Is it ever too early to get ready for fishing season?
A look of exasperation while asking, “What kind of fool question is that?” seems an entirely appropriate response.
It is February, or just about. That means the skwala hatch is barely a month away. Heck, if the weather cooperates it could happen any day. There are skwala stoneflies all over western Montana, and beyond, but the Bitterroot River happens to have the best hatch in the known universe. My all-time earliest, knockout skwala dry fly day was on the Bitterroot was March 7.
So it’s time to get ready.
If you need waders and have decided this time, no expense will be spared, there are a couple Montana manufacturers with new products on the shelves.
Simms’ G4Z is the latest, greatest version of the Bozeman brand’s heavy-duty waders. I think you’d need to either be a guide working seven days a week through summer and the shoulder seasons, or maybe a trustafarian whose job is to follow hatches across the country 365 days a year, to justify buying a pair. If you qualify, the G4Zs look sharp.
The waders have a handy front zipper for when your PBRs need returned to the wild, fleece-lined hand-warming pockets that zip up when you’re relegated to the oars (hand-warming pockets are notorious oar catchers) and of course, Gore-Tex construction.
We’re talking a $1,000 pair of waders with the G4Zs. That’s out of my league since I pull on waders barely a dozen times a season. But Simms has been the wader gold standard for decades, so if I had a grand to burn, and decided I’d rather not use it on a new fly rod, I’d be a happy boy in a new pair of G4Zs. That’s especially so in early March on the Bitterroot, slinging dry flies.
Speaking of my favorite stonefly, Skwala is something of a Bozeman upstart in the high-end fishing gear business. The brand’s RS wader is a G4 competitor with comparable features and a Simms-like price to boot. I especially like the built-in wading belt.
Skwala’s newest wader, the Backeddey, looks like a stripped-down, high-durability wader for a slightly less-hefty price. The Backeddey comes with nifty magnetic suspender attachments. If the system works well, expect a lot of companies to copy this feature.
If you don’t want to burn a grand on waders, then by all means spend it on a fly rod. I am happy to see St. Croix has returned to the high-end fly rod market. I’ve got a collection of St. Croix’s I assembled years ago in my Sportsman and Ski Haus days, and I still regularly fish my Legend Elite. It’s a nice casting, made-in-the-USA rod, with an affordable price that aspired to Sage/Winston territory. The company dropped the Legend Elite fly rod line a while back, but has replaced it with the Evos line.
The price is now more in line with most American-made fly rods, but St. Croix makes great products and the company’s customer service is first-rate.
Twin Bridges fly rod maker, Winston Rods, has added to the Air 2 line with the Air 2 Max, intended for saltwater fly fishers. It follows the standard Air 2 line, which runs from three- to six-weight, covering the needs of most trout anglers.
Like Simms, Montana-made Winston is elite. If you can afford the price, however, it’s worth it.
On the other end of the spectrum are Echo fly rods. Echos are made in Asia, or at least the blanks are, so they come at a lower price.
I’m intrigued by the new Echo 84B fly rod, designed for bass anglers throwing bigger bugs in windy conditions. It’s a shorter 8-foot, 4-inch stick in six, seven and eight weights. It might be perfect for spring bass and carp fly fishing on the windy Great Plains.
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