Umpqua UPG HD Weekender Fly Box ($40)
This improbably small box (just 1.8 inches thick) still opens wide enough to accommodate a mind-boggling quantity of flies.
Gerber Magniplier Tool ($74)
An angled nose enables the easy release of bass or pike (your hand doesn’t block your view of the hook), and an ergonomically shaped hot-forged aluminum grip fits snugly in your palm.
Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack ($89)
Artist Linda Leary lent her “groovy grayling” print to Orvis’s sling, which secures a hemostat on the front strap and stashes fly boxes, a water bottle, and everything else behind you, so they don’t snag your line.
Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders ($349)
Though extremely durable, these 1.6-pound waterproof-breathable waders scrunch down to the size of a camp pillow, so they won’t overwhelm your pack on treks to remote waterways.
Ross Evolution LTX 4-5 Weight Reel ($385)
We like to think of the LTX as an upgrade to the classic Evolution LT in the form of a larger arbor (to retrieve line faster) and a stronger drag (it puts the brakes on baby tarpon as well as football-size trout). But Ross’s commitment to precision machining hasn’t changed. The LTX feels as sharp as ever and still produces that beloved quiet click.
Fishpond River Armor El Jefe Net ($230)
Made of fiberglass covered with a protective Kevlar and carbon-fiber skin, El Jefe is light enough to wield one-handed but tough enough to bully boulders. And the shape is handy for both boating and wading: the long handle helped us land fat tailwater trout before they snapped our superfine line.
Simms Freestone Wading Boots ($150)
This time-tested icon has always been hardy, but it had a reputation for making your foot feel like a cinder block. Recent improvements changed that. A grippier proprietary-rubber sole increases in-stream traction, an expanded neoprene ankle wrap boosts warmth and cushioning, and plastic plates in the toe and heel facilitate a more natural stride.
Costa del Mar Montauk Sunglasses ($199)
Polycarbonate lenses like these aren’t as sharp as glass but they protect better against UV, and we appreciate that when scanning the water off Florida’s panhandle. Sticky Hydrolite rubber on the nose and earpieces keeps the Montauks in place, the full wrap blocks glare from all directions, and holes in the temples make it easy to use a scrap of fishing line as an ultralight leash.
Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth AST Plus Trout Line ($100)
This long-shooting line makes any fly rod feel like a cannon, courtesy of a proprietary material that never loses its slickness.
Yeti Camino Carryall 35 Tote ($150)
Shove dirty shoes and wet waders into this tote, which has a waterproof bottom to protect your car from sloppy contents. In the field, rigid sides keep it from tipping over.
Find the Best Rod for You
Orvis Helios 3D ($849)
Best For: Salt Water
The Helios 3D is gloriously accurate. On Bahamian flats, it punched through 20-mile-per-hour winds and let us make 60-foot casts that set shrimp right on the noses of bonefish.
Tom Morgan Rodsmiths Graphite ($1,495)
Best For: Looking Good
Morgan is known for crafting $4,000 bamboo masterworks, but this graphite model is pretty perfect too. It also makes a great daily and excels at the short game, executing close-range casts with excellent sensitivity.
Scott G Series ($845)
Best For: Trout
Delicate and accurate, this medium-action stick lets you feel every flick. It dropped dry flies gracefully and nailed tricky casts in tight quarters. For technical fishing on small rivers and mountain streams, there’s no better tool. Yet it’s surprisingly versatile and managed to chuck a weighted streamer when duty called.
Shimano Clarus ($90)
Best For: Big Game
Plenty of rods are tough enough to haul in mighty fighters. The Clarus is in that camp, but because it’s crafted from an eight-layer graphite blank, it offers strength without a weight penalty.
G. Loomis Asquith ($1,000)
Best For: Distance
Light but bazooka powerful, the Asquith is the first fly rod to use Shimano’s SpiralX construction, which wraps a graphite core with carbon-fiber tape. The result is a distance ace. The nine-foot five-weight we tested shoots line to the river’s farthest reaches and proved itself on technical streams.