For Annie, being in a high-risk demographic for glaucoma has its perks.

To get some background on where this is coming from, let alone where it is going, let's look a typical angler. Let's call our angler "Alfredo". Alfredo has a good cast, fairly tight, good rod position and better than average line management. Turn overs are decent and he has opposite side presentation ability. A dream of a client, really. That is, until you put Alfredo in front of a double digit bonefish tailing at 35 feet. Behold the transformation of our formally competent caster at the mere sight of a fish.

Will customers still venture in to their local shop for Simms products?

Last week, when Simms announced that it would begin selling direct to customers as well as placing stricter regulations on how existing retailers can sell Simms products online, it came as a surprise to much of the fly-fishing community. In an era where the fly fishing industry as a whole is said to be shrinking and local fly shops are disappearing from towns all across America on what often feels like a weekly basis, both shop owners and the customers that support them are understandably sensitive to issues such as this one.

As a result, Simms' decision has caused quite a stir. Many have taken flight to online forums to lambaste Simms for turning its back on the very shop owners whose dedication and loyalty were integral to building the Simms brand that exists today. Others have defended the move as inevitable and one destined to build a stronger Simms for the future.

In an interview with Kirk Deeter of Angling Trade, Simms CEO K.C. Walsh explained that Simms would begin selling direct to customers in August and that the company would also no longer allow its vendors to sell Simms products on eBay and Amazon. Simms believes that these decisions will ultimately support the specialty shop by growing the brand and leveling an unfair playing field created by online dealers that offer unauthorized discounts on Simms products.

In the interview, Walsh emphasized that “specialty matters most” to Simms and indicated that Simms plans to continue to focus on the companies and individuals with which they have spent years building relationships by prioritizing inventory for their authorized retailers (over Simms direct sales) and by providing support to maintain the quality and consistency in the Simms products most of us own or covet. After all, you know you're just dying to drop $700 on the G4's.

Maui Jim Guy Harvey Collection Sunglasses

It's not that we haven't spent enough time and effort promoting our fishing photo contest. Those of you who read the site regularly probably wish we'd just can it already. It's not that we haven't gotten lots of great entries from which we're eager to select the winners. We're just being greedy.

Maui Jim Guy Harvey Collection Sunglasses

That said, we're putting you all officially on notice. There's now one week left to get your best photos from this past year entered in our Maui Jim Guy Harvey Sunglasses photo contest. Four pairs of these limited edition Maui Jim sunglasses featuring the artwork of renowned artist Guy Harvey, valued at $299 each, are up for grabs. We've also got some Maui Jim apparel slated for several winners as well. Last but not least, the grand prize winner will have their photo featured in the header of the Hatch Magazine web site, which surely has everyone chomping at the bit.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

One of the challenges of staying warm during winter fishing is doing so without adding bulk. Big, bulky clothing can certainly keep you warm but it can get in the way of casting and, more importantly, can be a real drag trying to cram into properly fitted waders. The alternative for many is to wear winter outer layers on top of waders, which defeats the purpose of anything more than waist-high waders. The answer is highly compressible winter outer layers that provide the warmth, water resistance and wind protection that spending a winter day on the water demands. In an effort to find potential candidates, we reviewed a series of winter outer layers designed to be low-bulk and provide serious protection from the elements. One of the standouts was Patagonia's Nano Puff jacket.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
As tested, the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket in Forge Grey.

The Patagonia Nano Puff is the synthetic counterpart to Patagonia's Down Jacket, both highly compressible winter jackets designed to be used as the middle or outermost component of a layered clothing system. Though both jackets still work very well without a sophisticated set of under-layers, it's important to realize that the key to successful temperature management during winter activities is layering. Wicking base layers (leave your cotton garments at home), combined with the proper mid and/or outer layers allow today's technical clothing to manage moisture and temperature the way they were designed to.

Airflo Skagit Intermediate Compact

Airflo has made available a new compact skagit head that, unlike your typical compact skagit line, does not feature a full floating head. Instead, this intermediate compact skagit head is comprised of a floating portion in the back and an intermediate sinking portion in the front of the head. The line is a duo-tone line, with the sinking and floating portions colored differently, to allow for easy visibility and control of the head as you're fishing it.

Airflo Skagit Intermediate Compact
Transparent blue for the intermediate front section, Heron Grey for the floating back section.

Designed chiefly by Airflo line designer, Oregon steelhead guide and spey casting instructor Tom Larimer, the AIrflo Skagit Intermediate Compact was built with Great Lakes steelheaders in mind. Great Lakes steelheaders fish on rivers that are different than those out west, which are the inspiration for most skagit head line designs. Great Lakes rivers typically contain more complex and varying surface currents, due to the rougher more varying structure of their river beds, than their western counterparts (though this is not without exception). The result is surface conditions which make getting a fly down into the strike zone for a successful swing much more difficult.