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Michael Gracie

Fishpond puts on a fresh new [online] face

It’s been anticipated…

Fishpond USA

Click to check it out

Fun. Mirroring the company and its products. Like the jazzy product descriptions too [wink wink].

MG signing off (to congratulate the Fishpond crew for a job well)

Kitchen Sink Will Travel: The Fishpond Westwater Sling Pack

gear bagSearch the patent office database and you’ll find thousands upon thousands of inventions that are guaranteed to help you catch more fish. Most have never made it to market, because fish are infinitely smarter than anglers.

I’m one of the dummies, but I do think the most marketable incarnations are the ones that make life easy for the fly fisher, like allowing he or she to travel in comfort and convenience; to carry all those useless fly fishing implements with ease. Do that and shops will sell more of the needless things; prosperity reigns supreme. If it’s water-resistant, you don’t soak the camera when you tumble into the river – you hence catch those background images you desperately need for the hero-shot Photoshop jobs – again, victory. Finally, make it extra spacious, and the roadside burrito cart vendor wins too. If you add all of these elements together someone might accuse you of conducting espionage at some top-secret military installation. Or just being the designer of the Fishpond Westwater Sling Pack.

Fishpond Westwater Sling PackBuild quality

If I knew exactly what technique Fishpond used to weld the seams on the Westwater Sling, you probably wouldn’t care anyway. Let’s leave the techno-babble to those geeky marketing types who are clueless as to what actually matters, and just say those seams are welded tight, look great, and feel like they don’t exist at all.

While Fishpond doesn’t bill the Sling as “waterproof” – they opt for “water resistant” – the Sling was clearly built to keep the wet stuff out. I spilled a half can of beer on it, and splashed it with water to clean it off. When I unzipped it to grab another beer, all was nice and dry on the inside. What more proof does an angler need?

The Westwater Sling is contructed of 1680d TPU fabric i.e. very tightly-weaved with a thermoplastic polyurethane laminate. It should be very tough, and nearly waterproof. I loaded it up for numerous trips, did some bush whacking, carelessly tossed it on gnarly rocks, and threw it in a river. Much to my dismay, the Sling took this abuse in stride. After that, I emptied the pack, carted it into the backyard, and stomped all over it while watching South Park re-runs on my mobile timesuck device. The pack lived, and could still hit the blacktie charity circuit.

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Probably Zombie Proof Too: The Fishpond Nimbus Guide Pack

gear bagYears ago I decided I didn’t want anything hanging off my shoulders besides the dreadful burden of catching fish. So I shed the vest in favor of a waist pack, caught more fish, and consumed more 7-11 Big Bites (which are a great dawn patrol breakfast treat, until you try wiping the dribbled mustard off your shirt while hauling down an elk-strewn road in the pitch black). Soon after I wondered why my pack’s waist straps started shrinking.

Back and forth I went, vest to pack, pack to vest, until I found what I thought was the ultimate fly-fishing accoutrement storage, the ole’ Mountainsmith Tour. I ran with it, touting its utility, relishing in its capacity…while secretly pissing and moaning about all the straps dangling from it, and finally settling on it being perpetually slung over my shoulder because it was so difficult to spin around for access when lashed over my hips. Yes, purpose defeated.

Fishpond Nimbus Guide PackWhat did I really want in a fly-fishing waist pack? Lots of capacity…lots! And the fewer compartments the better – one biggie accessible from the top would be supreme. Ace the custom features otherwise designed for holding floatant, dry shake, and pliers – all the things that either wind up in a shirt pocket or don’t get carried in at all. Easy in/out access for big C&F boxes, and wide hip padding so I didn’t have to split myself in two to keep the loaded pack from hitting my ankles. Go minimal “strappage” (otherwise designed for Everest expedition participants). Let’s also throw in excess room, after the stones, terrestrials, dries, nymphs and beads extra dries, for a can of bear spray Guinness.

I queried the innermost reaches of my feeble mind for clues as to why the fly-fishing industry couldn’t produce such an accessory, and concluded they just didn’t listen, just didn’t care, were focused on the almighty dollar, and that I was the sole anal retentive in a world of magnanimous, wholly satisfied anglers. Then one day early last fall I woke up a package arrived on my doorstep. Contained within was suspension of disbelief, and I immediately checked the gear closet for electronic surveillance devices. Would this thing actually go to market, or was it just a cruel joke? My suspicions were unfounded – it was real, and the answer to my prayers – the zombie antidote I ordered online after watching Resident Evil too many times Fishpond Nimbus Guide Pack.

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Having fallen for the Fishpond Prairie Grass Kit Bag

I haven’t been much for fancy luggage since an upscale suit bag I was toting disappeared from a baggage claim area in 1995. I’ve used plain brown wrapper ever since.

Then last month I decided to attempt a week-long bonefishing trip with nothing more than a carry-on bag. I went rummaging through the ziploc storage, but they were all full of year-old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I made last time I thought a zombie invasion was imminent. And I’d already calculated that I needed somewhere north of 2,000 cubic inches anyway.

After several vain attempts to assemble a custom duffle out of a half-dozen tall kitchen garbage bags, Aqua Seal, duct tape, and superconducting magnets, I perused several online catalogs for something that might fill the void. The Fishpond Prairie Grass Kit Bag, at a 2,600 cu.in. capacity and measuring just 18″ x 12″ x 13″ seemed like the perfect solution. I could cram it full of Ibuprofen, Alka Seltzer, and Emergen-C and still make it by the gate agent. Hopefully.

As the saying goes, a bad day fishing is still better than a good day working. In this case I was being forced to do both, but the Prairie Grass Kit Bag did not fail. I got everything I needed into it, and even wound up bringing home two unworn t-shirts. I was a little underpowered as content creation goes (the iPad still has a long way to go in the productivity department), but I brought way too many flies, one too many lines, and seeing as I’m not all that fond of barracuda stealing entire rigs (even if somebody else’s fly is on the end) I probably could have left another reel at home too.

In other words, this bag did it’s job and then some. And while I’m not big on fancy accessories – no wanna-be dreg of fly-fishing society should be – there’s nary a snowball’s chance in hell I’m going to part with this puppy.

What features solidified this bag as a keepsake? Well I’ll tell you…

  • The easily accessible side compartments for storing the vast array of electronics that all travelers are forced to purchase at Best Buy hours before their trips (and that the TSA wants easy access to)
  • The easily removable, clear toiletries bag full of shampoos and cosmetics and such that every person except a bald man going on a fishing trip needs (and that the TSA wants presented in full view)
  • The bag’s overall size, which when stuffed to the gills with flies, reels, and seven changes of underwear spare fly lines still fits (snugly) in perpetually shrinking airliner overhead compartments
  • The hinged zippered top, which made it easy to access the goods within without wrinkling the silk smoking jacket I wore to the Slack Tide each evening

Will I be replacing my standard plastic bucket for hauling sloppy wet, eColi-infested carping boots around? Probably not, even though the bag could easily handle it. But the Prairie Grass Kit Bag is now definitely my go-to piece of luggage for overnight, even multi-night, trips where I can save $50 bucks in baggage check fees and at least appear like I’m a productive member of society.

MG signing off (to plan another minimalist trip, safe in the presumption that I won’t need any superconducting magnets)

FTC Disclosure: The bag was provided at no charge, but with no obligation to write a review on it either.

Thumbing it to Andros South

It’s about quality over quantity. Unless you’re standing on a flat with an empty fly box.

With all the chatter about what a pain in the rear it is to fly nowadays, I decided to stack the deck in my favor by doing FIBFest with the minimal amount of stuff possible. I’m carrying just one bag, a 2,600 cu.in. duffle, and going as cheaply as possible on everything besides rod, reel and line. The goal is to do the entire week without borrowing a single item from either the other FIBFesters or our gracious host (other than maybe a little CPU time). Here is the packing list:

bonefishing gearThe Essentials

  • Scott S4S rods(1) in #6, #8, and #10, in a heavy duty postal mail tube
  • Lamson Litespeed reels in 3X, 3.5X, and 4, plus some spare parts for each(2) (’cause I often leave reels directly behind the tires of trucks that are about to back up)
  • RIO Bonefish 6(3), Rio Tropical Clouser 8, Rio Redfish 8 (for when I trash the Tropical Clouser in the mangroves), and Rio Saltwater Tropical F/I 10(3)
  • Roughly 1,100 yards of 30# gelspun backing (don’t be a sissy, you fingers are going to get cut anyway)
  • A leader wallet with roughly a dozen tapered flouro and Toothy Critter jobbies in it, and spools of CFX flouro in 6#, 8#, 10#, 12#, 15# and 20#
  • A hundred flies in a five buck Plano box that doubles as bass bug storage, and another small ($3) Plano box for when we’re on foot

I’ll note that I’m carrying way more flies than I’ll probably need, but it’s a pretty wide assortment, including some weightier stuff for deeper water. Last time around Norman gave me a nice ribbing for not being prepared when we shot over to the West Side, and goodness knows I cave under pressure as it is.

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