Our picks for the best fly fishing gear we tested in 2019.
True outdoorsmen understand the importance of a great pair of boots, and the Orvis Danner Light II is a miracle pair. Orvis, founded in 1856, and Danner, founded in 1932, came together to create the boots your grandfather would have wanted. They’re an east-coast-west-coast collaboration: a pair that transcends time and keeps your feet feeling young. With smooth brown leather and traditional Orvis green accents, they’ll outlast whatever old pair you’ve been taping up. Despite the torrential downpours you might face tomorrow, The Vibram Sierra Outsole will keep you stable on slippery ground and a GORE-TEX Membrane will leave your tootsies toasty and dry. Best of all, these boots are made right here in the U.S.A. If you’re the toughest of tough, these are for you. They weight 1.75 pounds per boot, so bulk up those ankles. Time to buy some bigger socks.
Poncho Outdoors prides themselves on creating simple, high-quality, and affordable gear. A nickname for St.Francisco – the patron saint of animals, ecology, and conservation – “Poncho” is invested in treating you, and the world with honor and respect. The Client Shirt offers a sleek, professional twist to the classic fly-fishing shirt. It’s lightweight, breathable fabric wicks moisture away on a warm day and will leave you looking put-together, no matter how many hours you spent on the water. With magnet-closing pocket clasps, you can access your gear one-handed, and stay focused on the task at hand. The Client Shirt is the most versatile fishing shirt out there. Fishing trip? Check. Business meeting? Check-Check. Dinner Plans? Check. Heck, it’s so comfortable, you could probably sleep in it, too.
Sure, fish have terrible eyesight, but we don’t have to play their game. Polarized sunglasses are any fisherman’s secret weapon, and Costa’s Reefton model are a perfect choice for fly fishermen in particular. Named after the West Coast New Zealand town with access to twelve different river systems, the Reefton exudes quiet strength and confidence. With tons of lens options, be sure to choose yours based on the light conditions you’ll most likely be fishing in – and you can also order lenses with your prescription to ensure that you’re seeing your best. Costa lenses can be purchased in glass or polycarbonate, so whether you want superior clarity or the most lightweight option, there is something for everybody.
Bridgedale’s Midweight Boot Merino Performance socks are one of the most durable and comfortable options on the market. Ideal for long or multi-day excursions, these socks have a blend of new wool, merino wool, and three other fabrics that are specifically designed for padding, moisture-wicking, and resilience. They protect ankles from blistering, and even when wet, they hold their shape and bounce-back to dryness quickly. Best of all, the socks always return to their original size after every wash.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Nalgene is the Kleenex of water bottles: so popular, that it has become the ubiquitous term for any water-carrying device. Developed in Rochester, NY in 1949, chemist Emanuel Goldberg named the company after his wife, and with the “Carry In-Carry Out” movement of the 1970s, Nalgene exploded. It is the essential reusable water bottle found hanging, by a carabiner, off the bag of every hiker, biker, climber, and fisherman. It’s BPA free, and the 32oz, the wide-mouth design is perfect for ice cubes. I’ve even made fresh coffee on trips with this thing, using lukewarm water and a dirty sock. In fact, I bet every Nalgene owner has at least one great story to tell. 2019 is the company’s 70th Anniversary, and they released limited edition designs. Be sure to grab yours before the year is over.
Smartwool creates some of the most versatile base layers for men and women, but the men really got lucky this time. The Intraknit Merino 200 bottoms are perfect for any fall and winter outdoor excursions, and these are perfect to wear under waders. Made with Merino Wool and Polyester, they’re stretch friendly, quick-drying, and specifically engineered to enhance comfort and performance. Go ahead: stretch, run, hunt, fish, paddle – these bottoms can handle it. They have targeted areas for insulation and ventilation, making them odor resistant and incredibly durable…but guys, I beg you: don’t put them in the dryer. They’re too beautiful.
It’s so easy to get caught in the mountains somewhere between too-hot or too-cold, but Helly Hansen got it right with the Verglas Light Jacket. This hybrid jacket gives us the best of both worlds: it can be worn by itself or with a shell, and it’s super lightweight – just 500 grams (that’s 500 paperclips, people)! It’s breathable, waterproofed, and softer than your comforter, with 90/10 Goose down. The down keeps your warmth in the core and releases excess heat through the arms – making this jacket impeccably perfect for constantly casting fishermen.
With small feet – size 5 ½, to be exact – finding the right sock/shoe combination can be nearly impossible. Luckily, Darn Tough makes some of the best sock options for women, and I especially love their Hiker ¼ Socks. They cover just above the ankle and have a lighter cushion than traditional hiking socks – keeping my feet cooler and preventing any fabric from bunching. Truthfully, I often forget I’m even wearing them. Darn Tough socks are a one-mill, family-owned business, and each pair is made in Vermont with ethically sourced merino wool. Their socks have a lifetime guarantee – and I haven’t had to replace a pair yet.
Whether rising early for hunting or rushing down a mountain while the sun is setting, a good headlamp is a must-have in your pack for any outdoors-man-or-woman. This year, Petzl released the Actik CORE Headlamp, which runs on its own Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and shines up to 450 lumens. It’s lightweight, water-resistant, and if your CORE batteries die, no worries – it’s compatible with AAA batteries, too. At 100 lumens, it can maintain light for up to 7 hours and has three white light settings, and one red light, should you need to go into stealth mode.