Each year, after the holiday season is behind us all, many anglers start peering ahead. Ahead roughly, say, three or four months—to the somewhat rapidly approaching new fishing season. Or, if you’re a dedicated wintertime angler or live in parts of the country that remain hospitable to anglers throughout the entire year, fishing season never ends.
Giving a nod to both groups, manufacturers are rolling out new wares for the coming year. With rods, reels, waders, fly tying gear, and more, there’s plenty to pore over. Here are a few of this month’s highlights.
Patagonia men’s Swiftcurrent Wading Jacket
Have you ever wondered why wading jackets don’t often boast the same layered, breathable approach that waders do? You’re not alone. And it looks like Patagonia thinks like a lot of foul-weather anglers out there who could last all day in the harshest of elements if only their wading jackets could keep pace.
The company’s new Swiftcurrent Wading Jacket (which actually landed in stores at the end of last year) appears to tackle the all-day-in-the-cold-and-rain challenge head on. WIth four layers of breathable (and recycled) nylon coated in a chemical-free water repellant, this may be the jacket every angler who deals with in-your-face rain all day has been waiting for. Add in some expected functionality (big pockets for fly boxes, adjustable and water-tight cuffs and an adjustable hood), and Patagonia’s expected nod toward reused and recycled materials, and this wading jacket might be worth a serious look.
The men’s Swiftcurrent Wading Jacket (pictured at top) retails at $399.
Sage ENFORCER saltwater fly reel
Sage may be best known for its fly rods—like its brand-new, flagship saltwater rod series the Sage SALT R8—but the Washington-based rod maker also consistently turns out some of the best reels in the business. According to the company’s reel designer, Joseph Conrad, Sage's new ENFORCER “has been designed to bring exceptional stability and smoothness to the fish fight.”
The new saltwater-specific reel purportedly boasts a maximum drag increase of 50 percent over its predecessor, the highly-regarded SPECTRUM MAX fly reel. It also couples some seemingly cosmetic improvements, like a reel foot with rounded corners to prevent line abrasion during storage, with substantive changes, like larger drag discs to spread the pressure around when tackling big fish or bringing fish in quickly to shorten a fight in order to give a released fish a fighting chance at survival.
The new ENFORCER is a bit bulkier – Sage labels the larger size as “burlier” and notes that it’s out of necessity. Saltwater reels take a beating, what with sand and salt conspiring on a regular basis to foul a reel’s innards.
The Sage ENFORCER fly reel retails at $575.
Simms G4 PRO Powerlock Wading Boots
Simms released its expansive new spring lineup this week, with a bevy of new gear including apparel, bags and packs, several new models of waders, and more. Leading the way is a brand new pair of wading boots, the Simms G4 PRO Powerlock wading boots. The new boots are Simms' most ambitious (and expensive) boots yet.
With a highly technical construction designed to withstand heaps of abuse, the neoprene-lined boots come with either a Vibram® Idrogrip rubber outsole or a 12mm felt outsole. But the boots’ hallmark is their new cleat/stud system. The customizable cleat system is all new from Simms and is designed both for a high level of retention and easy on/off, given that every pair of Powerlocks comes with two different sets of 14 cleats — an aluminum set for wading and a boat-safe TPU set.
The Simms G4 PRO Powerlock wading boots retail for $499.95.
Loon Tying Mat
Disorganized fly tyers rejoice! Well, maybe. For a lot of us, there’s really just no hope, is there? But credit Loon for trying. The new Loon tying mat is for “tyers who spend most of their time at the vise looking for tools rather than tying flies.”
The flat black mat is “compartmentalized” to help tyers store various tools used during a single session at the vise, as well as specific materials, finished flies, hooks, beads, etc. It’s a solid effort at helping scatterbrained tyers who find themselves looking under hackle capes and wads of dubbing for the scissors that are hidden in plain sight.
The tyer who might find the tying mat most appealing? The angler who hits the road and needs a scaled-down version of the home tying table. The mat features magnetic compartments to keep things like bare hooks from ending up in the shag rug of the camper, and here’s a sweet little feature: cured UV resin peels right off the rubberized surface.
The Loon Tying Mat retails at $35.
Orvis PRO Approach Hiker
Fly fishing’s best-known legacy brand is also a company that values innovation, and it looks as if that was the primary motivator for the new Orvis PRO Approach Hiker saltwater wading boots.
The boots, “specifically designed for the rigors of the marine theater,” incorporate Orvis’ continuing partnership with Michelin and feature the trademarked Intuition foam footbed that’s designed to mold around the foot, giving each angler a unique fit.
Orvis bills the boots as “the ultimate wet-wade boot and made to cover miles” on the flats, all while having the durability to wander through the mangrove mud and the jagged rocks of the marls. And, all of this without the need for an additional pair of wading socks or Neoprene booties, thanks to the foam footbed. If true, this is a saltwater wading boot to be admired–even the most durable flats boots on the market today leave quite a bit to be desired in terms of comfort and dependability.
The Orvis Pro Approach Hiker retails at $229.
TFO Pro III fly rod
While everyone would like to be able to drop a nifty grand on a high-end fly rod, most of us just don’t have that kind of cheddar. And, there are lots of budget-friendly rods out there that are perfectly respectable implements, particularly for new or more casual anglers.
Mainstream fishing rod manufacturers shouldn’t be dismissed as fly rod makers for the noob crowd – Temple Fork Outfitters has crafted fine fly rods for 20 years, and those rods often end up in the hands of fly fishing junkies, not just new anglers. But in 2023, the company is giving an overt nod to the new fly fisher with its new TFO Pro III fly rod line. The Pro III is a moderate-action rod made in weights 3 through 9, and the new, infrequent or moderately experienced angler is the company’s target.
The rod, billed as “a tool with a wider sweet spot to allow casters to better feel the rod load,” is the latest in the TFO Pro series evolution. It’s also backed by TFO’s lifetime warranty, a rapidly disappearing offering in the fly-fishing space.
The new TFO Pro III retails at $229.95.
Tenkara USA Satoki rod and kit
Are you tenkara curious? It’s OK. The world is woke. Nobody’s going to poke fun at you anymore. And nor should they – not when we’ve seen over the last 15 years or so just how effective tenkara can be in all sorts of angling situations. So, if you’ve wanted to give a it a shot, but you’re not sure where to start, Tenkara USA might have just the kit for you.
The closest thing to a “legacy” tenkara brand in the United States, Tenkara USA is offering its newest tenkara rod, the Satoki, along with a tapered nylon line, a spool of tippet, three tenkara flies, a pair of nippers and a pair of hemostats. It’s all you need to dip your toes into tenkara.
The Satoki, like a lot of tenkara rods on the market in recent years, can be fished at different lengths, from 10 feet, 8 inches to 12 feet 2 inches and all the way to 13 feet, 7 inches. The shorter length makes the rod practical on smaller water, and the longer position gives anglers the ability to reach out over tricky water and place nothing on the surface except for a fly.
The Satoki rod and kit retails at $280.