Three full days on the floor at fly fishing’s main trade show, IFTD, gave GearJunkie’s Hunt/Fish editor a solid take on what’s new in fly fishing now. Here are our picks from the show.
It’s easy to get caught up in industry awards. It’s a collective “hell yeah” for top-of-the-line gear. But a lot of things can go unnoticed or are beat out by small margins.
There was a ton of gear to get excited about at IFTD. And in my time on the floor, I had the chance to talk with brands about the heart and soul they’re putting into their products. It’s hard not to catch onto the enthusiasm, but it’s even more fun to dig into the gear.
Here are my picks for the top gear from this year’s IFTD trade show that is currently available and on the market.
Orvis PRO Collection, Price Varies
I know. An entire collection? But my answer is yes. As a brand, Orvis is consistently one of the most reasonably priced and welcoming brands on the market. Not only does it provide entry-level waders that start at $170, but it also does a bang-up job of supporting and educating aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen across the board.
Here’s why the PRO Collection is important: It allows brand-loyal fans to stick with Orvis from entry to mastery. It’s a commitment to excellence across the board, and it’s equitable across genders for the brand’s first pro release. And it’s a pretty dang good left hook to the pro level waders on the market, as the price tag is considerably less than competing waders and gear.
Personally, I’m excited to get fishing this fall in the new PRO Wading Boot ($229). And I’ve been wearing the Women’s PRO Insulated Hoody ($229) and the 1/2 Zip Fleece ($119) all summer because Montana is cold, and I need those things year-round.
These are cool. Like, wear-to-the-office, show-up-on-a-casual-date cool. But they’re also techy enough for days on the water. And that’s what Howler Brothers does well: make men’s clothes that are functionally cool.
The work pant aesthetic in a quick-drying technical pant is a perfect meld. The pants sport extra pockets for fishing tools, reinforced stress areas, a bungee cord closure at the bottom hems, and a stretchy blend of spandex and nylon that’ll move with you and keep you dry.
One of my biggest commitments over the past few years has been to drastically reduce my own plastic waste. When I saw that AFFTA was following suit at IFTD, I was stoked. And thanks to YETI, I was also prepared.
I’ve put coffee mugs in my backpack before, but never with any confidence, which put a bit of a damper on my plastic-fighting ways. But the HotShot cap is truly awesome and finally trustworthy. Its screw-on, screw-down design allows you to drink from any angle and close it off completely when done.
The 12-ounce is small enough to stash literally anywhere, and I trust it next to my MacBook Air as well as stashed in my fishing pack. And the price tag is worth the peace of mind.
With 20 years in the industry in its back pocket, it was easy to get jazzed about WETFLY’s ongoing brand story. Owner Don Fitzwater and his team work to create gear that’s easy and affordable. And after seeing how the brand’s backcountry rods fold down into minuscule, nearly pocket-size containment, the backcountry angler in me got pretty excited.
When I think about who might get into fly fishing, I think about the backpacking community. And this $140 entry point to catching high-alpine trout is an easy reach for folks looking to add more fun to their time in the woods. It comes with a rod, leader, tippet, a line winder, and a carry tube.
I’ll add that I also love its new-for-2019 Slim Waterproof Fly Box (starting at $20). It’s essentially the size and thickness of a large iPhone, and it can be easily shoved into pockets or slid into packs without bulking up your life. WETFLY’s practicality is a 10 from me. And the affordability is the icing on that cake.
If you’ve ever dedicated a significant and often swampy piece of space in your rig to waders, here’s your saving grace. The Middle Fork Packable Waders have been out for a hot minute, but every time I see them in their Nalgene-sized bag, I’m reminded of how cool and necessary they are.
A gentleman on the floor with me had them in hand and said, “These are the only waders you’ll ever need.” And for the weekend-warrior-type of angler, he’s not wrong. Everything about this wader is minimal. It features an interior dry pocket, thin rubber booties, and recycled nylon. Weighing in at 26 ounces, it’s not out of the realm for a pack trip into the hills.
These waders have been around since 2018, but a packable fishing-focused raincoat is also coming down the line from Patagonia in the fall of 2020 along with new insulated puff pants. The puff pant stoke is real, you guys. And the combo of these three pieces is gonna make for a great travel setup for both warm and cold water.