Gear: Inspired Classics

Walk into any fly fishing shop and you’ll note that the “classic” gear always stands out in an ocean of new and improved gear. They’ve remained visible—and relevant—because they are the tried-and-true items: the ones that fly shop owners have no reservations about recommending. They are items that are improved incrementally, over the years; no total revamps, here. They can also be newly released items that exhibit characteristics with an eye toward the past. Here are a few of them.

Hardy Perfect Fly Reel

The cosmetics have remained largely unchanged, but its inner workings have been regularly and obsessively scrutinized. I consider the Hardy Perfect as the Porsche 911 of fly fishing reels: a rock-solid and functional implement that has existed for decades (129 years, more precisely) and has been tweaked throughout all of those years to further enhance performance.

Hardy has always maintained far above average materials standards which include stainless steel ball bearings that provide near frictionless running and naval brass, 1-piece spindles that are largely responsible for the model’s longevity. The 2018 Hardy Perfect features a wide spool for improved line/backing capacity and a time-proven, adjustable drag system. It has no click checks like contemporary reels. Setting the drag is accomplished using a turn screw, in a very fluid fashion, enabling an angler an infinite number of settings within the trout-specific parameters predetermined by Hardy. On a dramatic take, there is virtually no kick-back, and those refined internal mechanics provide a very pleasing and smooth amount of counter-force. Fishing ultra-light tippets all the way to a 2x leader on a smaller model means you can cover all but the very largest water.

In developing the reel, Hardy was not overly concerned with the size-to-weight ratio, so if you’re a fan of reels with a little heft, you will find the Perfect line quite pleasing.

Type III, deep anodized for a durable shell and a smooth gunmetal grey satin finish together produce one of the stealthiest reels available. Finally, the Micarta ivorine handle is classic touch with a modern upgrade.

This is an heirloom reel that you can confidently count on handing down to your favorite fly fisher.

Supplied in a soft leather, sheepskin lined reel pouch and available in 6 sizes, including the traditional Taupo 3 7/8 inch. Made in England.

RIO LightLine Series Fly Line

It’s great to see that fly line makers still have classic action rods on their radar. I just fished RIO’s specialty series LightLine fly line in a DT configuration and walked away extremely pleased with how well it paired up with a Winston Boron LS fly rod. This fly line series is designed for all slower action rods, including glass and bamboo candidates.

The series, which is also available in WF, walks a truly fine line: they have been designed to load slower rods, yet won’t overload them—even at longer range. A compact front taper allows for excellent fly turnover and precise casts at short range. Expectedly, they’re ideal for fishing more intimate environments like smaller creeks and streams. A softer, supple coating ensures these lines remain relaxed and easy to handle in the majority of conditions and situations.

These “classic” performance features don’t mean that RIO out on the science: the LightLine series is decked out with the same Maxfloat tip and Maxcast technologies that are featured in many RIO fly lines.

Filson Duffle Bag

If a weekend fishing excursion is on your radar, Filson’s medium-sized duffle bag hits a carrying capacity sweet spot: ample space for all of the essentials, without absorbing too much trunk space. The design is pure classic and it cleverly meets airline maximum carry-on restrictions. Materials and construction quality cannot be overstated. Full grain bridle leather for handle, straps and latch points (all of which are outfitted with solid brass D-rings). Buckles and rust-proof zipper are also solid brass. Interior pockets are made of dry finish tin cloth for added durability. Dense-weave, abrasion-and-rain-resistant cotton twill round out this extra tough package.

Pick a color that you like a lot—this bag will service you for a lifetime. 43L capacity. Made in USA.

Ross Gunnison Fly Reel

Originally conceived in the 1990s, the Ross Gunnison reel was one of the most reliable and best-selling fly reels ever made. Production of that model, in its 2nd generation, ceased 15 years ago. I assume there may have been some grumbling about this because Ross finally decided to release the V3.0 Gunnison this April.

The 2018 Gunnison is designed with octagonal machining, round porting, and a leader groove on the frame, meaning that the original aesthetics have been maintained. The result is a very rugged reel.

The new version improves upon the original by incorporating a large arbor and an ultra-high-performance drag based on the same platform as the recent Ross Evolution LTX reel (I covered the Ross LTX a few months ago and focused heavily on its formidable drag system – one that quite possibly sets a new industry standard for power and smoothness). Other updates include a machined canvas phenolic handle that reduces weight and adds grip when wet, a quick release spool and easy left-hand to right-hand retrieve conversion.
As per Ross literature: … at the end of the day, replacing what was a favorite fly reel of so many anglers was a daunting task. These were huge shoes to fill, but the 2018 Gunnison has risen to the occasion. I’ve tested two previous generation Gunnison reels and agree entirely: the 2018 Gunnison is a noteworthy workhorse of a reel. I fished it for three full days and found it to be a worthy successor to the Gunnison line of reels.
Final note: the reel is available in original matte black only, a colour option that has been debated ad nauseam over the years. IMO: if stealth is a concern, there is no debate – matte black is the only way to go, and kudos to Ross for stepping up to that somewhat contentious plate.

US-made, fully machined 6061-T6 alloy components and comes in three sizes that cover line weights 4 through 8. Balances best with rods with ample swing weight.

Howler Bros. Apparel

With all the focus on synthetic, quick-dry fabrics in the past decade-and-a-half, it’s always nice to see the occasional wearable that bucks the trend by adding a healthy dose of cotton to the mix – and why not? – the stuff just feels better than full poly. Howler Bros. get full retro style and functionality points for their Stretch Bruja shorts and Mansfield shirt (features standout patterns and signature sunglass cleaning microfiber at the hem). The shorts are cut for maximum comfort and ventilation, so dry time is reasonably quick.

Shorts feature a rear Velcro secured pocket (plus two up front), drainage grommets, Velcro fly, wide comfy waistband and a quick-dry, stretch fabric, resulting in the most stylish fishing shorts you’re likely to see in 2018. Bonus: the usual muck (dirt, fish slime… ) encountered on a fishing day rinses off in a snap.