Fly anglers are inundated with gear choices—rods, reels, boots, waders, lines, packs, bags, boxes, vests, apparel and more. Each year, it seems harder and harder to know what’s worth coveting and what’s worth ignoring. Sure, gear reviews are a great way to get a feel for what might be right for you, but not every piece of gear is suited to a full-length review and, even if it were, there’s simply too much of it to get to. With that in mind, we’re debuting a new feature showcasing gear that’s working for us on the water (and elsewhere) right now, to hopefully offer more helpful feedback on gear that’s worth a second look.
All gear is welcome here: new, old, cheap, pricey, and so on. The goal here is to provide useful feedback on gear that works—not to help gin up marketing for new products. Sometimes, great gear has just hit the market, other times it’s been here doing good work all along.
The Thomas & Thomas Paradigm fly rod (photo: Chad Shmukler).
T&T Paradigm fly rod
We reviewed the Paradigm back in April and it’s been a staple in our quiver since that time. From small, mountain creeks with a tight canopy and small bits of pocket water, to sprawling western dry-fly meccas like the Henry’s Fork, we’ve reached for the Paradigm time and time again. Though delicate dry fly presentations are the Paradigm’s specialty, we’ve found it to be seriously versatile, up to fishing with grace and precision all but the clumsiest nymph rigs and big, articulated streamers. And, when it comes time to present a dry fly to rising fish, there are few other rods we’d be more eager to reach for.
The ECHO Base fly rod (photo: Johnny Carrol Sain).
ECHO BASE Fly Rod
Unlike the aforementioned Paradigm and a bevy of other relative newcomers, the Echo BASE has been around for awhile. We reviewed it over a year ago, but it was doing duty on rivers and streams around the country long before that. Given it’s entry-level status, the BASE doesn’t get a lot of fanfare. But it should. In fact, the BASE is an $89 (yes, you read that correctly) marvel that, as we noted in our review, “punches above its class in nearly every category.” It’s possible we’ve lost count of the number of rods that clock in at 3-5x the price of the BASE that it outfishes. For those trying fly fishing for the first time, or returning to it as part of the ongoing, coronavirus-fueled reinvigoration of outdoor pursuits, the BASE should be a primary target of consideration. And the BASE is possibly even more ideal for experienced anglers that want to expand their quiver beyond its current state, but don’t have hundreds of dollars to dump into a rod for every new species or fishing style they’re interested in exploring.
YETI Hondo Base Camp Chairs
I buy new beach chairs every year. Sometime around early June. I don’t do this because I’m captivated by annual advancements in beach seating technology, or because I’m fickle about where I rest my ass when my feet are on the sand, or because I’m generally inclined to toss out perfectly good and functional possessions in favor of something shiny and new. In fact, I’m inclined against all of those things. Yet, each year I find myself doling out hard-earned cash for another iteration of some form of beach chair made by Ikea, some no-name brand on Amazon, or maybe even something “high-end” from Target. Inevitably, by September, that year’s selection is falling apart in one way or another (rust, bent or broken appendages, torn mesh/fabric, you name it). I can’t remember the last time my annual gaggle of beach chairs made it to an anniversary season fully intact. So this year, the decision was made to reverse philosophy. Out with the cheap, disposable chairs and in with the expensive, long-term investment.
That long-term investment was YETI’s Hondo Base Camp Chair (pictured above). Like everything YETI builds, the Hondo Base Camp Chairs are gloriously over-engineered. The chairs are built on a thick, double-reinforced aluminum frame that won’t bend or break like the frame of basically every other beach chair you’ve ever owned. But the star of the Hondo’s assemblage is its mesh fabric. For those few people out there unlucky enough to make their living sitting behind a desk, but lucky enough to do it sitting on one of Herman Miller’s infamous (and infamously expensive, at $1,395) Aeron chairs — the mesh on the YETI will be particularly familiar. In fact, YETI hired away product manager Brian Langerak from Aeron-maker Herman Miller specifically for the job of developing the Hondo. Not only is the mesh unreasonably comfortable, it’s incredibly strong. YETI rates it at able to handle 500 pounds without losing its shape. If, like me, you’re accustomed to lowering your beer-enhanced personage onto beach chairs the way you might onto an antique wicker cane chair in a Victorian museum, you’ll be happy to know you can dispense with all of that. What’s more, everything from the mesh, to the plastics, to the finish on the frame is UV-rated—so you can dispense with worries about chipping, cracking and rusting, as well.
The Hondo Base Camp Chairs have been a fixture all summer, whether on the beach or in the woods around camp and, when at home, they’ve even permanently displaced what was otherwise some pretty nice backyard furniture. Yes, at $299, the Hondo Base Camp chair most certainly won’t be the cheapest beach chair you’ve ever bought, but it just might be the last.
The Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System (photo: Work Sharp Tools).
WorkSharp Guided Sharpening System
There are few things I consider more offensive than dull knives. So it might surprise you to learn that most of my knives are dull. Not dull by most people’s standards (given the general state of most folks’ kitchen knives, I’m in a perpetual state of amazement that ERs around the country around constantly filled with people that have hacked off their own appendages trying to accomplish basic tasks like slicing a tomato or quartering an onion), but dull by any reasonable standards. And certainly dull by any self-respecting hunter’s standards. You can always count on hunters to carry sharp knives and know how to keep them that way.
Not being a hunter myself, I’ve had a hard time finding sharpening systems that work well enough and are pleasant enough to work with that I’m not adverse to ever using them. Recently, a hunter friend of mine turned me on to Work Sharp’s Guided Sharpening System. Before the recommendation (delivered on social media) had settled into the pixels on my screen, at least 4 other hunting friends chimed in to second the advice. After a few months using the system, it’s easy to see why. Unlike complex systems I’d tried in the past, the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System doesn’t have a lot of moving parts, or clumsy setups involved. And unlike simple systems I’d tried in the past, this one actually works. I’ve used the system on my daily-carry pocket knives, fixed blade knives I carry on longer ventures into the woods and virtually every knife in my kitchen. And, for the first time in a long time, none of them are the least bit offensive.
Work Sharp also makes a Guided Field Sharpener that is a condensed but very capable version of the larger system. If you’re looking for something to toss into your truck or pack that can handle your in-the-field sharpening needs, look there.
The Scientific Anglers Euro Nymph Kit [left] and RIO Euro Nymph Shorty [right] (photo: George Costa).
Scientific Angler’s Euro Nymph Kit and RIO’s Euro Nymph “Shorty”
Euro nymphing. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. After all, if your primary goal is to catch lots of fish—there may be no more productive method of doing so with a fly rod. If you’re already an avid Euro-nympher that likes to switch back and forth between euro-nymphing and more traditional styles or you find yourself Euro-curious, interested in trying out a new style but uninterested in investing in a whole new setup in order to do it, either of these products from Scientific Anglers and RIO are probably right up your alley. Both the Scientific Anglers Euro Nymph Kit and RIO’s Euro Nymph Shorty are 20-foot long tips designed to accomplish the same task: converting a normal fly line into a euro-nymph fly line—and both do so really well. SA’s version comes as a “kit,” meaning it includes a spool thingy to store your Euro tip on when you’re not using it.