Review: Simms Headwaters Day Pack and Chest Pack

In the past 12 months alone, my poor 2003 Accord has been broken into four times. Four times. It wasn’t until I started doing inventory for my 2014 trip to Montana and Idaho that I discovered those bastards got away with my five year old Simms Headwaters Chest Pack. That thing had three full fly boxes in it. Son. Of. A. Bitch.

When I discovered that the 2014 Simms Headwaters Chest Pack was not compatible with my ‘legacy’ Day Pack, I decided to cop for the whole package, though not without a side eye to innovations and our good friends at Simms.

Simms Headwaters Day and Chest Pack Combo

Simms company line on the combo quips, "Skip river gridlock and make haste for upstream seclusion in Simms’ most technical backpack yet. The Headwaters™ Full Day has a chasmic 1,830 cubic inches of storage accessed via a large zippered compartment. Inside, stretch mesh dividers add intuitive organization for raingear, layering options, and all destination essentials. Break out the rods and elevate your angling thanks to Catch & Release modular convenience that allows you to dock or disembark with Simms’ Chest and Hip Pack options via rock-solid magnetic attachments. Packs ride comfortably thanks to a breathable mesh back and a plush strap system, while three hardworking levels of high Denier fabric enhance durability."

Adrift on the Elk

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

The wry, completely accurate observation comes from the man on the sticks behind me and I have to admit, after missing a half-dozen hooksets, that I do appear to be stubbornly equine.

But, in my defense, I’m distracted. Distracted by the mist-shrouded Three Sisters and surrounding Canadian Rocky peaks that rise majestically to the north of our drift down the Elk. Distracted by the lush riverbanks of lodgepole and fir and quaking aspen. Distracted by the lake-filtered emerald green glacial melt as it races along wide stretches of perfectly smooth freestone rapids. Distracted by…

Crap. Missed another.

“Let me know when you’re ready to take the oars.”

Elk River
The Elk River, near Fernie, British Columbia (photo: Mike Sepelak).

We roll out of our comfy beds at Fernie's Park Place Lodge at a civilized hour (code words for overslept), but there’s no panic. No scooping of gear and dashes for the door. Unlike most trout fishing, at this time of year in British Columbia it’s not about catching the morning or evening hatch, but rather about just getting on the water. With a solid fourteen hours of good terrestrial opportunities, there’s no need to hurry, no need to sacrifice that few extra winks.

IFTD 2014 Highlights: Packs and Bags

Although the list of winners that emerge from each year's International Fly Tackle Dealer show helps highlight the crowd favorites in many a category of fly fishing gear, very notable products often don't get enough recognition. Recently, we highlighted some of the most intriguing fly fishing accessories from this year's show in Orlando, Florida, and now we're back to shed light on some of the standouts packs and bags.

Waist packs, chest packs and sling packs have become as essential a piece of fly fishing gear as the venerable vest, but are constantly evolving as they still relatively new. Manufacturers keep finding way to pack in more thoughtful features, make the packs wear better, hold up longer and so on. And much of the same can be said of waterproof storage and fly fishing luggage. Here are a few of this year's highlights.

Vedavoo Tight Lines Beast Sling Pack
Scott Hunter demos the Vedavoo Tight Lines Beast Sling Pack.

Review: Simms Vapor Wading Boot

There is a considerable amount of diversity in the world of wading boots. Simms alone has 10 different boot models for men, with other manufacturers also offering a mixed bag of options. And, although it might not seem like it at first glance, most of this diversity is meaningful. Rather than these models being differentiated by little more than purposeless bells and whistles or aesthetic differences, most of these boots have substantive differences in design that tailor them best to decidedly different purposes. As a result, most of these boots are tailored best to different anglers as well, dependent on what each angler seeks to accomplish with said boots.

Simms Vapor Boot
The Simms Vapor Boot.

None of this is to suggest that there aren't boots that can do it all. There most certainly are. In fact, most can. But some boots do some things better than others, as a result of how they've been designed. Some boots scream winter steelheading, with roomy foot boxes that will generously accept thick neoprene booties underlaid by a couple pairs of wool hiking socks. Others are built with guides in mind, where the durability demanded by what can sometimes be hundreds of days per year on the water trumps other design concerns such as shedding weight. Still others are built for the flats, where studdability, slip-protection and ankle support take a back seat to things like puncture resistance against shells and other hazards of the salt.

Hike Your Own Hike

When you're two miles in with thirty pounds on your back you realize two things. First, thirty pounds weighs more on the trail than it did in your dining room. Second, two miles on foot has no relationship whatsoever with two miles in any conveyance. You also realize that leaving behind the rod, reel and fly box just to save a pound or two may have been the wrong decision though that's an easy regret to have when faced with a startling green pool in a fast moving mountain river. Such regrets will evaporate twenty miles onward when the ounces crush your arches and leaden the spirit.

Hike Your Own Hike
Photo: Chad Shmukler.

On a recent Friday evening, my son and I camped along the banks of the Housatonic River. The relatively short hike into the Ten Mile River campground allowed us a jump off point for an early start on Saturday. Sam has aspirations to do a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail after high school. He has read alluring tales of the AT penned by AWOL and Bryson and his mind has been captured with the epic adventure of it all. I figured a taste of the reality of an encumbered walk in the woods would provide data for a more informed decision. We planned to go north as far as we could muster. At a minimum we'd get to test out knees and muscles and equipment against a fine summer day or two on the AT.