GoreTex. H2No. Call it what you will, modern waterproof technologies are certainly effective, but they lack a bit of soul. They keep weather out, but they don’t weather well at all. When they age, they often break or simply stop being waterproof. You buy it, use it, and replace it — you don’t hand it down. It’s temporary; a thing designed to be effective but replaced.
Have you heard of Rail Riders before? No? My bet: you will be hearing about them in the coming years. And not just because you're reading this. Rail Riders is a great outdoor clothing company, founded and based right here in New England (they're in Belmont). Their products are rugged and time tested, comfortable, look good, and at a great price point? The only problem is that they're a well-kept secret.
Two things are true, for me and for New England. First, this summer in New England has been hot -- record breaking hot. With climate change, the long-term forecast only looks hotter. Second, I already sweat like a pig in waders in the summer. When I hit a river, or even rock jettied and beaches, I know that at the end of the day, when I open up my waders, there’s going to be some serious funk, not to mention discomfort throughout the day.
There’s an irony to fly fishing: we seek out beautiful waterways only to spend so much time, not to mention money, preventing ourselves and our things from getting wet. It’s understandable: whose wife (or husband) would believe the ‘I’m home late and I didn’t call you because my phone dunked in the river” excuse? It’s the fly fisherman’s dog and homework, except, in most cases much more expensive, and a much bigger hassle, especially when you’re on a trip, deep in the woods.
So much about fly fishing is filtered through your eye: sight fishing for rising trout or daisy chaining tarpon, identifying the bait, locating the fish, and, occasionally, setting the hook. Even the aesthetics -- the mountain background to a freestone stream, the color of Caribbean water -- are a large part of why we go to the places we do to chase fish, with some urban carp being a notable exception.
These days, when it comes to products there's a lot of tough talk. This plastic case is built to withstand being stepped on. This -- ads will say -- well, this is built to withstand being driven over. Until the past few years, I had no idea so many fishing products were the victims of untimely vehicular deaths.
The Orvis Helios 2 -- a rod that has won so many awards that it hardly needs an introduction. I tried the H2 a few years ago in the 5 weight that so many people have reviewed, and so many have loved. But when I want a 5 wt, I fish the bamboo rod my dad made for me. (Spoiled, I know.)
A few years ago, I started looking for a new saltwater rod. Here in New England, I do a fair amount of salt water fishing. That means a lot of long nights, a lot of punching into the wind, and a lot of trying to huck a big fly a long ways with a backcast hampered by rock, estuary grass, or sand.
There's one guarantee in fishing: you're going to be near and, often, in the water. Even if you're not wading, conditions change quickly, bringing water from above as well as below. When I was a kid, my grandfather used to joke that there was one guarantee for our annual canoeing and fishing trip in Maine: It was going to rain. Hard.
Click...Click...Click click click... "Dammit!" We've all been there: clippers that have been dulled by the elements. The only thing that is worse is pliers that have been rusted by use that they're hard to close or open. The scenario when you have a fish at the boat, or in the net, and your pliers don't work? A nightmare.