Married to fly fishing?

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue
gilman grips
Photo: Jeff Gilman

"Do you take fly fishing to be your lawfully wedded spouse, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?"

Whatever vows you may, or may not, have made to your fishing, it’s important to have gear that will treat you with love and respect until it’s time for you to go your separate ways. With that in mind, here are four recommendations that you might want to keep in mind for the remainder of 2019.

Something Old

I have an “old” Orvis sling pack. How old, you ask? Well, I don’t actually know, but I can tell you that I wore this particular Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling Pack when we were filming Chrome in the British Columbia wilderness back in 2015. The pack looks just as good now as it did back then, and it’s held up to four years of regular abuse with nary an issue.

orvis safe passage sling pack
Photo: Steve Zakur

This particular sling pack has plenty of room for everything you might want on the river, including your flies, your leaders and tippet, your water, your lunch, your jacket and all the various and sundry other items that can mean the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The compartments are logical and intelligently laid out, the pack is comfortable to wear, and the whole thing just works the way it’s supposed to. Oh, and the magnetic forceps holder is great.

This is the point at which I’d typically have to tell you that, sorry, Orvis no longer makes the Safe Passage Sling Pack and so you can’t buy one unless you can find it on eBay. But guess what? I just checked and, as of today, you can still pick one up with a minimum of fuss. Don’t blame me if you decide to wait until next year and the pack goes away forever. You’ve been warned.

Something New

You’ve probably never heard of Gilman Grips. After all, most of us haven’t. And unless you row your own drift boat or your own raft, you might not care about the greatest advancement to the oar since some clever soul decided to put rope wraps on a wooden shaft. If you do row your own boat, though, then you’ll want to read on.

Gilman Grips are the first ergonomically-shaped oar grips that I’ve ever encountered. Most grips, of course, are little more than rounded shafts that always seem to put a little extra strain on your hands and wrists without giving you any sense of where your oar blade is facing. Gilman Grips, on the other (and better) hand, are easier to hold, and to use, and they make your oar placement more precise at the same time they add power to your stroke.

gilman grips oar handles
Photo: Jeff Gilman

How do I know? I actually took them out, attached to a pair of new Sawyer Oars, and put them through their paces on my drift boat. You can take it from someone who has been rowing for almost 50 years. They’re comfortable, they’re intuitive, and they work even better than I’d hoped. The next time you’re looking for new oars, make sure you ask for the Gilman Grips. They’re a little more expensive, but they’re worth it.

Something Borrowed

I didn’t really know that I was going to fish the Henry’s Fork and the Missouri back in June, but I suspected that, if the stars happened to align and the dice rolled just right and I wasn’t sidetracked by karmic imbalances, it might work out. And happily, it did. Even better, I was able to borrow a couple of Winston’s new Pure fly rods; a 9’ for 4 and a 9’ for 5, and rather than using my own stuff and leaving those borrowed rods sitting together in the truck, I put each of them through their paces on the Railroad Ranch and, a couple of weeks later, on the Missouri near the fishy town of Craig, Montana.

Long story short, both rods proved to be sweethearts. They throw beautiful lines, and put your flies right where you want them, and they handled very large browns and rainbows with a minimum of fuss. Pat McCabe, who joined me on the Henry’s Fork and who lends his considerable angling and casting talents to the School of Trout, seconded my opinion that they’re both excellent rods and that, of the two, the 4 weight just edges the 5 weight in sheer casting perfection. You might feel differently — you may well feel that the 5 just edges the 4 — but please don’t send me an 8,000 word treatise on why you’re right and I’m wrong. Just fish the one you like best.

Something Blue

It may have been late winter, or it may have been early spring, but at some point earlier this year I purchased a lone Patagonia Men’s Tropic Comfort Hoody II in Mako Blue. I’m not sure what it was about this particular hoody that caught my attention but, sight unseen — or actually fabric unfelt, as I’d seen a picture of the hoody on the inter-tubes — I ordered one. I also ordered one, in the same Mako Blue, for my 14 year old son Kian.

Photo: Molly McCabe

Yes, we match. Get over it.

In case you’re curious, I love this little gem from Patagonia. It’s light, it’s comfortable, it keeps the sun off and the bugs away, and it even makes me feel 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter. Or maybe it’s 30 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. In any case, I like this particular hoody enough that it’s become my go-to fishing shirt for 2019. I just ordered two more - one in Mako Blue, one in Fitz Roy Trout: Celadon (or as I like to call it, green) — so that I can wear them at SOT’s upcoming Advanced Dry Fly class on the Henry’s Fork. Oh, and if you’re lucky, Patagonia will still have the Mako Blue Tropic Comfort Hoody available in your size when you realize that Hatch Magazine has become the ultimate fly fishing trend setter and you need to purchase one forthwith.

Yup. Get the blue one. It’s way better if we all match.