Saturday, January 3, 2009

A wee rant on dumb gear

New fly fishing gear designers; meet Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe inventing the edible celery panfish flyrod. Yours for only $900 bucks.

Perusing the new Cabelas and Orvis catalogues, I am reminded of how much I dislike all the superfluous gear out there which is toted as the ‘must-have’ for the angler. So, without hold, I give you some views on junk. Please read this with a tongue in cheek mood, as this is how it is written. I don’t want to get comments back full of contention. After all, this is the classic angler not the contentious angler;)

You may wish to read my blog post on equipment first; located here.

Pre-packaged leaders.
You know the ones. When I ran a flyshop, these were my top seller, and I pitied all the poor souls that bought them. Why, you ask? No matter what you do, they will never lie completely straight. They are coiled in the package, and will retain those slinky-like coils forever no matter what you do. Go ahead, stretch them between two nails on a hot day, use a useless leather leader straightening tool, have a buddy pull and stretch them, tie them to your dog and throw a ball, it matters not. Those coils will drive you nuts! The only way to prevent this is to buy leaders tied with a stretchy butt material like maxima, or tie your own.

Reels that look like abstract art or an engineer’s high school project and sporting wild colors.
This speaks for itself. Just look at the reels offered in the Cabelas catalogue. They all look like they are trying to outdo each other for the most complicated CNC project award. The classic looking reels are usually the cheap ones. I don’t really hate these things, but they have become so ubiquitous that real consumer choice has lessened.

Reels that sport ultra large arbor designs that take no backing.
Hello…Orvis? A perfect example of this was the first generation Orvis Battenkill large arbor reel. When someone bought one of these, there was much alchemy performed in the back room. I often had to cut the flyline back by one quarter in order to fit it on the spool, and that still only allowed twenty feet of backing. It is a myth that large arbor flyreels always prevent coiling and increase the retrieve ratio. When they are wider than conventional reels this can be true, but in general, a conventional reel with the proper amount of backing achieves the same thing. It is only when deep into the backing that a large arbor design aids retrieval. This is not to say that I dislike large arbor reels, instead, what I dislike is that they are touted as the only way to go. As if anglers such as Zane Gray couldn’t land fish on conventional reels.

Sage bass fly rods.
I cast these for the first time in October, and I must say they perform beautifully. I was able to throw the entire line with ease. They were designed to allow fly anglers to fish in bass tournaments, thus the length is under 8 feet. The rods, which are stiff as a corpse, get their zing from an especially heavy weight forward taper flyline made by Sage. So why does this bother me? Simply because new anglers may purchase these rods to fish for bass thinking that they are superior to conventional nine foot 5-8 weight rods. They are not superior. Perhaps at close range in brushy streams they might excel, but for much of the bass fishing I do, (casting in big rivers with pinpoint accuracy at 80 feet) they have no superiority to my rods. In fact, trying to cast at that distance consistently with these rods one would be in the backing, as the flyline is only 80 feet long. They also remind me of a bait-casting rod. The line is so heavy that it carries out from the rod tip like a spoon taking the mono for a free ride. Another thing I dislike is being limited to this specific line from Sage. What if I want to try something else? Sorry buddy.

Knot tying tools.
With an exception for people with eyesight problems, twitches, or hangovers, I dislike knot tying tools.
One becomes reliant on them and never learns to tie knots the proper way. Enough said.

Dumb gadgets that get in the way.
You know those necklace lanyards made of beads and alligator clips that enjoy so much popularity? One sees pictures of guides out west wearing them while floating the Madison. The reason guides like them is;

1. Everything is handy, so that the guides can locate it after a night of drinking moonshine.
2. It makes them look like they know what they are doing.
3. They are not fishing, just guiding.

Number three holds the clue. The damn things get in the way of everything; your hair, the flyline, tippet material, the spinning reel handle while playing a fish, etc. They even get tangled in your wader suspenders when you desperately have to relieve yourself. Fine for guides, anglers should give them a pass.

Unnecessary and overpriced stuff
Hello… Simms? Simms makes some of the finest waders, boots and jackets on the market. Several years ago they expanded their product line to include pretty much everything. Now anglers can wander around the river as walking advertisements. Much of this expanded selection is horribly overpriced as well, making it the necessary purchase for doctors and lawyers looking for that Brad Pitt look. I even saw a miniature cigar humidor shaped like a little rod tube and sporting the logo of a famous rod company. I guess some people feel that if they pay the top dollar, then they get the best.

$500.00 waders that leak after 6 months.
We can send a man to the moon, but can’t produce breathable waders that are durable. Enough said.

Any product promising that you will catch more fish.
Look in the mirror. The person staring back at you is the only one who can improve your fishing through time on the water, study, reading, thinking, and practice. There are no magic beans, even if fishing companies have gotten rich by selling us those beans.


  1. Ohhh. No You Didn't!
    Now you dun' it.
    Bad Mouthing Sage/Simms.
    Their cronies will be hunting for you.

    Just keep an eye peeled for those guys with Sage TCRX-BASS-Superods and their $750 Zip Front, fast relief for the aging incontinent lawyer/doctor angler, waders. They'll be on the lookout for you!!!

  2. George Cook wants your blood! How "Dare you" question the holy trinity of fly fishing! (sage, simms, rio- all junk in my book)

  3. They are outside now. The 'holy trinity' police. They are building a funeral pire.
    I am a heretic...
    Burn him!

  4. Outstanding! "If I'd only known then what I know now" applies 100%.

    Areas like this is where a solid mentor really makes a difference.


  5. Well, as long as we are bashing the giants and this may be considered heretical to the classical angler, the lamest piece of gear I have ever seen on the river is the Richardson Chest Fly Box. Geez, might as well bring my bagpipes as well. Please convince me that I am the incomplete angler until I have one.

  6. Mike,
    Good call on the chest fly box. I had a friend who always showed up on our tribs using one. His green chest box stuck out from his body at least eight inches. Who needs their entire fly collection when he enters the water? Even Art Flick and others usually carried no more that one or two small fly boxes. I used to be so guilty of this. Three full boxes with over 100 steelhead flies. Now I usually have one. We all pare things down to essentials as we grow old and wiser.

  7. Dunno 'bout bustin on the guide necklace. For steelhead anyway. The thermometer weight keeps the necklace down the waders and outta the way. Keeps things handy so you don't have to have to dig them from a pocket when needed. Or dropping them in the drink.


  8. William,
    That may be a good point. Wearing it outside vs. inside. Most people show it off loaded with lots of do-dads. I am sure that if properly configured, as you have it, it can be a useful tool.
    I stopped using zingers holding things attached to vests years ago due to an incident with a runaway steelhead in which the handle of the reel hit a pair of forceps repeatedly and knocked it into my face. It was really my fault though. If I had the thing properly secured instead of hanging off in front it never would have happened.

  9. My name is Richard Kell, you can find me on as well as

    Your point of minimising gizmos is important. In my workshop and with woodworking its essential to travel forward with as little extraneous junk as is feasible, hand and eye should work with as few tools as is possible. The Japanese and generally the Asian craftsman is fully aware of this. Yet of course, manufacturers need to push with new products and capturing new sales. This is a shame, it might be an idea if enterprises deliberately aimed at staying small. Its a good blog you have!
    Richard Kell.


Comments by interested readers are welcome. Back links to non-topical (spam) websites will be treated as spam and deleted.