September 19th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Fly Fishing Retailer World Trade Expo.
Denver, Colorado - 8-10 September 2005
By Hans Weilenmann, The Netherlands

With the Denver fly tackle trade show over, and with a long trans-atlantic flight ahead of me there is time to reflect on products seen, and friends revisited.

When Jim and Deanna (above at the Frog Hair booth) asked me to write up a report on the show, with the specific aim of selecting my own Best Products of Show I decided to approach my show visit with a narrowed down focus. So as not to waste your time let me start by stating up front what was not covered by my visit, and what will not be covered by my report. I did not spend any time looking at all the new rod offering, nor the reel offering. Of both there were many, but Jim and Deanna will more than adequately cover these products in their own reports. Drift boats, pontoon craft and the likes were also skipped.

I looked at more modest items, in an attempt to gauge the overall health of the industry. One such measuring unit is to look at new entrants into the field, and the products they brought in.

One thing became quickly obvious - as a person who has no commercial ties to any party on the floor, what I considered to be products important enough to warrant closer interest, and the retailers' view on Best of Show, take different tracks.

Here is the official results of new products voted on by show attendees:

With that out of the way, allow me to share with you the outcome of my own prospecting.

Let me start by nominating as the first non-consumer product, but also the item which excited me most at the show, the Sage Casting Analyzer. I have followed the development for some four years, with several in-depth discussions and test drives with the developers, Noel Perkins and Bruce Richards. It is absolutely superb to see the tool adopted by Sage, and rolled out in a more formal setting!

Still...it being a non-consumer product, it cannot make my show pick.

In order to make my shortlist the items had to be either superb value for money, or be innovative and promising.

Here are my runners up:

    Pacific Fly Group (http://www.pacificfly.com/index.htm) fleece underwear.

    While both the top and the longjohn bottoms are well made, this in itself does not set the PFG offering apart from the products by a number of other brands, the more than reasonable retail price of $20 for either top or bottoms certainly does. Superb value for money!

    Chota CVX100 Deluxe Wading Jacket (http://www.chotaoutdoorgear.com/CyberMerchant/scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=81)

    This item appealed to me due to a single rather unique feature which added extra value to this high end, high price ($290) wading jacket.

    One of my pet peeves while fishing in the rain, hood up, is that turning one's head one generally ends up half blinded as the hood will not turn with the head. Chota has overcome this in a very elegant and innovative manner, as can be seen in action on the above image.

    Loon Outdoors Marsupial Stripping Basket (http://www.loonoutdoors.com/loongear.php)

    This cleverly designed stripping basket combines light weight, generous size, very compact storage. It can be worn collapsed without being (much) in one's way, and folded out for use the moment it is needed. Excellent stuff!

    And on the subject of excellent stuff: The pink chest pack seen on the image above is one of two packs in this somewhat unconventional color available from Loon Outdoors dedicated to Casting for the Cure, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in support of breast cancer research and rehabilitation. Excellent stuff squared!

    Bite Troutstream wading sandals (http://www.biteshoes.com/fishing/styles/3915a.htm)

    Summer fishing on many streams invites wet wading, but to date I was never very happy with the wading sandals offerings. While there are several sandals on the market which function reasonably well, none I have tried to date offered me a good combination of traction and toe protection. The Bite Troutstream ($70) covers both areas with the high grade felt sole patches and the sturdy toe guard.

    TyGer leader (www.tygerleader.com)

    This nylon coated braided stainless steel leader material comes in a range of sizes, from spidery .006" 2 lbs all the way up to .037" 120 lbs. Designed for use for the fishing for toothy critters, in both freshwater and the salt, this remarkable leader material is surprisingly supple and can accept most kinds of knots we associate with mono leaders. However, the really cool thing is the ease with which bulletproof loops can be fashioned.

    "Simply loop the material, and introduce some twist, locking the parallel strands together. Next fuse the twisted strands with the use of a lighter flame. (see illustration)"

This brings me to the product which is my (qualified) Pick of the Show, the new range of Rio flylines (www.rioproducts.com).

Why the 'qualified'? Well, these flylines incorporate a new material called AgentX (one wonders about who came up with this term...) and a new technology of fusing two different kinds of coating around the braided core. I am counting on Rio's reputation of delivering sound products, but will be testing the lines on their performance and durability over the coming season.

What makes these lines stand out is captured in one word: Buoyancy.

The AgentX coating has a specific weight of 0.70. Combine this with the braided core and the conventional PVC/microspheres outer coating and the result is a line with a specific weight of 0.87-0.89 (depending on the line model and size). These numbers constitute a dramatic improvement over conventional PVC/microspheres coating lines. The result is a much higher floating line, with all its associated benefits such as easier line pickup, and less water disturbance during the lift.

Kudos to Rio (in spite of the corny nature of the AgentX term).

Oh, and talking about corny...this image walked past me at the show, printed on the back of a lady's shirt. I offer it to you without comment or caption... ~ Hans


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