Sunday. Had a new tip section that fit perfectly on the following Thursday (delivered to Western Washington – anyone closer to Orvis HQ in Vermont would have received it by that Wednesday). In less than a week for full repair, with not a single day of fishing lost. Orvis Repair program.
High Camp Torch Flask
High Camp has established itself as a leader in offering wilderness-ready flasks (see their original Firelight Flask in this review package). Their latest offering, the Torch Flask, is a pocket-sized version of the original Firelight. The Torch will tote 6 ounces/175 milliliters of fluid (roughly a quarter bottle of booze) and its cover doubles as a 3-ounce shot glass (that’s two jiggers for you bartenders). The small Torch has a wide enough mouth that no funnel is needed for filling, but it’s small enough for simple sipping without spillage.
The tough 18/8 steel construction stands up to the worst abuse you can dish out. And as a bonus, the bottom unscrews to allow easy cleaning – a nice feature if you opt to change beverages between outings. $99. Buy Now.
Patagonia Stealth Hip Pack
The debate over vests versus slings has taken a turn. Hip-packs are making inroads into the category of gear storage for fly anglers. These simple belt-mounted packs offer a great deal of versatility for anglers willing to trim down their on-river gear needs.
The Patagonia Stealth Hip Pack is a perfect example of how these belt packs can make an angler’s life easier. While the Stealth will easily stow two or three fly boxes and an assortment of necessities (small jacket or wind shell, water bottle, lunch) it won’t allow you to bring a boatload of gear. So, your river trekking will be more comfortable, and your fishing more focused thanks to a slimmer fly selection (do you really need to carry an assortment of #2 streamers, Skwala – spring stoneflies –, October Caddis – autumn hatches!! –, and a slew of ‘box fillers’ that seldom see the river?)
The Stealth Hip Pack features zippered pockets on the belt straps, ideal for storing cameras or phones, a pocket at the base of the pack to secure a water bottle, and a sleeve to hold a net handle. In short, the pack secures exactly the gear you need and encourages you to leave behind the stuff that just gets in the way! $169. Buy Now
MagnaReady Work Shirt
Classic plaid never goes out of style, but sometimes classic designs can benefit from a modern twist. Enter MagnaReady. This company offers classically tailored flannel shirts, but behind the buttons – and in place of buttonholes – are rows of magnets encased within the flannel fabric. The shirt simply ‘snaps’ closed when you pull the two halves together. Designer Maura Horton was inspired to create the unique shirts to help her husband, who was stricken with Parkinson’s and needed help to handle traditional button-up shirts.
We had a few anglers test these shirts, and they all praised the ease and simplicity of getting in and out of the shirts, especially after a day of casting to steelhead in freezing rain. And our lead tester, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, deemed the shirts godsends on days when his RA was particularly bad! The MagnaReady Flannel shirts are mid-weight, meaning they are great as stand-alone shirts on chilly winter days, or they can be worn as shirt-jackets on cool spring/fall days. $65. Buy Now
Ibex Indie Hoodie
Let me say, yes, there is a great men’s version of this piece, but this one is a slam-dunk winner for the women anglers. Our team of female testers nearly came to blows over who would lead the test of the Ibex Indie Hoodie. This soft, warm pullover fits snugly against the body for maximum warmth and minimum binding during movement (such as wading and casting). The Hoodie is 100 percent merino wool for durability, comfort, and performance, even when wet. And the natural microbial properties of wool make this an ideal top for wear from the river straight to the pub after a day of fishing. The clean cut and minimal features make it great for layering, and the actual hood of the hoodie is modeled after those found on wetsuits – snug to the scalp when in use, so you can top it with a cap rainhat. And when not in use, the hood lies flat on your back.
Simply put, our female fisherfolks deemed this the best mid-layer they’ve ever used when fishing, weather chasing winter steelhead or casting October caddis’ to rising rainbows. $170. Buy now.
37.5 Technology in a Sun Mountain Colter Vest
The Colter Vest is a sleek, clean design that fits comfortably under waders, or rain shells. The fit is slim and close, providing maximum insulation and minimal binding during activity. But the real reason this vest gets our nod of recommendation is what you don’t see.
Inside this simple vest is a dynamic new insulation. The 37.5 Technology uses activated carbon from coconut husks, as well as porous volcanic rock particles. These minerals are incorporated into insulation fibers (and in other applications, directly into fabrics, foams, and sheet goods). Once embedded into the insulation, the minerals absorb heat and energy, improving the insulation properties of the host material, while also speeding up evaporation and drying. In short, the 37.5 insulation gives greater warmth, even when wet. An ideal combination for any apparel worn into a frigid river! $100. Buy Now
Tenkara Rod Company Kita 330
While fly fishing purists may sneer at tenkara anglers, the truth is tenkara has a much longer history than the rod-and-reel method of fly fishing. Basic tenkara practices represent the very first form of fishing with a ‘pole’. Modern tenkara angling involves just a rod, line, and fly.
The simplicity of the gear and its use allows tenkara to be picked up quickly by novices, yet many skilled fly casters are also drawn to tenkara since it can be fished just about anywhere without much effort. Best of all tenkara kits are compact and easy to pack. Many of our testers have tenkara rods permanently stashed in their cars and trucks, so if they see ‘fishy’ water, they can hit it in an instant.
The new Kita 330 from the Tenkara Rod Company makes an ideal gift for anglers who are always ready to hit the water. The Kita rod weighs just under 2 ounces and is less than 23 inches long when packed. Yet the rod extends to 11 feet and features a slim taper for delicate casting of dry flies and soft hackles. The Kita kit includes rod and rod tube, line and storage spool, and a selection of flies and tippet. This is a great gift for fisherfolk on the go. $170. Buy Now.