It’s official… this Spring my family will be moving west to Northern California, so this is my last official GL tributary season. I’m going to love fishing in the west (I’ve been dreaming of it since I started fly fishing), but I will greatly miss my close friends I have made here in Western NY, and of course the fishing.
Also official… I am currently filming a winter based fly fishing short movie. I’ve been working with a very talented filmmaker and musician named Adam Kryder. Check out our new website www.rawwaterproductions.com for more info!
This winter has been season number two with my William Joseph WST waders, Squall Jacket, and Current chest pack. This setup remains bomb proof, efficient, and comfortable, even after a two-year beating. We have had a mild winter this season so far, but the coldest days were still no match for Willy J.
Finally, I had the pleasure of fishing with Matt Smythe a few times this winter. He put up a nice review of the Exodus pack a while back, and it was great photographing him and the pack on one of the craziest winter days we had all season.
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
Steelhead are often referred to as “the fish of a thousand casts” and I know a handful of anglers that sight fish for Corbina that would gladly take those odds! These fish can be so spooky that my buddies jokingly say you should never look one in the eye – or they won’t come back. Every spring these fish start rooting around San Diego’s beaches in search of mole crabs (sand crabs) in only inches of water, often tailing like redfish as they dig in the sand looking for an easy meal. But like sight fishing for wily bonefish, these silver brawlers require a stealth approach and when hooked will take you into your backing quickly.
Since sight fishing is all about seeing your prey, get to the beach once the sun is on the water – no early hatches here. Focus on the shallow water as it rises up the beach and look for tails or splashes as a give away in locating fish. You will typically have to wait for the fish to ride the wave back in a second time before you get a shot at it. Place your fly within the fish’s area of vision and give it a few small strips to catch the fish’s attention. Patience is the key, and if you don’t find tailing fish right away throw a few casts to the deeper water. You might be surprised at what you find.
As far as gear goes, your trout gear will also work for the beach. Just make sure to wash it off with fresh water when you are done for the day. Saltwater and sand can wreak havoc on your gear if not properly washed off. A 9-foot, 4- to 6-weight rod matched to a reel spooled with an appropriate integrated shooting head is perfect for stalking the fish along San Diego’s coastline. Grab a handful of Clouser Darters, Surfin Merkins, and Foxy Clousers and you are ready to hunt. This time of year you can even leave the waders at home and enjoy the water in just surf trunks. Instead of a vest, anglers typically carry their gear in lumbar packs like William Joseph’s Surge pack. With its Zip No system of magnets (and lack of zippers) this pack is heads above all others in the surf. Just like saltwater can destroy your rod and reel, zippers are typically the first things to corrode and fail in saltwater. After over a year of testing my Surge is still going strong.
While you may sight, stalk and cast to quite a few Corbina in a day, many days can end only in heartbreak. However, once you have tasted success in this game you will have experienced one of fly fishing’s greatest accomplishments.