The American Angler Gear of the Year 2017 products you should be adding to your Christmas wish list this holiday season.
In our upcoming January/February 2017 issue, our editor Ben Romans gives readers a first look at the most impressive and outstanding products hitting the shelves in 2017. Today, we are giving you a small glimpse into some of these products so that you can add it to a list of your own; the Christmas wish list. These toys are sure to impress and will have you searching under the tree come Christmas day.
RODS & REELS
Scott – Flex
After winning the award for best saltwater fly rod at the 2015 IFTD event with its Meridian series, the Scott Rod Company didn’t spend the year complacently resting–it’s back with another attractive stick that was impressing everyone at IFTD who had a chance to test the rod on the casting ponds. President Jim Bartschi says the Flex (4$475) is a fast-action rod but “forgiving” for those who might not be able to generate the high line speed or tight loops thrown by expert casters. Plus, despite its attaractive price point, the rod includes some design elements and components found on higher-end rods like the Radian. Rods break down to four pieces, and are available in 3-weight to 8-weight models.
From Scott – “Introducing the all new Scott Flex series, rods so light, effortless, and forgiving, they let you focus on fishing better. Flex rods generate line speed and tight loops effortlessly, helping you cast accurately and control your presentations. And, their powerful butt sections help with quick, positive hook sets and fish control.
Incorporating many of the innovations found in our award winning Radian and Meridian rods, Flex rods combine high performance with top quality components. And, each Flex rod is handcrafted, start to finish, in our shop in Montrose, Colorado. Fish better….fish the rod that works hard for you.” scottflyrod.com/flex
Redington – Hydrogen Trout Spey
Much as they did when getting acquainted with European nymphing techniques and fiberglass rods,anglers are discovering that light-action two-handed rods present just one more unique, fun way to catch trout. That’s why Redington decided to build on last year’s successful launch of its Hydrogen lineup and created the Hydrogen Trout Spey ($350), three twohanded trout rods that are between 11 and 11½ feet long, in 2- to 4-weight sizes.
From Redington – “Our Hydrogen rod family is designed especially for the trout angler. A fine-tuned, medium-fast action is combined with the lightest weight components available to give anglers incredible performance with a light in-hand feel. Skeletonized reel seats and single-foot guides help reduce weight, while the rod actions and models will match any trout fishing scenario. Three Euro-nymph models complete the range and offer refined competition or recreational performance.
The three new for 2017 trout spey models offer trout anglers a new, highly-efficient way to cover water, and two-handed anglers a way to scale their favorite pursuit to trout-sized waters.” redington.com/hydrogen
St.Croix – Sole
If you attend enough IFTD shows, year after year, you can sometimes notice a few trends. This year, some companies stepped away from four-piece rods to six- or eight-piece rods, or regressed back toward two-piece, one-piece, or even one-and-a-half-piece sticks—at least that’s how St. Croix’s Jeff Schluter described the company’s new Sole ($340 to $360) lineup. The idea was to offer anglers one-piece performance with two-piece mobility. The result is a 6½-foot blank with a tip just under two feet long. Each rod comes with a dual-ply mesh sack, not a tube, so if you’re afraid you’ll break the rod without a tube, don’t be—St. Croix includes two tips with each rod and a 15-year transferable warranty. The Sole is available in 4-weight to 12-weight fresh- and saltwater models.
From St.Croix – “There are rivers that mysteriously appear out of holes in the ground. Lakes that cling to the side of alpine faces. And lo and behold, many of these unassuming bodies of water contain fish. To explore their possibilities, we might recommend the all-new Sole fly rods. They represent a new path to one-piece performance. Featuring a long butt section without ferrules, they track straight for extremely accurate casts. Short range. Long range. In-between range. They load with gusto and deliver the goods – especially in both saltwater and western drift boat applications.” stcroixrods.com/sole
Abel – SDS
Following its success with a proprietary sealed-drag design in freshwater-size reels, Abel announced it applied the same engineering to saltwater-size models it calls the SDS ($895). Each unit is entirely machined from aluminum, easy to change from right to left retrieve, and in keeping with Abel’s ability to personalize gear, anglers have their choice of custom colors and graphics. It impressed enough IFTD attendees to win the award for best new saltwater fly reel. There are three sizes available, starting with a 7/8-weight model through an 11/12-weight.
From Abel – “Winner of the best new saltwater reel at the 2016 ICAST/IFTD show, the Abel SDS (Sealed Drag Salt) takes all the power, reliability, and smoothness of its smaller counterpart and combines them in a larger package capable of taking on saltwater gamefish of all sizes. A unique multi-disc drag system yields an industry leading 20+ pounds of braking power, and is completely sealed from the elements. Available in 3 sizes beginning in January, 2017, this makes the SDS perfect for fighting big bones on light tippet as well as providing the power needed to halt hard-fighting tarpon in their tracks.” abelreels.com/sds
Ross Reels – Colorado LT
Ross Reels put its best foot forward from a design, weight, and functionality standpoint with the Colorado LT ($285 to $295). Fully machined from aluminum, this reel is notable for its drag— Ross Reels revisited its iconic click pawl system. It’s light and modern, but still has that old-school feel and sound. Those who had the chance to hold and handle the reel at IFTD (and even dropped it to test its durability) thought so highly of it, this model received the award for best new freshwater fly reel. Available in either matte black or aluminum colors, in 0- to 5-weight sizes.
From Ross Reels – “Designed around our original Colorado’s click and pawl system, the new award-winning Colorado LT retains the same ruggedness and the signature all-metal clicker of its older brother. However, that is where the similarities end as the Colorado LT is built with a new aesthetic and modern design evident in its large arbor and highly detailed porting. Adding to its elegant simplicity, the Colorado LT boasts only 15 different parts in total, all designed, machined, and assembled in Montrose, Colorado USA.” rossreels.com/colorado-lt
WADERS, BOOTS & APPAREL
Hodgman – H4 Waders(Men’s and Women’s)
Hodgman, a company that’s seen a resurgence in the last three years, spent some time upgrading its wader and wading boot selection for both men and women. Its new H4 ($180) wader has a breathable four-layer seat and legs with no inside leg seam, breathable three-layer upper for moisture vapor transfer, stitched and taped waterproof seams, mesh zippered chest pocket for tippet and leaders, microfleece-lined hand pockets, and a flip-out internal storage pocket. For the Women’s H4 ($180) wader, the winner of the IFTD award for best women’s waders, designer Tori Tomlin worked with a network of avid female anglers to develop something tailored for a woman’s figure and foot, and then used the same materials as the men’s version to construct something specifically for female anglers.
From Hodgman – “It’s a common thread we’ve heard from women anglers that men’s waders don’t fit and there just isn’t a good wader developed with a woman’s fit in mind. The H4 stocking foot wader from Hodgman is designed for women by women. Our designer worked with female anglers of all sizes to collect feedback and sculpt a unique fit ideally suited for to the requirements of avid anglers. We think you’ll love the end result as much as our field testers. 4-layer breathable fabric construction is featured on the seat and legs for extra puncture resistance and durability where you need it most. Additionally, we eliminated inside leg seams in high abrasion areas while still allowing articulation in the knees for stellar range of motion and mobility.
Comfort is key for long days of wade fishing, so we use anatomically correct left and right booties with the Hodgman print design for a custom fit. Each stocking foot bootie utilizes 5mm thick neoprene to keep your feet warm in cold water. Additionally our Comfort Fit Gravel Guard design eliminates a bulky and uncomfortable connection point at the top of the booties.” hodgman.com/waders
Korkers, a company that continues to push the envelope of wading boot design, pushed a little further again for 2017 and created the HatchBack ($240 to $260), a rear-entry boot with a BOA-assisted closure system. Available in sizes 7 to 15, the HatchBack has added support around the Achilles tendon and ankle; also included is the company’s patented Internal Drainage System to rapidly drain water. Korkers assembles each pair with its Protected Stitching process that recesses seams into molded grooves for reduced abrasion and wear.
From Korkers – “Comfort is king and Korkers® revolutionary new HatchBack™ Wading Boot delivers in spades. Built on the foundation of their proprietary adaptable traction technology, OmniTrax™ Interchangeable Outsole System, Korkers’ new HatchBack™ boasts a revolutionary rear-entry wading boot system refined by technical detailing and a custom “flow foam” fit. The rear-entry BOA®-assisted closure system makes slipping into this boot incredibly smooth and easy. Korkers’ dynamic Flow Foam Fit System™ provides a positive fit that keeps your toes controlled but allows for articulation and range of motion. The proprietary 3 Ply Fit System adds security and support around the achilles tendon and ankle.
This feature-packed boot also incorporates Korkers’ hallmark Internal Drainage System™ in the midsole for rapid drainage of excess water and weight, as well as a protective features such as TPU guards at the toe, calf, and shin. Continuing with recent durability enhancements, the HatchBack™ offers clean lines with Protected Stitching™ that is recessed into molded grooves to reduce abrasion and wear.” (Not out unitl 2017) korkers.com/footwear/fishing
Patagonia – Minimalist Wading Jacket
On the reverse end of the weather spectrum, if you like the idea of having a jacket to protect you from the elements but hate the notion of haphazardly packing a heavy coat up and down the river, consider the new Minimalist Wading Jacket ($200) from Patagonia. Made with 100 percent recycled nylon ripstop fabric coated with a durable repellent (DWR), this jacket is breathable, packable, has a fully adjustable hood and cuffs, bungee waist, two upper fly box pockets, and plastic zippers that aren’t saltwater corrodible.
From Patagonia – “Persistence is often the key to successful fishing, but it’s tough to persist when you’re tired or wet. Our Minimalist Wading Jacket keeps you on the water longer with a rare combination of heavy-duty rain protection and ultralight performance. Made from durable H2No® Performance Standard 2.5-layer nylon ripstop fabric with a waterproof/breathable barrier and DWR (durable water repellent) finish, the Minimalist sheds weather like other premium fly fishing jackets but with half the weight.
Two large upper fly-box pockets with highly water-repellent zips haul essential gear, while the two lower handwarmer pockets keep your off hand warm during the swing. Add in a fully adjustable hood and cuffs, plus a bungee drawcord at the waist, and it’s clear: The Minimalist is everything you need and not an ounce more. It is also our longest fishing jacket (5 inches longer than the SST).” patagonia.com/minimalist
12wt – OCEANwt Hoodie
Since its inception, 12wt. has been about one thing: creating the most functional, high-performance, comfortable, and, above all, protective fly fishing clothing possible. This year, it’s created the OCEANwt Hoodie ($64), a longsleeve hooded shirt (for maximum UV coverage) made from double-weave polyester and textured stretch nylon that provides excellent protection from harmful rays. Additionally, the seam construction and sleeve
From 12wt – “The OceanWT Hoodie is an incredibly versatile garment. It will keep you comfortable in the sun as well as warm and dry when things get cool. OceanWT uses double weave polyester and textured stretch nylon that work in tandem to adapt to changing conditions.” 12wt.com/OCEANwthoodie
FLY LINES & GEAR
Scientific Anglers – Amplitude
The first SA fly line ingrained with AST Plus is the new Amplitude ($130) series, which will debut in two of SA’s most popular tapers—the half-size heavy MPX, suited for trout and warmwater species, and the Grand Slam, created more for bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Each Amplitude line will have triple-colored, triple-textured coatings, and front and rear welded loops.
From Scientific Anglers – “The first series of lines to feature the revolutionary AST PLUS slickness additive, the Amplitude will shoot farther and last longer than any other line on the market. It’s slickness down to a science. Tarpon. Bonefish. Permit. All in one day. All on one fly line. That’s the idea behind the Amplitude Grand Slam, a line designed specifically to help you achieve one of angling’s most elusive accomplishments. With a short, powerful head the Grand Slam cuts through wind and turns over crabs, shrimp, and tarpon toads with ease. We’ve got the line. You just need the fish.” scientificanglers.com/amplitude
Simms – G4 Sling Pack
In 2015, Simms took home the IFTD honors for its Bounty Hunter luggage. This year, the company added a few other travel pieces under the same umbrella. The Bounty Hunter Vault ($200) is a solid option for traveling with (and protecting) a lot of gear. Because it’s designed to hold up to 12 reels and nine 10-foot, two-handed rods, anglers have a lot of options when it comes to mixing-and-matching the right tools for any destination. Once you’re there, you can reorganize and repack in the new G4 Pro Sling Pack ($180). Since the pack is made from TPU-coated fabric with critically taped seams, you can wade deep and rest assured your gear isn’t getting wet. Take advantage of the large openings for easy access, the hideaway straps, and the magnetic docking stations for tools.
From Simms- “Simms’ G4 Pro® Sling is an over-the-shoulder side-loader powered by a U-shaped zippered opening for easy access to the main compartment. The fold-down workbench, with tippet tender and floatant/shake holder attachments, is ideal for changing up and resuscitating tired flies. Additional features include a water-resistant interior lining for deep crossings, magnetic tool ports for amplified access and storage, an apt net carry system for easy access when landing a fish, and an ergonomically designed shoulder strap for all-day comfort.” simmsfishing.com/g4
Umpqua – Cooler-Gator ZS
Umpqua also killed two birds with one stone with the new CoolerGater ZS ($70), a wraparound apron that fits nearly any size hard- or soft-sided cooler (even the Yeti Hopper) and provides easy access to tools, fly boxes, or a tasty beverage stowed in one of the side holsters. These are two excellent options if you’re looking for a unique Christmas or Father’s Day gift for under $100. What’s more, the purchase of an Umpqua product helps further the company’s efforts to help protect Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
From Umpqua – “People seem to be taking their coolers very seriously these days, so why not double down. Turn your cooler into the ultimate organizer/work station. With versatile attachment options, there aren’t many things you won’t be able to attach the Cooler-Gater to; hard cooler, soft, coolers, boat rail, etc. Inspired by our Tailgater, this organizer has all of that and more.” umpqua.com/cooler-gater-zs
For a complete list of Gear of the Year 2017 reviews, pick up the January/February 2017 issue on shelves on now, or subscribe here.