This year's Fly Fishing Retailers (FFR) show, September 8-10 in Denver, Colorado, saw the opening of a decided generation gap. The traditional crowd, for whom fishing is a more palatable alternative to golf, is joined by an athletic cohort looking for something to do in days off from climbing and mountain-biking, when the rivers are too low to kayak, and the snow has yet to fall. For my money, that second group has always been there, but now manufacturers are acknowledging it.
On the floor of the show, the divide was most evident at the Cloudveil (www.cloudveil.com) booth, situated directly across the aisle from Filson (www.filson.com), a company that's been making quality canvas vests and waxed-cotton outerwear since 1897. Having long been a player in technical apparel for climbing, Cloudveil this year launched a complete angling line. The crossover is readily apparent in their 8X Wader, which features the same gusseted crotch and articulated knees (in addition to three- and five-layer Gore-Tex fabric) that you'd usually associate with skiwear. Since they're now owned by SBI, the same company that owns Fila, that could have something to do with the fact that Cloudveil's boot resembles a high-support, felt-soled basketball shoe offering the level of mobility their target audience prefers. (The boot also employs a double footbed; the upper layer can be removed to fit a neoprene wader bootie or left in for the faster, lighter wet wading of late summer.) The complete line also includes a vest, storm shell, and several men's and women's fashion pieces.
One of the most innovative companies to come along in the last few years is pack maker William Joseph (www.williamjoseph.net), out of Salt Lake City. WJ's fishing packs evidence a level of thought, development, and creativity rare in any industry. They both create space and simplify the many dangly appendages that anglers tend to accrue. This year, they've also introduced waders, a vest, boots, and a bamboo net with a holster handle that allows it to hook to your belt, straps, or waders without buckles and crazy magnetic zingers.
Finally, among the new players, Rising, a young husband-and-wife company out of Bozeman, Montana, is designing clippers, forceps, and other instruments specific to angling. The company is brand-new but one to watch for the future.
Among the old guard reaching into younger waters is Bozeman, Montana-based Simms (www.simmsfishing.com). Known best for making the finest and most durable Gore-Tex waders around, Simms is now stepping up its footwear. The G3 Guide Boot has the sleek Cordura upper and heavy rand you'd expect to see on Denali, were it not for the felt sole, and weighs a mere 48 ounces. Simms also premiered its new 3X Dry cotton outerwear at the show. At the demonstration, they poured water, infomercial-style, on a treated cotton shirt, and I'll be dammed if it didn't bead right off. The claim is that you've got waterproof, breathable cotton for 30 washings.
The one piece of angling equipment you can't do without is a rod. My two favorites came from Sage (www.sageflyfish.com) and Scott (www.scottflyrod.com). Though it's a year old, Sage's TXL series features the lightest rods on the market. (A 12-inch trout on the double-ought-weight may run you into your backing.) New for this year, Sage launched its first-ever 16-weight. A rod that burly may be a bit impractical short of landing Jaws, but says Sage's Paul Johnson, "We've got a guy in Switzerland who catches hundred-pound catfish with it." Don't ask. Scott, based in Montrose, Colorado, is known for hand-making every rod right in their shop. For the last 30 years, they've relied on one series of trout rod, the G. Now, they've introduced the G2, adding a new level of precision and quality control to the process. Additionally, Scott rods have the all-important measuring marks just above the cork, so your photos really can prove how big that fish was. www.flyfishingretailer.com