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by Miles Nolte

Umpqua Deadline 3500 Wet/Dry Duffel Bag

grays-best-umpquaThis year Umpqua released a whole line of new bags and packs that are truly innovative and functional. Rather than just changing colors or adding frivolous compartments, Umpqua teamed up with designers from other outdoor industries to bring fresh thinking to fishing bags. While I greatly enjoyed the company’s new Famous 2500 boat bag, it was the Deadline 3500 Wet/Dry Duffel that shone the brightest. Every element about this pack is well thought out. First, the zippers are on the back of the pack (where it rests against your body). The front of the pack is waterproof, rubberized tarpaulin, so when you take your pack off streamside and drop it down in the mud or water, everything is protected. The Deadline doesn’t have assorted specialty pockets designed for specific tools, the engineers at Umpqua having figured that you should decide how to use your carrying capacity yourself, something I appreciate. Instead, there is massive internal storage with two separate access points: one for wet gear, and one for dry. Though these two share the same space, an adjustable waterproof membrane prevents the wet from sullying the dry. The bag also has sleeves to hold two fly rod tubes that can be stowed behind a zipper when not needed. I have used this bag for serious day trips and as a carry-on for travel. It performed equally well in both roles.

Click here to view Umpqua’s website […]

Orvis Helios 2 Fly Rods

grays-best-helios2The Helios 2 is the newest in Orvis’s series of lightweight, high-performance fly rods. This line began in 2006 with the Zero Gravity, progressed into the original Helios, and is now reincarnated as the Helios 2. While I enjoyed fishing both previous versions, neither was as good as this. I fished the 6-weight Helios 2 more last year than any other new rod in my quiver. It is responsive, smooth, straight-tracking, crisp, and extremely efficient. And it is by far the lightest fly rod I’ve ever fished, which allows me to be on the water longer with less fatigue. As a fan of longer rods, I often tire handling a 9½- or 10-foot stick all day. The difference in my stamina with the Helios 2 was apparent. This rod is also surprisingly durable. In addition to the expected rainbow and brown trout (including some large ones), I put the screws to silver salmon, sockeye salmon, and even heavy carp on this rod. The 6-weight handled them all, providing plenty of backbone to turn the fish, and it didn’t splinter or crack. It even survived being fished by numerous clients over the past season, the ultimate test of any fly rod. If you’re in the market for a new all-purpose fly rod, the Helios 2 deserves serious consideration.

Click here to view ORVIS’ website […]

Sage Circa Fly Rods

grays-best-circaI have a bit of a fetish for situations that demand full-flex fly rods. Highly selective spring creek or tailwater trout that require long leaders, fine tippets, accurate presentations, and soft landings are some of my favorite places. In such fishing conditions, it’s a huge advantage to have a specialized rod in your hands. Is it possible to catch those fish with a generalized, all-purpose 5-weight? Yes, of course it is. But if obtaining trout is purely a necessity, you might consider visiting the supermarket rather than a technical fishery. My favorite completely unnecessary fly rod this year is Sage’s Circa. While Sage is best known for aggressive, fast-action rods, it went the opposite direction in designing the Circa; this rod flexes to the cork with each cast. The Circa also uses the same Konnetic technology as Sage’s ONE series, which means that, despite the flex pattern, it is surprisingly crisp and unbelievably accurate. Unlike many bamboo, fiberglass, and noodley graphite rods, the Circa has absolutely no tip-bounce. I fished the 8-foot-9-inch 4-weight, and it turned over 14-foot leaders with accuracy and ease, protected wispy tippets against large fish, and also had the power to roll-cast a grasshopper with a weighted nymph dropper. Even though you might not need one, you’ll be glad you own one the next time you’re casting to finicky risers.

Click here to view Sage’s website […]

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