Like it or not, the holidays are upon us, and fly fishing gear peddlers are all about seasonal sales. This month, equipment manufacturers are launching a host of new items, from a new rod-and-reel combo kit to a waterproof wading backpack from an unlikely source.
All the “bah, humbug!” aside, it really is a good time to find solid buys for the fly fisher in your life. Take a look at all the new stuff for November — there’s bound to be something the fly angler in your life might like to find under the tree in just seven short weeks.
Cheeky Spray fly reel series
Cheeky’s goal for about as long as the brand has been around has been to offer quality and performance that goes toe-to-toe or exceeds many of its highest priced competitors, while keeping its products in reach of the average consumer. By and large, they’ve accomplished that, establishing a solid reputation for well-made, beautifully machined reels with silky-smooth startup inertia. Cheeky unveiled its latest fly reel series (pictured at top), dubbed the “Spray,” at the ICAST trade show in Orlando over the summer, where it won top honors in the Fly Reel category.
The new Cheeky Spray is now available and on shelves. The new reel sports a new and improved version of Cheeky’s time-tested GDS (gasket drag system) that is fully sealed, making the reel a durable option for both fresh and saltwater angling. Like many of its Cheeky family members, the new reel is fully machined from aerospace-grade aluminum. The Spray boasts an updated frame and spool design that’s both lighter and stronger than previous models. The Spray comes in three sizes: 350 (3½-inch arbor), 400 (4-inch arbor), and 450 (4½-inch arbor). The Spray can accommodate line weights from 4 to 12. All three sizes of Spray reels come in two vibrant color combinations to choose from: the Burn and Steel design, and the Electric Blue and Gold. MSRP: $399 to $499.
Bajio Wet Wade performance waterproof backpack
What do you do if you’re a well-known performance sunglasses manufacturer and want to shake things up? You make a waterproof backpack, of course. Bajio has drifted a bit from its traditional product line with its Wet Wade performance backpack, but this sucker looks promising. First, it’s big. Like 25 liters big. Second, the company has clearly gone to school on similar products made by now-competing soft-goods brands, and had added in some significant functionality that skeletal models were missing in the past.
How so? The Wet Wade backpack features a laptop sleeve, zipping interior pockets, removable rod holders and a water resistant front pocket. Conceivably, this could be the “daily driver” of backpacks for traveling anglers. It’s certainly worth a look—especially amongst a landscape of waterproof backpacks that commonly cost twice as much. MSRP: $150.
Greys Cruise Combo
Not to be outdone during the “combo craze” of late, Greys is launching its new Cruise rod-and-reel combo that should appeal to the budget angler or someone who’s itching to get started fly fishing but doesn’t know where to start. The combo features the Cruise reel, a larger-arbor, full-cage aluminum reel with a disc-drag that the company claims can stand up to the demands of both fresh and saltwater angling. It’s coupled with the Cruise fly rod, a medium-fast stick that comes in weights 5, 7 and 8 (the 7-weight is a 10-foot rod), all in four pieces. The whole package comes ready to fish — it’s loaded with backing, weight-forward fly line and a tapered leader. MSRP: $189.95.
The PAKA Apu parka
Relative newcomer PAKA has been making headlines over the last year or so, winning Outdoor Retailer’s Innovation award in the process. Filled with real, ethically sourced alpaca fur, the new Paka Apu parka — which was developed for the outdoor pursuits of all kinds, not specifically for fly anglers — reportedly tests warmer than 90 percent of the synthetic insulators on the market, and comes in half the volume of down. Alpaca hair fibers have air pockets inside them, which helps them hold heat. The fill, dubbed PAKAFILL by the manufacturer, includes 60 percent alpaca fiber and 40 percent recycled polyester. It’s meant to keep the wearer dry, even when the outside of the parka is wet. Maybe the best part? Alpacas are like sheep — the fur is sheared off them every spring, and the animal is returned to pasture. No alpacas died to keep you warm. And, according to PAKA, the Apu parka is designed to be effective even when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Is this a new game-changing under-wader layer that keeps you swinging for steelhead an hour or two (or four) after you’d normally quit? We’re looking forward to finding out.
RIO new compostable line spool
Starting this fall, all of RIO products fly lines will be delivered to retailers and consumers wrapped around a compostable spool made from recycled newsprint. The effort at reducing its environmental impact is worth noting, and the new packaging spools won the top prize in the Best Eco-friendly Gear category at the American Fly Fishing Trade Association’s Confluence event in Salt Lake City in October. In today’s world, where way too much of our product packaging ends up fouling landfills and lasting generations, RIO should be credited with setting a new industry standard for packaging. Other manufacturers in the fly fishing space, and not just fly line makers, should devote some real effort to reduce the materials that are used once and then simply discarded. Nice work, RIO.
Toadfish universal can cooler
Coozies are cool, but so passé, and can coolers are, well, just for cans. So in a world where 451,245 brands are hocking insulated beverage holders, why even bother to mention this one? Well, Toadfish’s new universal can cooler may actually offer something new in the endless stream of products designed to keep cold beverages cold. The company’s new product features improved suction that will not only hold the ubiquitous 12-ounce can of PBR, but also those 12-ounce slims for the seltzer crowd and, get this, a 12-ounce bottle of High Life, too. Those who prefer 16oz pounder cans seem to still be out of luck though. The suction system at the bottom will grip any hard surface, essentially making your beverage of choice a spill-free companion that you don’t have to hurry and guzzle before it’s your turn on the bow. MSRP: $25.
Free Fly women’s Gridback fleece jacket
Billed by Free Fly “an outerwear masterpiece,” we view Free Fly's newest incarnation of this popular piece a bit differently—as a midlayer. Under your waders and outer shell but over your baselayer, this zip-up fleece sweater is another piece that might make the difference between calling it early on the steelhead river vs. going all day and finally latching into that chromer as the light fails. Constructed from high-pile fleece and finished with a stretch-weave shell, the jacket is packable and light. It comes in sizes XS to XXL. MSRP: $168.