A fly-fishing addict reveals the gear that gets him through long days on the river.
Make sure you don’t confuse me with one of those safari-clad a-holes floating down the biggest name river on the planet, pretending that trout and pretty sunsets can correct their confused lives. No, I’m the guy crawling out of my truck that’s parked next to their Airstream, dusting dog hair off a Patagonia Snap-T that I bought circa 1990. By limiting my periphery I’ve fished an average of 150 days a year, through all seasons, for 15 years across the West. That includes some of the best water in Colorado—the Taylor, San Miguel, Animas and Dolores. The gear that I use gets a thorough throttling before I can confidently tell someone “You’ve got to own this.” So here they are: the items I wouldn’t hit Colorado’s lakes and streams without, and a few sick products that I don’t own, but hope to try soon.
1. Simms G4 Guide Boot with StreamTread
The question isn’t whether these new boots with Vibram rubber soles are better than the old felt variety, it’s why in this current age of aquatic nuisance species (which latch on to felt) wouldn’t you own them? It’s only our fisheries at stake here. I recently took these boots to coastal British Columbia and tested them in some of the harshest turf on the planet. I bushwhacked to the water through tangles of alder and devils club. I sloshed around rivers with edges coated in ice. I stomped for miles, up and downstream, over oil-slick rocks … and never fell. These boots offer a great lacing system, provide solid traction in the water, and they’re comfortable enough to walk many miles in. Don’t wait for the felt-sole ban to arrive in Colorado—own these now and get them with studs for added traction.
2. Cloudveil Run Don’t Walk 1/2 Zip
I live in this super-lightweight 9-ounce pullover and wear it during all seasons, on and off the water. During fall and winter it serves as a layer over long underwear and under a shell, such as Cloudveil’s 8X Pro Jacket or its Hellroaring Jacket. During spring and summer it’s magic over a T-shirt in the mornings and evenings, even while wet wading. After fishing it’s my go-to for deck parties and bar hopping. I used to own two; my wife stole one and wears it daily. She snarls if I try to reclaim it.
3. Fishpond Wildhorse Tech Pack
These days, with masses of people flogging our big-name streams, I’m prone to hike in to mostly undiscovered waters where the trout are just as big, come often to hand, and a day can be enjoyed in relative solitude. Fishpond’s 1,343-cubic-inch Wildhorse pack offers all the room I need for camera gear, lunch, a lightweight rain jacket, water and, possibly, a flask. In addition, its multitude of front-zippered pockets and two zip-down fly benches offer all the storage I need for flies, leaders, tippet spools, bug-dope and sunscreen. Adjustable shoulder and waist straps keep the pack fitting snugly no matter how much gear I carry. For dawn-to-dusk hike-ins, the Wildhorse can’t be beat.
4. Smith Optics Polarchromic Hideout
Next to waders and a rod and reel, sunglasses may be an angler’s best friend—they allow us to locate fish underwater and to identify wading hazards, such as submerged logs and boulders. Don’t wear quality polarized sunglasses? You will end up in the drink. I’m eyeing Smith’s new Hideout. It offers a medium fit and proven Techlite glass lenses, which deliver lightwaves straight into your eyes, meaning zero distortion. These comfortable, all-day shades would look just as sweet off the stream as on it, and they could perform double duty when I’m on my mountain bike.
Big Sky Inflatables Water Master Kodiak Raft (not shown)
This raft is built for expeditions; it has a 750-pound capacity, handles Class 4 whitewater, and weighs just 27 pounds. With raft, oars, seat, kick fins and a rod holder stuffed in a durable bag with shoulder straps (all provided), it weighs 43 pounds. Almost any hardcore angler could carry this thing a few miles to a remote, overlooked portion of a river and spend a couple days floating out to civilization. Can you say Black Canyon? I’m going to buy a Kodiak and kiss the crowds goodbye.