Gear Institute Expert Test Menu

Fishing Gear

  • Angler's Delight
    Best Fly Fishing Packs of 2015
    Best Fly Fishing Packs of 2015
  • Tight Lines
    Best 4-wt Fly Rods of 2015
    Best 4-wt Fly Fishing Rods of 2015
  • Staying Dry
    Picking the Best Waders for Anglers
    Staying Dry: Fly Fishing Wader Review
Water Master Kodiak

95

2016

Water Master Kodiak

The Water Master Kodiak is a compact frameless raft designed to provide a solo angler safe, effective access to rivers and lakes.

Outcast Commander

86

2016

Outcast Commander

The Outcast Commander is a kayak-shaped one-person inflatable, designed for moving and still water fishing. 

Creek Company Voyager

83

2016

Creek Company Voyager

The Creek Company Voyager is a compact frameless raft hybrid pontoon raft design suitable for angling on flat and gently moving water.

Orvis Recon 908-4

90

2016

Orvis Recon 908-4

The Orvis Recon rod is one of the most versatile performance rods in this class. Beginners and experts have praised its smooth casting ability and ability to ‘work’ fish effectively once hooked. 

Sage SALT 890-4

95

2016

Sage SALT 890-4

The Sage SALT is best rod in its class in terms of casting power, accuracy, and fish-fighting performance. It is also the most expensive.

Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack

85

2015

Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack

The Umpqua Tongass 650 Waterproof Waist Pack’s beefy shoulder and hip straps lets this pack pinch-hit as a sling. 

Umpqua Rock Creek Chest Pack

90

2015

Umpqua Rock Creek Chest Pack

The Rock Creek sets a new high bar for chest packs. This chest pack uses a meshy yoke that distributes the load evenly and makes this pack truly comfortable for daylong wear.

Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack

86

2015

Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack

Professional guides might find this sling to be a bit small. But for everyone else, this pack offers generous storage capacity—and keeps it from feeling unwieldy.

Patagonia Vest Front Sling

85

2015

Patagonia Vest Front Sling

The Patagonia Vest Front Sling offers the organizational excellence of a vest, without vests’ weight and warmth.

Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack

86

2015

Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack

The Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack’s design is streamlined and smart, ultimately minimizing clutter. This sling puts every tool right where you want it.

L.L. Bean Kennebec Switch Pack

87

2015

L.L. Bean Kennebec Switch Pack

The L.L. Bean Kennebec Switch Pack is a backpack that converts to a fishing vest that is perfect for anglers who hike to backcountry streams and lakes.

Fishpond Delta Sling Pack

91

2015

Fishpond Delta Sling Pack

The Fishpond Delta Sling Pack is a bicycle courier bag repurposed for fly-fishing, and it is also one of the smartest and handiest pack designs to come along in some time.

Sage 3250

93

2015

Sage 3250

The Sage 3250 reel proved itself a powerful tool capable of handling big trout as well as delicate adjustments. 

Redington Delta

87

2015

Redington Delta

The Redington Delta earned a solid reputation as a trout-fishing workhorse after more than a year of heavy use.

Orvis CFO II

88

2015

Orvis CFO II

The Orvis CFO II offers traditional anglers the option of a brand new reel built in a classic style. 

Orvis Access II

90

2015

Orvis Access II

The Orvis Access II performed yeomanly duty whenever we took it out. It’s mid-sized arbor means line pick-up is a bit slower than some of the other reels in the test, and its looks are not going to draw appreciative looks from other anglers. 

 Cheeky Boost 350

94

2015

Cheeky Boost 350

The Cheeky Boost 350 reel earned praise from every angler I had testing it. The Boost’s fast line retrieval and ultra-smooth drag were universally praised as was the clean, yet vibrant design. 

Scott Radian 864/4

88

2015

Scott Radian 864/4

The fast-action Scott Radian had the line speed to throw big foam hoppers to aggressive westslope cutthroat, and it was wonderful for working weighted multi-fly nymphing rigs. But when accuracy and finesse were needed, the Radian was a bit limited compared to the Sage Accel or Orvis Recon. 

Sage Accel 486-4

93

2015

Sage Accel 486-4

After just a month of fishing the Sage Accel 486-4, I had fallen in love. The medium-fast action of the Accel offered me a smooth, progressive action that was able to push a lot of line a good distance, but with great tip flex suitable for long mends and delicate presentations.

Rugged Creek Traditional 4-wt

77

2015

Rugged Creek Traditional 4-wt

The Rugged Creek Traditional rod offers a medium-fast action with a soft-flex tip that proved to be relatively easy to cast. Unfortunately, the Traditional lacks the power of a true fast-action (like the Scott Radian or Orvis Recon) and the accuracy of a medium-action like the Sage Accel.

Redington Vapen Black 409-4

87

2015

Redington Vapen Black 409-4

The Redington Vapen Black utilizes the original Vapen’s synthetic grip without the gaudy colors. The fast-action taper provides good casting power with better than average accuracy.

Orvis Recon 904-4

90

2015

Orvis Recon 904-4

The Orvis Recon series fills the middle of Orvis’ rod lineup, and the 9’ 4-wt version is a great example of the series’ strengths. 

Orvis Silver Sonic Guide Waders

92

2015

Orvis Silver Sonic Guide Waders

The Orvis Silver Sonic Guide Waders offer the best features of any waders we tested, with a very handy waterproof storage pocket, roomy hand-warming pockets, and great durability.

Redington SonicDry Fly Waders

91

2015

Redington SonicDry Fly Waders

The Redington SonicDry Waders use a proprietary laminate for the waterproof-breathability and it proved to work well.

Simms Headwaters Convertible Stockingfoot waders

91

2015

Simms Headwaters Convertible Stockingfoot waders

The Simms Headwater Convertible Waders make it easy to shift from full chest-waders to wading pants, with a simple but effective roll-down design.

Patagonia Men's Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders

94

2015

Patagonia Men's Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders

The Patagonia Rio Gallegos make use of the company’s decades of apparel design experience to deliver a new perfect fit.

 Cabela’s Guidewater BOA Wading Boot

80

2014

Cabela’s Guidewater BOA Wading Boot

Folks who like solid, heavy duty and hard working boot will appreciate the tough Cabela’s Guidewater BOA boot. 

Korkers Buckskin wading boot

84

2014

Korkers Buckskin wading boot

The Korkers Buckskin Wading Boot take full advantage of the one thing that sets Korkers apart from all its competitors: the Korkers OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System. 

Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boot–Sticky

86

2014

Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boot–Sticky

Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boots allow anglers who like to go walkabout to stick with one boot during the day rather than trading their hiking boots for wading boots once they reach their destination.

Simms Vapor Wading Boot

85

2014

Simms Vapor Wading Boot

The Simms Vapor Wading boots lived up to the billing as lightweight and comfortable, making them a solid choice for people willing to walk miles before making their first cast as well as for those making a thousand casts in the same mile.

Sage Circa

77

2014

Sage Circa

A beautiful new rod design, using a super-slim rod blank, the Circa performs its role as a dry fly specialist perfectly. Just don’t expect it to do anything else.

Orvis Superfine Touch

76

2014

Orvis Superfine Touch

The Orvis SuperFine Touch masters the art of presenting small dry flies to finicky surface feeding fish. Just don’t try using this rod for anything other than that precision dry fly work. 

Redington Butter Stick

85

2014

Redington Butter Stick

Redington’s Butter Stick features a slick, smooth casting action and, thanks to its soft tip flex, a soft presentation on the water. 

Orvis Superfine Glass

87

2014

Orvis Superfine Glass

The Superfine Glass serves as an outstanding rod for dry fly anglers, especially on small to medium sized rivers where casting distance is less vital than casting accuracy and presentation. 

LL Bean Pocket Water

71

2014

LL Bean Pocket Water

The very affordable Pocket Water allows anglers to pursue trout in small streams, ponds, and pools effectively, provided they can find fish within the rod’s limited casting range.

St. Croix Legend Elite

73

2014

St. Croix Legend Elite

The St. Croix Legend Elite performs as fast action power caster and big-fish fighter, though accuracy and delicacy are somewhat sacrificed. 

Sage Response

79

2014

Sage Response

The Sage Response makes reasonable compromises to be a true highly effective “quiver of one" rod though it costs a bit more than some with similar characteristics.

Redington Vapen Red

88

2014

Redington Vapen Red

The Redington Vapen’s combination of power and accuracy puts it among the best in the class, but its synthetic grip and balance in hand make it one of the most comfortable rods in the field.

Orvis Access

77

2014

Orvis Access

The Access rods borrow design elements from Orvis’ premium series, the Helios 2, while keeping the price reasonable for cost-conscious anglers. 

G. Loomis PRO4x

87

2014

G. Loomis PRO4x

The G. Loomis PRO4x presents dry flies as well as it handles drifting nymphs off a sink-tip line. It excels as a near-perfect option for the angler who only wants one rod.

Simms Women’s G3 Guide Stockingfoot

89

2014

Simms Women’s G3 Guide Stockingfoot

Using top-shelf materials and bulletproof construction, the G3 Guide is as good as you can get with waders—but at a price that is more than double that of most other brands.

Cabela’s Women’s Dry-Plus Premium Stockingfoot Waders

78

2014

Cabela’s Women’s Dry-Plus Premium Stockingfoot Waders

These are serviceable waders at an extremely low price: they give beginners and occasional anglers a viable way to get on the water in comfort.

L.L. Bean Women’s Kennebec Waders

81

2014

L.L. Bean Women’s Kennebec Waders

Best for bigger-bodied anglers, these waders use a roomy cut for full freedom of movement. There’s lots of room for thick fleece pants, puffy coats, multiple socks and anything else you might want to don while you fish.

Redington Siren

86

2014

Redington Siren

Light and airy, the Siren is ideal for hot-weather fishing, but diehards may find it insubstantial.

Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders

94

2014

Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders

The fit is dialed and the features are smart on Patagonia’s first-ever pair of women’s waders, which strike the ideal balance between performance and practicality.

Orvis Women’s Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders

92

2014

Orvis Women’s Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders

An outstanding value, the Silver Sonic fits great and feels rugged.

Montana Fly Company Madison IIa

90

2012

Montana Fly Company Madison IIa

A high performance reel that doubles as piece of art.

Sage 4650

89

2012

Sage 4650

The Sage 4650 is Sage’s premiere large-arbor reel, well suited to big rivers, big fish and fast retrieves.

Orvis Access Mid-Arbor

88

2012

Orvis Access Mid-Arbor

Part of Orvis’s mid-sized arbor reel series, it's designed to keep weight and costs down without sacrificing performance.

Redington Rise I

87

2012

Redington Rise I

The Redington Rise is a premier mid-range reel ideally suited for trout rods.

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