Showing posts with label Gear Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear Reviews. Show all posts

July 24, 2015

ICAST / IFTD 2015 - BesT! In Show

Okay, okay, okay...last post of the week...and hopefully I saved the best for last.

Now of all the products I saw at the show...aisle after aisle after aisle...after all was said and done...there were only three items that I could honestly look in the mirror and say "Mike, the odds are pretty strong you're going to buy one of these over the next year."

So much stuff to sort through...

Sure, you can talk (or write) about all the cool stuff ad nauseam (sort of like I did this week)...but a real vote of confidence only comes with your wallet. One of those items is most likely going to be the L.L. Bean River Tread Pro wading boots highlighted in Monday's post, however the other two items resided in the same I'm just going to name the booth the winner...

So I don't even know if all of the items I looked at in the Kast Gear booth were "new for 2016" or not, I actually don't think they are, because they're all available now...but you know how things's new to me, even though I've heard of the brand before.

See the story unfolds like this, you see this cool looking apparel brand online, never get to see or touch it in person at a retailer, so odds are you never buy anything...even though you like it. I mean who's going to buy a $200 jacket sight unseen, am I right?

Well, I finally got to see the Kast Gear line in person, and damn, I was impressed. Fabrics, construction, fit...the whole nine yards. Two items really stood out to me as being exceptional...and forgive me in this post as the pictures I took in person really didn't turn out so well, so I'm going to "liberate" photos of the items from the Kast website instead.


As odd as it sounds, this technical top is sort of what piqued my interest and got me in the booth in the first place. For those in colder climates, it serves as a layering piece, but I'd probably use it in Florida as a UPF+ rated sun shirt. Now what's got me so excited? Two things in particular.

First the zip pocket. It's tight and flush to the body. I can't tell you how many performance shirts like this I've purchased since I've moved South that have pockets where either the zipper weighs down the front, or the seams around it pucker or bunch up. This pocket stays true, non-conspicuous, and form fitting.  Bravo!

The second is the neckline. I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE it when you buy a sun shirt like this, try it on and the neck opening is super-wide. I bought 2 tops from a prominent retailer (that will go unnamed) earlier this year, and once I got them home noticed how wide the neck was. I don't wear those shirts any more. What's the point of a sun shirt if it leaves you exposed almost down to your collarbone. The opening should hug the bottom of your neck. No, not like a turtleneck or anything, but enough to know it's there. I'll wear this shirt, it's done right. MSRP $49.95

Which leads into the...


MSRP $199.95

Hands down, my favorite item of the show. I only wish I had this jacket when I lived in Pennsylvania. Heck, I'm probably going to buy this jacket for the one or two times a year I return I liked it so much, and donate all the other mid-weight jackets in my closet this Holiday season. Why?

You just have to feel it to understand, but I'll try to explain. It's a lightweight PrimaLoft Eco insulated body...basically, it's as if you almost as if you were wearing one of those nano-puff vests...which I did a ton in the Fall & early Winter when I went fishing up North. However the sleeves are made of a Polartech Powerstretch material that gives your arms a great range of motion, but still protect you from the elements. Oh, and those sleeves have thumb-holes, which you might think is a "chick" thing...well at least until you try them...

So take the benefits of a vest - a heated core and mobility, combine it with warm arms...without having to wear a bulky sweatshirt or hoody underneath...oh, and add pockets where they should be and a collar that isn't itchy or annoying and...

Job well done Colby & Kast Gear get the award for 2015 BesT! In Show!

This is the sixth and final product overview from last week's ICAST / IFTD event. If you'd like to see the other entries, please click HERE.

July 23, 2015

ICAST / IFTD 2015 - Rods, Reels, & Randomness tired of these yet...?
Don't worry, ICAST / IFTD week is almost over.

In today's installment, I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures of pretty much anything and everything I haven't posted yet. Things that caught my eye for one reason or another. Some of it will be fly (fishing), some of it will not. Welcome to Rods, Reels, & Randomness!


Kicking it off, that crazy Derek DeYoung went and painted a perfectly good tarpon to look like a brown trout. So not only has his art adorned fly boxes, reels, apparel, mugs, and rod tubes, but now it's on the fish themselves!!! Make a mental note, you'll see a lot of Derek's work in this post...


Diamondback rods are back. They had a few new models at the show, but I gotta be honest, nothing was quite as wild as these Clout models with the "LINK GRIP" cork handles which are supposed to improve sensitivity and reduce fatigue. What do you think about these??? MSRP $425


Every year, the Hardy booth stops me in my tracks. While they were really pushing the new Zephrus FWS rod ($649-$799) and Ultralite CA DD ($275-$419), a reel which Hardy claims is their finest large arbor model ever produced, (coming in Titanium...

...or black)...

...I just wanted to stop and look at the more timeless designs. There are few things sexier in the fly fishing word than a classic Hardy reel. I really just need to bite the bullet and pick one or three up one of these years...


Flymen Fishing Co. always seem to have something new and unique to offer. This year was no different. Starting with the Fish-Skull Captain Dubiel’s Pop-N-Fly, which is a foam popper you tie a few feet before your fly and chug along the surface to entice big reds!  MSRP $6.95...

The Fish Skull Black Sculpin Helmet...which is pretty self-explanatory if you're familiar with Fish Skulls...MSRP $6.80...

And last but not least, Fish Skull Chocklett's Body Tubing, used to create big heads, tapered bodies, and flare out materials on big game flies to give them the look of bulk, but maintain a light weight for ease of casting. MSRP $5.95...BOOM!


The Redington SKAGIT boot. Simply because I like to say Skagit.


Cheeky came to the party with 11 new reels...including a new opening price point reel, the Tyro. It essentially takes the same Rev Carbon drag system found in their mid-pricepoint Boost series, and drops it into a really tight, less expensive chassis coming in 3 sizes 2-4 all the way up to 7-8. MSRP $129-$149

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, they also dropped this beast of a spey reel on the industry called the...wait for it...Spey Series...which comes in a Mojo 425 & Thrash 475 flavor.

And to top it off, then they just got crazy and decided to get into the spinning reel business.  What the what? Yeah, 6 super smooth reels; 3 for freshwater fishermen called the FLOTR and 3 big salty sized reels called CYDRO. FLOTR is kinda a funny name...well, because my mind is always slanted toward potty humor, but the reels are phenomenal feeling in hand. CYDRO 3500 MSRP $129


Wetfly has a few accessories of note, like this water resistant, roll top Lotus Swing Pack ($129.99), and the Voyager "hydration vessel" ($34.99)...please don't call it a's like the YETI of Thermoses.

And a big freakin' reel too. The NitrogenXD Type III reel starts at a manageable 5-7 weight size, but then grows all the way up to a massive 11-14 weight size. Fully anodized and scratch resistant, this reel's also got a maintenance free, fully sealed drag...which is essential to go chasing oceanic giants. MSRP $499.99 - $609.99


Redington straight up went opposites when it comes to reel design.  First up, the BEHEMOTH giggles at any and all tenkara fishermen. Check out this freakin chunk of die-cast reel that claims the "strongest drag in it's class." In models from 5 weight up to 12 weight, this is one intimidating reel. I'll be honest, I'm scared of it. MSRP $109.95-129.95

And from the all capital BEHEMOTH, we shrink things down to the all lower case zero. zero is super light weight, you pick it up and at less than 3 ounces, it feels like nothing. The guts are nothing fancy, with a spring loaded, click drag, but you're not buying this to fight tarpon. This looks to be a nice ultralight reel at a very reasonable price. MSRP $89.95


As you might expect, Abel had a rainbow full of colorful reels. This Andrea Larko Edition Super 6N looked way better in person than in this crappy picture. They also have reels with Derek DeYoung or Eric Hornung graphics. Pretty baller. MSRP $1045

One of my longtime readers (George) wanted an update on the world of high end coolers. Holy moly there were a lot of them...


Kysek claims to be "The Ultimate Ice Chest." It's grizzly-proof, keeps ice for 10 days, and has integrated low profile wheels. A lot of neat bells and whistles, and I didn't even get to the electronics part yet...yes, I said electronics...

They also had this big screen at their booth, which I'm going to be honest, confused the snot out of a dullard like me. It was some sort of app called Code Blue that hooks up to a Bluetooth sensor inside the Kysek cooler and tells you statistics like internal temperature. Heck it will even send an alarm to your phone if you go over a certain temperature...cooler geeks rejoice!  Kysek coolers (without electronics) MSRP from $249 - $649.


Tempress also figured out a way to let you pimp out your cooler by developing cushions and wraps featuring America's foremost fishing artists such as DeYoung (yet again), Whitlock, Larko, and Estrada. Examples of Eric Estrada & Andrea Larko adorned coolers are below. MSRP $149.99 (cooler not included).


Pelican had some really big clunky ProGear Elite coolers with off-road wheels on them that let's face it, are probably functional as all get out, but nowhere near as sexy as a YETI...or a Grizzly...or a Kysek...


If wheels aren't your thing, the ORCA Pod backpack cooler might be the way for you to go...a soft-sided cooler, it holds 15 pounds of ice and 24-12 ounce cans, and will keep it all cold for days. That's a party on your back! Okay, it weighs almost 60 pounds full, but isn't all the the fun in lightening the load anyway? MSRP $329.99

Don't forget ORCA's line of premium hard sided coolers too...which happen to be proudly made in the USA.

OK, what's left?  A few other random things...almost done, I'll be quick...


Like this Bonefish floor mat from Realfish...

 Floating selfie sticks from SP Gadgets...

The Squiddies Flip Reel...bringing the Cuban yo-yo into the 21st century...

A pretty slick net, the EGO S2 Slider Guide Landing Net, that has a handle that adjusts from 29" to 60"...

The Costa Rooster won "Best Sunglasses in Show" at the ICAST New Product Showcase...

Currents water shoes from Simms did the same in the footwear category...

Last but not least...the No Tangler Fishing Rod from Steinhauser Tangle-Free Rods. It's telescopic, handles any spincast or baitcast reel, and the line actually feeds through the rod itself, not through the guides. It's pretty much fool proof fishing...which is something I think I need at this point, because I'm pretty wiped out from writing all of these recaps! MSRP $16.99 (kids licensed combo) all the way up to $39.99 (adult spincast combo)

As you've probably noticed, I've embedded links to each of the manufacturer websites within each write-up, so if you're looking for more information on any of these products, please click through and pay them a visit!

And with that, the ICAST / IFTD recaps are over for 2015!  At least until tomorrow, when I name my "BestT! in Show" award in the final if you've liked them so far, please make sure to come back and check that out.


This is the fifth of six new product overviews from last week's ICAST / IFTD event. If you'd like to see the other entries, please click HERE.

July 22, 2015

ICAST / IFTD 2015 - Apparel, Wading, & Packs

So let me get this out of the way, I'm not even going to pretend like I saw all of the clothing, waders, and bags at the show. There was just a tremendous amount of it everywhere...far too much to document in about 5 or 6 hours of wandering a show floor.

Since time was of the essence, a lot of what I saw was either at the various "New Product Showcases" somewhat removed from the show floors, or at booths I passed by where I happened to see a bit of a break in the action. Booths like Costa, Simms, & Patagonia were pretty much packed the entire day, so sorry if I missed your manufacturer of choice.

I did happen to see more than my share of cool stuff, which I'll highlight below.


My winner of "BesT! in Show" award in 2014 went to the Hodgman Aesis Sonic waders, the first step in the company's re-branding effort from your "uncle's rubber hippers" into high-performance, technology filled waders. The evolution continues with wading apparel that was teased last year, but fully unveiled this year.

The 3 jackets shown above are of the Aesis HyperDry Down Jacket (first photo), Aesis Shell Jacket (bottom left), & Aesis Wadelite Jacket (bottom right).  There is also a 3-in-1 combo jacket slightly out of frame at bottom.

They HyperDry Down jacket is exactly what is sounds like, a warm, down filled, lightweight wading jacket that is extremely water resistant. It touts the ability to keep you warmer and dry faster when wet, even in the most extreme conditions.

The Aesis Shell is exactly what it sounds like, a breathable shell-style jacket that has some neat bells & whistles like large chest pockets and a magnetic fly patch, while the Aesis Wadelite jacket has Sonic 2.0 welded construction that eliminate the tiny holes that come with stitched & taped seams.

The 3 jackets pictured will retail for $199.95, $229.95, & $179.95 respectively.


I've been really impressed with Umpqua's packs since I first got my hands on them last year. As a personal fan of slings, I focused my sights on two of Umpqua's latest, the Ambi-Sling ZS sling pack & the Bandolier ZS sling pack, both of which feature the Zero Sweep (ZS) concept.

Zero Sweep ports on the side of the Ambi-Sling

So what's Zero Sweep? It's the idea that the pack is extremely streamlined and nothing hangs loose to get caught up on fly line, branches, you name it. All of your tools and accessories that might typically drape off the side from zingers have specific ports or sheaths to reside, so it makes your pack virtually snag-free, with nothing to get in the way of your fishing.

The Ambi-Sling ZS ($139.99) pictured in the next two photos, is a sling pack with ample volume of 1100 cubic inches for pretty much whatever you want to bring on the stream, 5 Zero Sweep ports, 2 tool sheaths, and 2 fly patch stations.  A fully padded shoulder strap balances the load.

The Bandolier ZS is more of a minimalist's sling pack, heck it almost looks like a fanny pack you wear across your body instead of on your waist! Like the Ambi-Sling, it too features Zero Sweep design, including two external attachment tabs, two sheaths, and two ports to keep all of your tools neat and tidy. The main compartment is big enough to hold two large fly boxes, and there are two smaller side pockets for odds & ends. The Bandolier ZS will retail at $69.99


Prior to the show, I only knew of Western Rise from Instagram photos. Western Rise is a generally new to the scene technical apparel company with what they call a "timeless aesthetic." While it's not really my fashion look of choice (perhaps a touch "hipster,") I definitely respect what these guys have put together and can appreciate a solid apparel line when I see one.

The Bodie Button Down (left) & Hartsel Henley (right) are two of the key pieces in the line. If you look closely on the Hartsel, you notice standing water pooled in the midsection. Western Rise was displaying how water resistant their garments are. I was impressed by the fact that both tops still maintained a nice soft "hand", not overly stiff like one might think a water-repellent treated fabric might feel.

The MSRPs are $79 & $65 respectively.


Think we're going to talk about Korkers' innovative interchangeable soled boot design?
Nope.  It's all about the new "Drinking Fisherman" logo gear.

$29.99 gets you your choice of hat or tee...
Enough said.


Here's a quick rundown of 3 new wading boots, including one that won 2015 IFTD "Best In Show" in the boot category. Can you guess which one?

Of the 3 boots in the foreground, the boot to the left is the Orvis BOA Pivot Boot. According to Orvis, the Pivot has been designed for comfort and safety, and of course features a BOA closure system for easy on-off. The Vibram Idogrip rubber sole also employs a random orientation of cleats to prevent slipping at any angle. MSRP $199

The center boot is the Patagonia Ultralight Wading boot. The Ultralight is exactly that, constructed of quick-drying, lightweight synthetic leather and a quick draining mesh. Understanding the various needs of anglers, Patagonia will offer the Ultralight in both felt or rubber soled versions. MSRP $189.

The boot on the right is the boot that won Simms "Best in Show," and is unique in the fact that it is designed specifically for wet wading! The Simms Intruder has an integrated neoprene bootie that is intended to be worn barefoot. While the boots can be worn with neoprene socks, the bootie serves the same purpose, keeping out debris and maintaining blister free comfort. The outsole is constructed of Vibram Megagrip rubber for traction on both wet and dry surfaces. Plus, it's just pretty cool looking, and that's what's really important, am I right? MSRP $179.95.


I was pleasantly surprised by some of the gear I saw from Under Armour. I knew they were growing their footprint in the fishing category, but they appear to have executed three new fishing items extremely well. None are really fly fishing, but two could definitely be used by fly fishermen.

The first of the three (which might be my favorite) is the Drainster Fishing Shoe. Shoes like this are not really new, Columbia makes a very popular pair for example, but few combine the look with the (perceived) performance. The selling point to this shoe is clearly the rapid draining midsole combined with a mesh upper, which would be ideal for many water activities, including surf or kayak fishing. MSRP $84.99.

The next one kinda puzzles me, but whatever...

This really poofy soled fishing shoe is called the Fat Tire. I don't really know why you'd want such a bulbous sneaker, but Under Armour claims it's "designed to take you farther so you can fish harder." It's got memory foam on the inside, clearly for comfort (perhaps aimed at folks standing in a boat all day?) and a Michelin Wild Gripper rubber bottom for traction. It's definitely unique, and at a price-point of $149.99.

Last but not least is the UA Fish Day Pack, which cosmetically is pretty darn sweet. Fully functional for fishing, this pack has water resistant Storm 1 technology and a PU covered bottom panel for abrasion resistance. At a large 1750 cubic inches it holds a lot, and keeps it organized in several storage compartments. Should you use this more as a fishing travel bag, it also has an internal laptop sleeve that holds a 15" laptop. MSRP $99.99

Other manufacturers of note that you're probably going to want to keep an eye on with great presences at the show were Huk, Breathe Like A Fish, Flood Tide Co.Rep Your Water, Vedavoo, Fincognito, Kast Gear & Souplefly... However, at this point, I've most certainly apparel, waded, & packed you out, so I'll stop while I'm ahead.

As you've probably noticed, I've embedded links to each of the manufacturer websites within each write-up, so if you're looking for more information on any of these products, please click through and pay them a visit!

This is the fourth of six new product overviews from last week's ICAST / IFTD event. If you'd like to see the other entries, please click HERE.