Review: Orvis "Ultimate Fly Fishing Guide" iPhone App

orvis_app.jpgWe purchased the new Orvis iPhone “Ultimate Fly Fishing Guide” App ($24.99 less a $10 gift card) for fly fishers last Saturday and after having a bit of trouble getting it downloaded (it’s a little less than 400MB in size) were immediately impressed by the depth of info it contains.
The app contains five sections: Casting, Flies, Knots, Top 10 Casting Mistakes, and Fishing Reports (much of, if not all the data in the Reports mirrors what’s available on the Orvis Web site). The Casting, Knots and Top 10 Mistakes section all use video and text to illustrate the content.
The Knots section also includes excellent animations, but I found the knot videos to be particularly well done — the scripting/narration is tight and info-rich, and in most cases the line is visible enough, even on the screen of a iPhone 4G, to provide all the guidance needed.
My second-favorite section in the app is the Flies section. It contains 100 of the most commonly used flies, along with hi-def images (thank you Orvis, for not putting these on a blue background) and suggested sizes and tips on where and when they should be used. Oddly enough, an app screen seems the perfect place to zoom into fly pattern images. You can also browse flies by type and by name, or search for a specific pattern.
The casting videos are also well done, though one wouldn’t mistake them for high-budget productions. The instruction is great and overcomes some of the lighting and framing issues. No question that you can find helpful advice on almost any basic casting technique or issue — especially valuable for beginning anglers. I do hope Orvis updates the design of the intro pages, which are pretty dull compared to most apps I’ve used.
The reports section is well-done, though nobody seems to have cracked the code for delivering real-time info on fly hatches and one has to ask whether a call to the local fly shop isn’t still the best choice.
It’s hard to evaluate apps with such depth of content without asking whether a 940-by-640 screen is the right place to display casting videos, for example, or lengthy text. I applaud Orvis for packing lots of advice into a workable app and in many ways setting the opening bar height for fly fishing instructional apps. Is it worth $14.99 (after cashing in the gift card)? In my mind, that depends on whether you think having an excellent knot reference and fly pattern guide at hand is worth the cost. Given what I’ve seen of knot-tying videos in recent years, for some that section alone would justify the cost.
I look forward to seeing whether Orvis will continue to tweak the app, make it fully searchable, and justify the download size with richer content. In all, though, it’s a pretty good start.
You can buy the app in the iTunes store.

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