The past five months or so I have been able to put some gear through it’s paces, walking up many of New Zealand’s South Island rivers 5 or 6 days a week. Most of the gear is new to the market, and the rest is new to me in the sense of really getting a chance to use it day in and day out. Walking 3-7 kms a day, sometimes through thick bush, your gear needs to be comfortable and durable. Below you will find a discussion of each piece of gear.
A complete shift for me here. I have fished/guided from a drift boat most of my life and now I need to have everything at hand for the day on my back or chest. The Black Canyon Backpack has the room I need and more. I was able to carry a large lunch box, Kelly’s Kettle, (we make tea river side at lunch time), first aid kit, dry kindling, space blanket, sat phone, hydration bladder and an extra jacket or two. I had room to spare here for an extra reel or rod as well which occasionally were on added to the load.
The pack is really comfortable and light in weight. You can adjust it in all the normal spots a decent backpack allows. It’s color is very suitable in terms of trout stalking. It’s not camo but it’s not bright in anyway.
A key for me and the the use of the Black Canyon Backpack was the ability to add a vest or chest-pack and hydration bladder. Fishpond has really dialed this system in. I have been a chest-pack hater most of my life, thinking they got in the way of casting and were generally cumbersome. But.. The Fishpond Savage Creek Chest Pack attached easily and comfortably to the Black Canyon Backpack. I was able to carry two medium sized fly boxes, tippets, leaders, floatants, pliers, bug repellent and sunscreen.
The Fishpond Geigerrig Hydration Bladder worked great with the Black Canyon Backpack. I was able to put the bladder in last (top of the pack) and easily feed both the drink and pressure tube/bulb through the designed slot near the main zipper of the pack. No matter how crunched up or flattened the bladder was in the pack, the pressure bulb aided in emptying the water I had in the bladder each day.
Now the good folks at Fishpond were kind enough to ship one of these down to us at Cedar Lodge and upon arrival I was a bit concerned about the size. We fly daily to fish and all of our gear has to fit in the helicopter pod attached to the Raven 44 helicopter. Fortunately the Mid Length Boat Net fit perfectly, and despite my kiwi pals having a good chuckle about how ridiculously big this net is to carry, I love it. It’s massive hoop size spawned a nick name “the purse seiner”. After a few “wiffs” I learned that despite being light in the hand the Mid Length Boat Net is not fast in the water. It’s rubber bag and size simply don’t allow for a quick scoop of the fish. Rather you want to get completely or nearly completely under the fish and give it a two hand upward scoop. With the “upward scoop” technique I was very pleased with the net and found it very fish friendly and fly friendly. The bag is so big the fish seem to feel a bit more comfortable submerged in the net, and the rubber bag simply does not grab flies.
Both myself and our pilot/guide Dion Matheson wore the Vapor Boot quite a bit towards the end of the season and while I do like the boot it simply did not hold up as well as I would have liked. You can view a more in depth discussion of the Vapor and Patagonia Ultralight Sticky here: https://oregonflyfishingblog.com/2014/02/28/lightweight-wading-shoes-simms-vapor-boot-vs-patagonia-ultralight/
Approximately 95% of our fishing is done wet wading, this includes guides and guests. We see a lot of wet wading socks from Orvis, Simms, Cabelas and Redington. Mid-season I had a few pairs of the new Simms Guard socks sent down. What a difference! The new Simms Guard Socks are the best I ever used hands down. The other guard socks on the market are not even close. The formed foot bed is fantastic, left and right feet (keep the Simms logo on the outside) and the tough polyurethane textured outsole makes them extremely durable. The pull down and clip to to laces gravel cuff is also super tough and superbly fitted. These keep gravel out as well as any guard sock that has ever been made. I went barefoot in these all season and didn’t have a rock inside once.
One could argue that the 9ft 4wt Sage Method is a bit light for New Zealand fishing. In terms of delivering the fly I would argue it’s just fine. The Method 4wt excelled in lengthy casts into the wind ( we get a few norwesters ) regardless of fly size. Landing fish would be the only concern I would have for this rod being a go to New Zealand rod. Undoubtedly a 5wt Method is a better call for landing most of the 4-6+lbs fish we see. I am positive the 9ft 4wt Method will do superbly on all Western US waters with dries or hopper dropper rigs. In a pinch this rod could handle smaller nymphs and indicators as well.
My favorite fishing shirt on the market. The Sun Stretch has great UPF 30 fabric, fit and pocket design. It’s the perfect weight for the hottest days and with a lightweight layer underneath it was good to go on cooler mornings. This years best color for New Zealand “bush camo” is Ash Tan.
Light in weight and good looking the newest iteration of the Litespeed reel utilizes the same maintenance free conical drag mechanism that has proven reliability. I matched the size 2 reel with a 9ft 4wt Sage Method and had a really nice light weight combination. The most significant improvement in my mind is the more user-friendly drag knob. I found it much easier to adjust.
The Horizon Hybrid Pant is made from very tough and stain resistant rip stop nylon. I have been and continue to be a big fan of the Patagonia Guidewater Pant and continue to be but the Horizon Hybrid has a slimmer fit in the leg and reduced drag in the water. It worked very well by itself or over a thin insulated layer on colder mornings.
Finally a couple of key flies that were difference makers for us the lodge this year.
The Missing Link was superb on selective fish. I will be adding colors and sizes to the shop and lodges inventory. It lands upright every time and lays flat in the water emulating a struggling to emerge insect. We had few refusals with the Missing Link!
The Micro May is fantastic as a dropper nymph. It’s slim profile and “large for its size” bead allow it to sink quickly without a bunch of lead. When we encountered cruising backwater browns that needed a straight nymph (no indicator) the Micro May was the fly pattern of choice.
Stay tuned for more gear notes including the Scott Radian, Winston B3x and much more.