Fly Fishing Retailer '07: Patagonia Vests Go Body-Fitting

September 19, 2007 By: Marshall Cutchin

Anyone who suggests that Patagonia isn’t constantly at work trying to do it all better has never met Steve Stracqualursi, their fly fishing product line director, or seen the work of the young crew who are out trying to bend new media into something that captures the essence of the sport. I’d hate to have to be the one who has to drag these guys off the river or tells them they have to ignore the dynamite blitzes going off on the horizon and get to work selling gear.
The standout among Patagonia’s new offerings this year is undoubtedly their redesigned fishing vest, which departs almost entirely from the classic design that has gone untouched — in concept at least — since they first introduced their vest in 1985. The dangle and swing are gone. In place is a vest that conforms more comfortably to the chest and a brand new pocket design that may change the way many fly fishers look at fly boxes and vest organization in general. The new Guidewater Vest has two large front pockets with unique zipper configurations that allow one-handed opening and large interior spaces designed for easy customization. These pockets, and the several smaller ones, place the storage space against the body rather than forcing it out in multiple protrusions. There are several more intelligent features here, but the best way to describe the overall effect of the new design is that when you zip the vest on, it now feels more like a part of your body than like a set of bags strung over your shoulders.
And we couldln’t mention Patagonia’s ’08 lineup without noting that they have FINALLY reintroduced their Sun Mask, which we’ve been nagging them about for years. Though Steve Huff and other guides were wearing bandanas instead of sunscreen for sun protection for years before I began guiding, I believe I was the first to search out some sort of full face coverage that was both breathable and effective in blocking UV radiation. (Sure, it didn’t hurt that customers were OK with me wearing a mask.) There was plenty of derision floating around the Key West docks when I first began wearing Patagonia’s silkweight Capilene balaclava in the late 1980s. Now it’s de rigeur for guides, and the trend is making its way inland. The new Sun Mask is tube-style rather than balaclava-inspired, and after testing it for several months now I can report that it works extremely well.