This newest addition to the line of Willy J jackets is made to trek into the wildest weather while staying comfy and dry. I put this jacket to the test on the first day. With temps in the low 20’s and blizzard like conditions I pulled up the hood, tighten the cuffs, and, zipped up for a long day on the water.
I was a little skeptical about the waterproofing of this shell with it really dumping. Almost a half day into it I was completely amazed I was still dry and warm. The wind was not cutting through and, the water was rolling off the material nicely. The fleece lined pockets did a good job at warming the hands after tying on flies, and releasing several fish. A full day and I was impressed so far, so good. I fished this jacket for the next several weeks enduring all sorts of late fall weather. The rain, snow, wind, and the occasional warmer day all felt nice, leaving little to be desired. As a whole the jacket seemed to stand up to some good abuse. The large pocket on the inside made it easy to store a box of nymphs and some tippet, making a quick jaunt to the water easy. I did how ever find that when the wind died down and the sun peaked from the clouds the hood was a little in the way. A little Velcro strap was easily secured to tie it down, not sure if it was intended for that purpose but it worked.
This jacket at $140 is by far the best way to keep the snow and wind off your neck this season. It seems I’m always putting my self into the wild weather of the West and feel comfortable that this jacket will do what is needed to keep me dry and warm. The colors are pretty nice and it fits well leaving enough room for a layer of warmth underneath. I did find that if the temps really dropped it was a little chilly without a good under layer.
At $140 though it’s hard to beat this well designed shell. I give it a thumb’s up for the Willy J crew. You will not find a better priced jacket for your hard earned dollar. So if you’re headed for the water this winter I would recommend you do it in the Squall. You won’t be disappointed and, you will still have enough cash to buy some flies and beer.
Unless I’m purposely packing light to fish out of my kayak, I always wear a backpack along with a chest pack when I’m wading or fishing out of a boat. Between a thermos of coffee, a couple water bottles, jerky, maybe a sandwich, camera, extra fly boxes and wet/cold weather gear, the chest pack alone doesn’t cut it and I’d rather hump a pack than leave it in the truck and waste time making trips back for short breaks. I do the same thing when I’m out deer or goose hunting. Being self-contained keeps you in the game…after all, that’s where the fur, feathers and fins are. The one down-side is that within a couple hours my lower back is killing me and it won’t loosen up regardless of taking breaks or stretching. I’ve found Bourbon to be the closest solution to-date, but it makes wading difficult pretty quickly.
A few days before we flew for Idaho, a package came in the mail from Paul Swint over at William Joseph. He and I had talked about the trip at the IFTD show in New Orleans a week or so earlier and he thought it worthwhile to send me one of their new packs to try out. What showed up at my door was the Exodus II pack/vest combo in sage (it’s available in blue as well). I’d been fishing a small chest pack of theirs for the last 10 years and had planned to pack my extra gear in my backpack the same way I always do. I was looking forward to changing up that routine and hopefully turning the corner on the sore back thing. Damn, I sound freaking old.
The detachable vest pockets were an immediate plus. Our flight west had two layovers, so I planned on using the back pack as a carry-on in order to keep my reels, flies, accessories, camera, some clothes and flight essentials (food/water) with me. I was able to organize all of my fly boxes and accessories in the vest, unbuckle the two components from the pack and fit them in the main compartment with everything else, essentially river-ready.
On the water, the Exodus (retail price of $169) fit me well with the wide, adjustable shoulder straps and chest buckle. I thought the size would make it heavier out of the package, but it was surprisingly light-weight. Plus, the vented back and shoulder straps allowed for plenty of air circulation, which kept me comfortable even with a few 8 – 10 hour days on the water and consistent temps in the 90′s. The contents I packed in the main compartment were not inordinately heavy, but I was able to fit a sweatshirt, shell and a pair of wading sandals along with the other items I mentioned, and the compression straps on the sides, bottom and back kept the pack low-profile and also kept the weight close to my center of gravity, which completely alleviated my back strain.
The material and stitching was durable enough not to snag, rip or pop when hiking a game trail through woods and thick brush, being dropped on the ground or gravel bar, or thrown in the back of a truck or boat at numerous points during the trip. Speaking of boats, during our two days on the South Fork, it was flawless and stowed easily out from under foot when not being pillaged for flies, tippet or jerky. Plus the rugged handle at the top was a solid, easy grab when reaching for the pack or tossing it back.
The one sticking point for me was the dangling straps at the bottom of back-pack. When wading in waist-deep water, where the line you strip bellies around behind you in the current, the line invariably gets snagged on one or more of the straps when paying out line to cast. I tried tying them up to shorten them, but still had some snags. Rolling/folding them up in rubber bands or elastic might’ve worked, I’ve seen that on other packs, but I didn’t test that hypothesis.
The vest components are very well designed with six generous pockets that hold a lot of gear: 4 fly boxes, 5 containers for my sex-dungeon collection, extra leaders, floatant, strike indicators, split-shot case, my pipe and tobacco and Kodak Play Sport video camera. The two components zip together to hold the pair securely front and center, and when unzipped, swing out of the way if you need less in front of you to, say, untangle major knots.
And they’ve paid attention to detail: the water-tight Zip-No magnetic pocket closure system makes it easy to get at fly boxes and other accessories without the one-handed zipper wrestling match; the two zippered cargo pockets it does have are armed with rubberized tabs for easy gripping; rounded, tube-covered pull tabs give you something substantial – but non line-snagging – to pull open the magnetic pockets; additional webbing straps are included for lashing your tippet dispenser or hemos; a retractable clipper clasp is built into one of the pockets; and the AirTrack suspension allows you the flexibility adjust the fit of the whole rig to wear over more layers or fewer.
Aside from the fish we caught, the pack made a huge difference in the overall trip experience – from flight to fishing. Off the water it was comfortable, spacious and convenient enough to travel with. On the water, I had everything I needed (and then some) and without the nagging lower back, I actually forgot that I had anything more than the chest pack on. I look forward to putting it through further abuse/use back up here in NY chasing salmon and steelhead and hopefully some pike and late season bass. Hell maybe the back pack will see hunting season as well.
• More than enough pockets and room in the backpack and vest
• Water-tight Magnetic Zip-No pocket closure system
• Lightweight, well-balanced and compresses well
• Detachable vest components
• Fully adjustable for good fit in cold or warm weather
• The price is right for the over-all versatility and quality
• Need to find a way to corral straps and avoid line snags
Reviews on this site are my unpaid and unbiased opinion of gear, music, guides, books and other outdoor-related items. In some instances I may be allowed to keep what is sent to me for review, but as of right now I’m not affiliated with any company, manufacturer, publisher, or producer in any other way. I suppose there’s still hope though.
Review by - www.fishingpoet.com
These days fly anglers have more option and better products with innovative features than we ever dreamed of when it comes to fly gear. From fly lines, rods, reels to waders we are truly spoiled with great companies and innovative products. With that being said I’ve never been much of a fan of the quintessential fishing vest. But thankfully, like I mentioned, we have a plethora of quality options and alternatives these days from some cutting edge companies like William Joseph, Fishpond and Simms. I haven’t used a vest for over 12 years and prefer a chest pack of some kind. Over the years I’ve bought and fished many different technical packs as my angling needs changed. I’m a bit of a self admitted gear whore and carry everything from extras spools to sharpie markers for coloring flies while on the water. My favorite style has to be a chest pack / back pack combo and almost always am fishing out of one. Lately I’ve been using the William Joseph Coastal backpack Mini Chest-Pack Combo and I’ve really been pleased.
Key Features included:
- A full weight-bearing waste belt that also has integrated pockets for items that you may want quickly accessible like floatant or a point and shoot camera.
- Two main pockets with many inner pockets with zippers and divides. Great for organizing extra leaders, sharpie markers, bug repellant and anything else that is a must have on the water.
- Very light, weighing in at only 2 lbs 14 oz.
- Willy J’s signature TCS (tippet control system) so you can scrap that dangling tippet T that’s always unraveling.
- Anatomical shoulder straps.
- Two rod tube holders that can be used to carry water bottles.
- Removable and independent from chest pack. Great for wading out of a boat or when just the essentials and some fly boxes are needed.
But the most noteworthy and my favorite feature has to be Willy J’s Airtrack Suspension system. The Airtrack pulls the pack away from your back and lets air flow freely so you stay comfortable and don’t end up a sweaty mess. I’ve been fishing this backpack since last fall and so far its been great. If you’re tired of slogging around in a sweaty vest or do long day trips on foot you might want to check out this Willy J setup.