Tackle Bag

I've always said if you're worrying about your gear, you have the wrong gear. Here in the Tackle Bag I'll review some of the equipment I use that I have found adds to my experience on the water. If you need more information on a particular piece of gear, please call me at the shop. You can also sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the page to get notices about new Tackle Bag posts.

Simms Kinetic Jacket

Joel La Follette - Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Simms Kinetic jacket is the unofficial team jacket for the Royal Treatment Fly Fishing staff. You'll also see some of our favorite guides sporting this very same jacket as they ply the local waters. The Kinetic is a blend of high tech materials and commonsense design from the nice folks at Simms who know a little something about chilly weather.

Starting with PrimaLoft Gold Insulation, Simms has built a jacket that is perfect for Northwest Steelheaders. The Stretch-Fleece panels on the side and under the arms allow for breathability and a full range of casting motion. The side panels also keep the jacket from bunching up as you slide your waders on.  The PrimaLoft Gold is a hollow core fiber and holds in heat, but is not bulky so you don't look like the Michelin Man when you need to stay warm.  When the wind gets icy, just pull the hood up and hunker down.  Fleece lined pockets welcome your frozen fingers and a low profile zippered chest pocket is a safe place to stow your phone or car keys.

After a few seasons knocking around the NW in this no nonsense jacket it has found a permanent home in my cold weather gear bag. The good news is that Simms looks to be supporting the Kinetic Jacket into the foreseeable future and is offering new colors with each season. I might need to update my wardrobe, but then again, black goes with everything.

Winston Boron IIIx Fly Rods

Joel La Follette - Thursday, March 10, 2016

It's not a deep dark secret that I'm personally fond of those magical green rods from Twin Bridges, Montana.  Ever since picking out my first Winston LT 8'9" 5wt., Winston Fly Rods have always suited my casting style quite nicely. It's hard to describe the feeling of fishing a Winston, but mine seamlessly become an extension of my casting thoughts. They are technically perfect while still retaining the love and soul of a classic creation. When using any piece of sporting equipment if you have to think about the equipment you are not focused on the job at hand. The cast or the fish you are targeting should be your only thought. The rod just translates those thoughts into the perfect presentation. That's a Winston.

Winston's current line-up includes the very popular Boron IIIx, Boron III Plus and Boron III LS. For this review I will be focusing on the BIIIx as the Plus is a brand new model (replacing the SX) and I have not yet spent enough time with the LS to form an opinion. Hopefully I can add to this review soon after a little more time with each of those two models. I will also leave out the Winston LT model, but only because it has been in the line-up for many years and is currently only offered by special order. I do own four LTs, the 8'3" 4wt. being my favorite and try to keep a selection of these rods always in stock.

The Boron IIIx however is a relatively new rod that I have used extensively and feel qualified to provide my opinion here. While choosing a fly rod is a lot like choosing a toothbrush, we all have our own preferences, the BIIIx does seem to appeal to a wide range of casters. With the Boron III fibers reinforcing the high modulus graphite, BIIIx rods are light in the hand, load easy and track perfectly towards your target. For a fast action rod they are not harsh, but transmit their energy with that recognizable Winston smoothness that Twin Bridges is so famous for. 

In a line of rods there is always going to be a few models that stand out from the rest. It could be said that in the old BIIx line-up the 9' 6wt. was one of the best fly rods ever made. In the current BIIIx configuration you'd be hard pressed to find a rod that you didn't like, but the 9' 5wt. stands out as a rod that will remain in your collection for a long, long time. I'm also pretty sure that the 9'6" 7wt. would be another rod you'd want to keep in the quiver.

As a shop owner, customer service is an important part of the fly rod package and in this area Winston excels. I once had to return a rod for a customer that had been trampled into bits by a pack mule up in Oregon's high country. I mailed the pieces to Winston's service department in a padded 8.5 x 11 envelope. In a few weeks a brand new rod sporting the original serial number was back in my customer's hands. He was happy, I was happy, but that mule still has an attitude. Knowing that a company stands behind their product and will be there making sure that my customers are happy makes it easy to be a Winston dealer and a proud Winston owner. 

While rod design is proprietary among all makers, graphite materials are not. Choosing the right materials and blending them together to craft some of the best fly rods made is what sets Winston apart. Their design, quality and detail is evident from your first cast until you hand it down to the next generation of Winston lovers.

Welcome to Winston from R.L. Winston Rod Co. on Vimeo.

Abel Spey and Switch Reels

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Picture a quiet foggy morning on the river. Just the sound of gurgling water and the light swish of line lifting off as the D loop forms and the cast is made. The fly swings and the line comes tight. Suddenly the peace is broken as the reel screams to life, emitting a sound that is simultaneously  wonderful and annoying. Heads turn as the fish finds another gear, increasing the pitch and volume of the clatter. The urgency of the sound raises both the adrenaline and irritation levels for a hundred yards up and down the river.

The Abel Switch and Spey reels are not for everybody, but they are cool, in an old school kind of way. If you like to keep things simple, this may be the reel for you.

Weighing in at 9.3 (Switch) and 10.3 oz (Spey), the Spey will balance nicely with most rods from 13' to 14', while the Switch is perfect on rods under 12'6". The traditional arbor has plenty of room for the required backing, running line and head needed to match today’s rods. The solid frame allows for the use of mono running lines without the worry of the line slipping off the spool. The “click and pawl” drag is adjustable and offers plenty of resistance when fully engaged. Cap that off with an anodized finish that is second to none and you have a reel that is soon to become a classic. (Note: weights listed are with solid spools. Ported spools are .8 lighter on the Spey model.) With the resurgent popularity of vintage Hardys and other click/pawl reels, these offerings from Abel are perfect for anglers wanting old school meets new.

I’ve fished my copy of the Abel Switch now for three years (a Christmas gift from my lovely wife, Kellie) and it has become one of my favorite reels for two-handed Steelheading. It balances perfectly with the 12’6” 6wt. that sees most of the action these days, as well as any Switch rod I care to attach it to. With a Skagit shooting head system or mid-belly traditional line there is still enough room for 130 yards of 30lb. backing. The lack of a high tech drag system has not been an issue as the spring tension and exposed rim allow for good fish control. The noise, well, you either love it or hate it. Their is no in-between.

Colors add $100
Fish Graphic add $200-800

High quality, Made in the USA.
Simple design, instant classic.
Super anodized finish. Custom colors available.
Balances well with most Spey and Switch rods.
Good capacity.
Looks cool.
Makes a great noise when you hook a fish.

Drag spring weakens over time if not returned to off position after use. (Can be replaced.)
Not a reel to do double duty  (Steelhead/Bonefish.)
Makes a ratcheting racket when you hook a fish.

Simms G4 Waders

Joel La Follette - Thursday, October 16, 2014

This past June I had the opportunity to tour the Simms factory in Bozeman, Montana, to see just how their GoreTex waders are made. The tour was very informative and quite fascinating from start to finish. With over twenty-five people putting their touches on every pair of waders . I came away with a new appreciation for that Made in Montana label.

The G4 wader I’m currently wearing is about 20 months old and has yet to leave me with wet feet while standing in cold water. The durability of the wader and the breathability of the fabric are the main reason I stepped up from my old reliable Simms G3 wader. I had been wearing the G3s since they were introduced and really had come to rely on the comfort and convenience of that design. I liked the hand warmer pocket and the handy fold out tippet/fly box pocket. Although very reliable, I did manage to put a few holes in them, but those were quickly repaired with alcohol and Aquaseal. (See repair notes at the bottom.)

My first use of the G4s involved a recovery mission on the Klamath River with my buddy Jason. He had decided that the abandoned section of culvert pipe we spotted lodged in the brambles above the high water mark would be handy back on the ranch. We finished off the day of fishing and headed upriver to claim his prize. I was elected to scamper down into the thorny brush and attach the tow rope. After extracting myself from the blackberries and other natural razor wire I was pretty sure my new waders were toast. Yet to this day after plenty of other brush crashing trips they still do not leak.

The Simms G4 is made from Gore’s New Pro GORETEX, which, if we are to believe the press release, is 25% more breathable than the old Pro GORETEX. I have found that even with the five layers of fabric through the hip area the wader is very comfortable on hot days. It also seems to be very rugged. With the proper layers underneath the G4 is a four season wader. As will all GORETEX waders it is very important to avoid layers that will retain moisture. I find wool to be my favorite base layer, with fleece used for extra insulation. In the summer I wear a nylon flats style pant. I always wear wool socks to keep my feet dry and comfortable. Whatever you choose, avoid cotton in all under wader clothing. 

When new, the G4 seems stiff and heavy, yet is surprisingly comfortable right out of the box. They do soften up a little over time with wearing. The wader retains the same handy tippet/flybox/retractor pocket as the G3 and has a zippered hand warmer pocket. The suspenders are padded and a very nice upgrade. 

On the plus side:

Very durable. Five layers through the hips and seat make for a nearly bulletproof wader. Nearly. All waders will leak if you poke hole in them.

Very breathable. The new Pro GORETEX fabric is great at moving perspiration out of the wader as long as you layer properly.

Very comfortable even with the heavier fabric. 

I love the new suspenders and the wider wader belt.

I still use the tippet/flybox/retractor pocket a lot. On most occasions that is all I need for storage. Love it.

Simms customer service. The best in the business. 

On the minus side.

Zippered hand warmer pocket. The zippers on the pocket are not waterproof and the pocket fills with water if you wade too deep. Answer? Add a drain hole ( ATTENTION SIMMS R&D) or don’t wade that deep. I keep a towel handy to dry out the pocket, but seldom need it. I don’t wade as deep as I use to.

Price. These waders are not cheap. At $699.95 they cost twice what my first car did. Although my first car did leak a little. Add a zipper and now you're at $799.95. What you are paying for is the GORETEX fabric, the Made in Montana label, the Simms customer service and the knowledge you're wearing the best wader on the market. Are they worth it? Yup.

Repair notes.

As I said, all waders will leak if you poke a hole in them. Holes are not the wader's fault. Simms offers a 30 day/ new pair if you have a failure and a first year free repair warranty. Seam leaks and failure of the material is covered by Simms and GORE through the life of the water. For other damages Simms offers a repair service for any Simms wader that can be repaired. Depending on use and age, most repairs run $40-50. This includes sealing pinholes, repairing tears and replacing neoprene feet. Waders that have outlived their normal lifespan or have excessive wear may not be repaired if Simms cannot guarantee you dry feet the next time you wear them.

For small leaks all GORETEX products can be simply repaired with Aquaseal or any repair adhesive. Turn the wader inside out and rub or spray alcohol (Rubbing, not Jack Daniels) on the area you expect the hole to be. Pinhole leaks will show up as a dark spot in the fabric. Circle the spot with a pen and let the alcohol evaporate, then cover with a thin layer of Aquaseal and let dry. This technique will not work on non GORE-TEX fabrics. 

Storing waders in a cool dry place will add to their lifespan. Rinse off your waders after use and dry them inside and out. If wearing them for multiple days, turn them inside out to dry overnight before wearing the next day. I suggest rinsing off the inside of the wader on occasion to prevent odors.


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