There's simply too much to see each year at the IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealers) show in Orlando, Florida. But, over the course of three days of poring over all the new offerings, a handful of products always stand out. Also be sure to check out our highlights in New 2016-17 fly fishing gear: Standout fly rods, reels and lines.
Simms Headwaters Pro Waders
Simms has long held the reputation as the gold standard wader maker and its G3 waders are seen by many as the sweet spot in Simms lineup. Most tout the G3 for being strong, durable and featured without the bulk of Simms bulletproof G4 line. But why are we talking about the G3 in a writeup about the Simms Headwaters Pro? Because, the new Headwaters Pro wader — a lineup replacement for Simms’ value-priced Headwaters wader that it has been making for years — borrows a fair bit of its design from the more expensive, best-selling G3: patterning, fit, lower-leg reinforcement with an extra layer of GoreTex and other design considerations, but also throws in new features like a MOLLE webbing strip for attaching forceps and any other manner of gear — and does it all for $100 less.
Redington Sonic Pro Waders
Redington is back with a new wader lineup for 2016-17 and leading the charge is their new Sonic Pro wader, available in both zip front and standard front. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Redington stopped making the Sonic Pro a few years ago when it introduced its now-discontinued Sonic Dry wader which featured a smaller zipper and more minimalistic design philosophy. But now the Sonic Pro is back, and we’re glad. The design of the new Pros looks just like what you’d hope it to be, an updated version of the original Sonic Pros which we raved about when they were introduced, and still wear on a regular basis.
Korkers Rear Entry Boot
Korkers has never been afraid to break new ground. They were the first to bring the now-ubiquitous BOA system to wading boots. They were the first to offer interchangable soles. Their latest introduction, the Korkers rear-entry boot, is designed with one main goal in mind: to make getting in and out of wading boots simpler, an innovation that, if it delivers, should greatly reduce the amount of cursing heard on streambanks and access point parking lots nationwide.
RockTreads Traction System
Each year at IFTD, there’s a product that leaves you shaking your head. Wondering why you didn’t think of it. Wondering why someone else hadn’t already thought of it. It’s almost never one of the “big splash” products; you know, rods, reels and such. It’s usually something small or something simple, but something that can have a real impact on how your day on the water goes. A few years ago, it was the Tacky Fly Box. This year, it’s the RockTreads Traction System.
“Traction System” is a fancy way of saying studs. But in fairness to RockTreads, they are more than studs. Whatever you want to call stuff you stick on the bottom of your boots to help keep you from slipping — studs, cleats, traction systems, etc — if you’ve used aluminum, you know it to be superior to other metals. Aluminum is soft and “grabs” rock, and that makes all the difference.
RockTreads are basically a set of aluminum disks that attach to the bottom of any boot that can be studded (and even some not designed to be) with a single screw. The discs come in various sizes to allow you to customize your setup. And they work. Really well.
Bags and Packs
Umpqua Cooler Gater
Umpqua’s Tailgater, which is designed to attach to storage totes and other storage boxes, was one of IFTD’s most talked about products when it was introduced a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a big hit for Umpqua. The company’s new Cooler Gater is a great example of a smart company doing something, well, smart.
Umpqua has taken the Tailgater, mixed it with its ZeroSweep design (which is all about minimizings snags and grabs in every way possible), and re-imagined it as a cooler accessory. Given that YETI coolers are about as common as fly rods these days, this makes a whole lot of sense. The decks of flats and drift boats, backs of pickup trucks and so on, are about to get a whole lot more organized.
Simms G4 Pro Sling
Sling pack design is an iterative process, even if each new bag that comes out seems to claim it does it all. Even though they’re seemingly more common than vests these days, the sling pack is still a relatively new product and getting it all right — fit, storage capacity, features, load distribution — is a work in progress. For everyone. Simms slings always seem sit amongst the bags at the front of the pack and that may have something to do with Simms’ apparent eagerness to refine and improve upon their existing designs. Simms new G4 Pro Sling is their latest evolution of the sling pack, and it looks to have a lot going for it: easy on/off, a fold-down workstation, magnetic tool docking stations, water-resistant TPU coated fabric with taped seams and cavernous openings that provide very easy access to the G4 Pro Sling’s very ample and thoughtfully planned main chamber, which the pack manages to offer up without feeling bulky.
Vedavoo Mammoth Sling Pack
Vedavoo is another company that’s not afraid to break new ground. And they do. Vedavoo’s ideas, designs and product construction are unique across the industry. Vedavoo just does things differently. And often, they just do things better.
Vedavoo’s new Mammoth sling is a pack unlike any other we’ve seen. Beautifully simple, the water-bottle toting sling opens up to reveal two “mammoth” swatches of plush, real wool felt, both of which absolutely swallow flies. Though ideally suited for the big fly fisherman — think streamers, big hoppers and so forth — the Mammoth will suck up just about any fly collection.
Fishpond Thunderhead Waterproof Duffel
Some destinations, trips or what have you simply require waterproof luggage. Not water-resistant, waterproof. There’s a big, big difference. Don’t believe me? Try making it through a week sleeping on the rain-soaked banks of a Russian river without so much as a dry pair of boxers to change into when you crawl into your tent at night.
Fishpond’s new offering is decidedly waterproof and offers up the convenience of a zipper (TIZIP) for those of your that don’t like the cumbersome nature of roll-top bags. In many ways, it reminds us of a waterproof version of Fishpond’s Westwater line, which are some of the hardiest bags we’ve ever dragged anywhere. If that turns out to be the case, these are bags that you’ll be toting around bone-dry gear in with confidence for many, many years to come.
YETI Hopper Flip
YETI seems unable to make products that don’t end up on almost everyone’s wish lists. And it’s not just hunters, anglers and other outsdoorsmen anymore. Everyone wants what YETI makes. And when YETI designs a new product, it has a knack for finding ways to repurpose it into ever-more-useful forms. The Tundra hard cooler birthed the Roadie. The Rambler tumblers gave rise to the Rambler bottles and the Colster (which was impossible to get your hands on last holiday season). And now YETI’s soft-sided Hopper has been reimagined as the Hopper Flip. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the compact Hopper Flip — which is designed to hold around 12 cans plus ice or YETI Ice — became our go-to YETI this summer thanks to its easy-access flip top and portability, and ended up getting grabbed for almost every single day outing we ventured on.