IFTD New Product Highlights

iftd 2017 new fly fishing products

Interesting. Revolutionary. Plain, downright dope. North 40 saw it all at the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Orlando, Florida last week.

Greg Thomas

I’m in the air as I write this, cruising above earth at 25,000 feet and hurtling toward Minneapolis at 516 miles an hour. I’ve already flown over more bass lakes than I could ever fish and I’ll pass thousands more, plus Muskyland, before we hit the runway. After a four-hour layover I’ll be back in the air, flying over the Dakota’s walleye fisheries, and Montana’s trout waters, before landing in Missoula, Montana after dark.

As I look down on these varied waters I’ll consider how I might fish each with some of the new gear I just saw and in some cases tested at the 2017 ICAST/IFTD trade show, which ran July 11-14 in Orlando, Florida. That’s the way I always feel after these shows—I put in my time on the show floor, with my feet barking, my head racing and my camera snapping, and now it’s time to embrace the rest of summer and get out on the water. Here are some of the most interesting new products we saw at the show, and after reading these descriptions we hope you’ll be just as psyched to throw a line as we are.

Check out the gear we have available online by clicking here.

Note: some of these products are available now; some become available this summer and fall; others become available next spring.

Echo’s Bravo Reel

One of the more excitable guys in the fly-fishing industry is Tim Rajeff. He’s also one of the most innovative fly-fishing product designers on earth. Put those two elements together, give him a product to discuss, and you almost can’t walk away without thinking, Got to have one of those.

That’s how I felt when Rajeff showed me Echo’s new Bravo Reel, with its “Pit Stop” drag system that allows anglers tool-free access to a powerful carbon-fiber disk drag. That’s big in a saltwater reel because it allows anglers to thoroughly clean their weapon after a long day chasing bones or whatever else swims on the flats. And this reel is capable of taming all of them—that Pit Stop drag could stop a tug and the reel balances 7-through 12-weight rods. If you’re taking a stab at saltwater fly fishing, but you don’t want to invest heavy until you know it’s something that grabs your soul (like you have a choice) this is the reel for you. Own the Bravo for $139.99.

Patagonia’s Middle Fork Packable Breathable Wader

I can’t lie: when I first saw Patagonia’s new Middle Fork wader, I thought it had “cheap” written all over it. That’s because the bootie’s rubberish appearance harkens to earlier times when we wore plastic Red Balls that failed after two days in the drink and sent us home from our favorite steelhead waters soaked to the knees and chilled to the bone. But I had a frank discussion with Bart Bonime, Patagonia’s Fishing Director, and he said I need not worry. Despite their appearance, these booties are tough, as Bonime demonstrated when he grabbed two fistfuls of a bootie and pulled as hard as he could in opposite directions. The result? A big stretch, but no tears. “It’s super strong,” Bonime said. “You can’t wreck it.” And what is the magic potion that makes it so strong? Can’t tell you. Proprietary, Bonime said.

patagonia middle fork packable waders (2)

Time will tell, but my eyes don’t lie. So, if the bootie is as durable as it appears, and helps shave weight from PG’s traditional waders, you’ll love these waders, especially for travel and when hiking into remote waters (i.e. mountain lakes and roadless sections of non-navigable waters where the fish are dumb and the rewords are great). The new Middle Forks pack down in an 8” x 13” stuff sack and weigh a paltry 1 pound 10 ounces. The uppers are built with 3-layer nylon material and the lowers offer a more durable four-layer polyester approach. These waders are all made with single-seam construction. Again, if these prove to be as durable as billed, you’ll want them for travel and when hiking into your favorite backcountry waters.

AIRFLO Streamer Max Sinking Fly Line

I’m a guy who’s more about quality than numbers. And that’s why I often throw streamers even when there’s a decent hatch to match. I mean, come on: how many times have you caught a 24-to 28-inch trout when fishing PMDs, Tricos or Baetis? That’s why I took note when I saw Airflo’s new Streamer Max Sinking line, which was developed by Madison Valley-based fishhead Kelly Galloup. He’s a guy who’s into big trout, too, and this line allows him to manage a variety of streamers in different water conditions, whether slamming a Bunker into a slot between rocks, or throwing a T&A to an inside corner. With this line, which utilizes a short 18-foot, 200-grain sinktip, you don’t have to retrieve the fly all the way back to the boat before launching it again. Cast, strip a few times, lift and repeat. You’ll cover all the water with this one and probably land more big trout because of it.

Have you seen these streamer patterns?

Sight Line Provisions

Style. We have it in our casting. We have it in our fishing language. We have it with our sunglasses propped on our ball caps. We show it with stickers pasted to our trucks and boats. And now we can wear it on our wrists. And, while cruising the show floor at IFTD I saw a lot of Site Line style on the arms of guys and gals who know a cool thing when they see it. Site Line is headed by artist Edgar Diaz who says his bracelets and necklaces are “inspired by the state of mind that all outdoor lovers get when we are in our element; what we see in our ‘site line’ is personal and makes our time on the water special.’” All I know is that I had to own one of Site Line’s one-inch wide leather bracelets with a metal badge, including a cut out permit silhouette, mounted on the cuff. Does this mean I have a better chance of catching a permit? Couldn’t tell you. But it does say what’s on my mind. What’s on yours? Let people know with on of Diaz’s works of art—permit, sailfish, GT’s, striped bass, tarpon, etc., all available. Wallets, Yeti wraps, and other items available, too.

Rio Direct Core Flats Pro Fly Line

When casting and stripping for tarpon on the bow of a flats boat, getting a pile of fly line into a tangled mess around your toes isn’t just a problem—it’s terrifying. That’s because those tarpon always seem to eat right next to the boat and all that line has to go somewhere, and it usually goes fast. Hook it on a finger or toe and you better have some Super Glue handy to seal your cuts. Having a fly line lacking coils and kinks would be a boon in that situation and Rio’s Direct Core Flats Pro could fit the bill in that department. This line, which Rio started developing in 2013 and plans to place on the market in 2018, can be easily stretched by hand to remove any memory. As soon as you pull in opposite directions the line lays perfectly strait. Less memory, fewer coils, a straight line between angler and quarry—for sure you’re going to get more hookups. Despite low memory, this line remains stiff even in the tropics. This line loads easy and casts far when you need it to. And why shouldn’t it: according to Rio’s developers, this line went through 40 iterations before they decided it was good to go. You can get the Direct Core with a floating head in weights 6 through 12, and with a floating head an intermediate clear tip in weights 8 through 12, all for $119.99.

Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Backpack

Built on the heels of the Thundercreek Submersible Duffle, which won Best of Show honors at IFTD 2016, fishpond now offers the Thundercreek Submersible Backpack. his bomber pack, which is constructed of bright-orange, heavy-duty 1680 ballistic nylon fabric, can carry as much gear as you need for an all-day excursion to the backcountry, or just a long day stomping up and down a more accessible stream—think all day on the Ranch while fishing Idaho’s Henry’s Fork or a 12-hour day on the Lamar. The backpack, like the duffle, utilizes a TIZIP zipper that completely locks out water. If you’re like us, and document all the good times we have while fishing, think total protection for our cameras and electronics and a way to keep your extra clothes, gloves, hats, etc., dry. You can strap rod tubes to the side of the backpack and two strips of daisy chain webbing on the face of the pack allow additional accessory options. You’ve got to check this one out and once you do, you’ll probably wan to own it. And you can . . . for $300. As a consensus, that’s what team North 40 decided when we checked this one out. Dual role: it’s well suited for carry-on.

fishpond submersible backpack

Redington ID Reel

The Redington ID is a perfect choice for beginner’s and for more advanced anglers who need a backup reel. And this reel has a cool factor you wouldn’t expect in the $89 to $109 price range. That factor? You can represent your area code, your state, your country (think red maple leaf on white background for Canada) and even your business with customizable stick and stack removable decals that fit on the back of the reel. Remington offers 34 of these decals that range from rainbow, brown and brook trout likenesses, to shoutouts for public lands and catch-and-release. Take your chances with the bad-luck banana decal. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The reel should perform well on the water, too—its sturdy and built from cast aluminum. It offers a large arbor for quick line retrieval and comes with a lifetime warranty. Get it for rods ranging between 3 and 9-weight. Available in August.

redington id reel

Here's what we have in stock from Redington currently--

Orvis Helios 3

You can’t ignore this one: the Helios 3 arrives on the heels of the original Helios and the Helios 2, which were game-changers for Orvis and brought them inline with other high-performance rods. The H3 is billed as the most accurate rod on the planet and time will tell if it lives up to that praise. Here’s a description from Orvis, explaining why the rod throws so true: “By strategically reinforcing the rod and increasing hoop strength we prevented the rod from ovalizing when flexed, damping the vibration as the rod unloads. That way the line releases with significantly reduced tip swing. Without all that noise at the tip, the line takes a truer path to the target. Remarkably, even with the reinforcements, the swing weight is lighter than in previous Helios generations.”

I threw the 3F version back in April while fishing with Orvis marketing manager Tom Rosenbauer. I was impressed with the rod, which is a medium flex and is built for the 60-feet and closer range, but I yearned to try the 3D, which is a fast-action version of the H3 that should be better suited for me—read streamer junkie, double nymph rigs, sinking lines and lead, all thrown in the ever-present western wind. You know this one won’t come on the cheap, so make sure you throw one before you own one. You won’t have trouble identifying the H3 because it has a five to six-inch long, bright-white label above the cork with the Orvis Helios logo and the rod length and weight descriptions. When I first saw this logo I thought I was looking at a pre-production rod, but the logo has grown on me since then. We’ll let you know what we think of the 3D when we get our hands on one—it’s been promised at our doorstep for testing in the next month or two.

YETI Rambler 14-Ounce Mug

Think of your Yeti Rambler 10-ounce Lowball cup, give it a few extra ounces, paint it blue and add a handle. That’s what Yeti did with its new Rambler 14-ounce mug with a heat locking lid. You can drink coffee out of this for sure, but think bigger, say dinner time, or a warm up in the truck after spending the morning chasing winter steel—you can pour soup or chili in this, hold it by the handle and spoon the warm right out of the mug and into your belly. Own one when it becomes available later this fall.

yeti rambler mug

Waterworks/Lamson Center Axis Fly Rod

One of the oddest looking products at IFTD 2017 was Waterworks/Lamson’s center axis rod. Placing a reel (check that; securing a reel) at the butt of a fly rod is not a novel idea. Sage did it years ago before dropping the idea. But W/L built a nice rod (their first) in an interesting gray color, and then placed a gray reel at the butt of the rod (attached by an O-ring lock and pins that fit into the rod handle). This setup balances the rod better than conventional “under the handle” reels do. There’s no doubt this can be a sweet casting stick, but an angler will need a little time to get used to it. Looking for a novel idea and a chance to stand out on the water? This rod and reel combo fits the bill. Available now in a 5-weight. Additional weights available this fall.

Smith Optics Transfer and Outlier Glasses

The Outliers are one of Smith’s best-selling frames and the addition of megol on its nose pads may make them even better. You know the deal: when the sweat beads up on your face while fishing the flats or waiting for the hatch on a 90-degree day at Silver Creek, you constantly push your glasses back up on your face. The megol should solve that issue as it adheres to your skin when reacting to perspiration. $139. Smith’s Transfer frames are a guide’s favorite. They are available in regular and XL sizes and both models, with their broad coverage, prevent side light from reaching your eyes, which allows you to see better even in bright sun. These come with Smith’s new QuickFit adjustable temple technology, which is a wire-core mechanism that’s molded within the temples and built to create an adjustable and optimal fit. Available with ChomaPop polarized and antireflective lenses. $169. Both models are RX compatible and are available in August.

smith glasses outlier optics

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Author Image
Greg Thomas grew up splitting time between southeast Alaska and Seattle, Washington . . . and never moved away from the Pacific Northwest. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his two daughters and serves as Editor-in-Chief of North 40’s creative department. Thomas has penned five books on fly fishing, including Fly Fisher’s Guide to Washington and Fly Fisher’s Bible Montana. His byline appears in regional and national publications, including the New York Times, Forbes, Outside, and Field & Stream. He has no trouble admitting that he’s a steelhead addict and loves pursuing these fish with two-hand rods wherever they swim.

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