Stuff I Would Actually Buy at IFTD 2019
By: Yoon Kim
I’ll be real honest about my experience at IFTD; it hasn’t always been a good one. The show is small (about 150 exhibitors), it’s cliquey (sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a meeting and get interrupted by a “bro” and sit there waiting for them to be done, only for their impromptu meeting to never finish), and is the least diverse tradeshow that I know of (I believe I saw maybe 5 other people of color other than myself?). One time I was straight up told by a notable fly fishing brand that I don’t look authentic in the sport which is why he didn’t want to do business with me. But that’s a different story.
All that said, I’m happy that AFFTA, the association behind IFTD, decided to split off from iCast (the spin fishing show) and move to Denver. This allows me to cram all my meetings into one day and fish for the other two days. Oh and I’m also happy that they hired my good friend Kenji Haroutunian as a diversity consultant to figure out how to be less…cliquey let’s just say.
For this year’s show roundup, I decided to focus on products that I would actually buy. A lot of the other best in show products I see are contain true nonsense that neither I nor anyone I know would buy. So I wrote my best gear roundup from a perspective of; if one day all my fly fishing gear was gone and I had to start over, and I had no sponsorships, clients or media outlets to get new gear, and I had to pay hard-earned cash money, here’s what I’d start over with.
I currently own 13 rods and have never actually purchased a rod, ever. But if I had to do it over, I’d buy the Moonshine Rod 5WT and Tenkara USA Ito. I’m similar to the average fly angler. The average fly anger doesn’t need to cast 75+ feet. Instead, the average angler needs to catch more fish and that fish is usually trout. The two most productive setups for catching more trout are a tight line rig (high-stick rig, shortline rig, Euro nymph rig, whatever you want to call it) and a fast 9 foot 5 WT Western setup.
Line Rig I Would Actually Buy: Tenkara USA Ito
My tight line rig of choice is the TUSA Ito because it expands to 14’ and shrinks to 11’. That way I can get some distance if needed, or skate a dry fly without the tippet touching the water. Perhaps one of my favorite features of the Ito (and Tenkara in general) is the portability. I have one in my truck at all times and often if fishing a Western setup, will stuff a collapsed Tenkara rod in my waders (where legal – some water you can only have one rod) until I need a 14ft rod (like at sundown when you need to skate a caddis from without dragging tippet).
But tight line rigs have their weakness which is really two things; distance and wind. Any form of tightlining absolutely sucks in the wind for me these days seems to be 95% of my days.
Fishing Rod I Would Actually Buy: The Moonshine Drifter 9′ 5WT
Moonshine wasn’t actually at IFTD. They’re direct to consumer which helps brings their prices down. Regardless, the Drifter is the rod I would buy if I had to do it over again. The Drifter 5WT is surprisingly fast and transfers power effortlessly from rod to line with very similar action to the Sage X. This rod wants to throw tight loops / fast line speed and I had fun casting it for the week that I had it (I had one to play within the office for a couple of days). It also includes a second top blank in case you break the first one. But it’s the price tag that is a real kicker here. $199 for a rod that can cast as far / accurately as a rod five times the price; you just can’t beat that.
Waders I Would Actually Buy: Orvis Pro Waders
The only thing that’s important in waders to me is how quickly they leak (they all eventually leak) and how responsive the brand is to repairing leaks.
I sat with fly fishing hall of Famer Tom Rosenbauer from Orvis, who said he couldn’t get these waders to leak in the 6 months he’s had them, which is apparently some kind of new feat for him. While I haven’t owned these waders to 6 months to confirm whether that’s true, I do have an anecdote from Orvis.
I have a guide buddy who blows through waders and has cycled through multiple brands trying to find a pair that won’t leak. His Orvis waders were no different; they sprung a leak just like his SIMMS, Patagonia’s, Redington’s, Hodgson’s, you name it, he’s leaked it.
According to him, Orvis had the quickest customer service and got him back in a pair of non-leaky waders not once, but twice. Waders are going to leak so finding a company that will back their warranty and also offer a repair service to me is important.
Now that said, the Pro waders are also about $100 cheaper than the competition and have a 5 layer Cordura fabric pant which if you know much about technical fabrics, most waders are constructed with 3.5 or 4 layers Gore-Tex, which keeps them puncture resistant.
Ok again, that’s not where waders leak. Waders leak at the seams and until there’s a new seam technology, the technical mumbo jumbo doesn’t interest me. But at least you know that if your waders do leak, Orvis will back their warranty and/or repair your waders.
Boots I Would Actually Buy: Korkers Devil’s Canyon
I’ve owned several pairs of boots from multiple brands but the Devil’s Canyons are the absolute best of the best for two reasons. 1.) Because of how long they last (mine have lasted over 5 years so far and I put roughly 75-100 days on the water a year) and 2.) because of the BOA straps. Even if these were the most expensive boots on the market (which they’re not – they’re about ¾ of the price of its competitors from SIMMS and Orvis), I’d still rebuy these.
The first thing to get destroyed on a pair of boots is the soles. All of Korkers’ boots have replaceable soles that pop on and off (no need to mail them in for replacement) so one day, you can throw on felt, the next day, you can throw on their Triple Threat sole that is also customizable with different cleats depending on the type of water you’re fishing (so if the rocks are covered in didymo, screw in the carbide spike cleats, if the water has a lot of leaves or timber, go with the aluminum bar, etc.).
Then there’s the BOA dial which makes it a million times easier to tighten/untighten boots versus tying or untying laces when with frozen fingers. One of my absolute best peeves in fishing is untying or undoing anything with frozen, dry, cracked fingers which the BOA dial eliminates that at least with the boot.
Reel I Would Actually Buy: Cheeky Preload
Any fly shop employee will tell you that reels don’t help you catch fish. There’s minimal tech (though an argument could be made for saltwater reels) in reels. A reel just needs to do two things; they need to be able to adjust drag and hold the line. And not break. Three things. The Cheeky Preload is $99 for the reel and a 5 weight forward line and leader.
Now I absolutely think that a good line is important and will pay top dollar for a good line. But going back to the example, if all my gear got stolen and I had to start over, I’d get this preloaded reel and get started and figure out a good line later.
Tippet I Would Actually Buy: Umpqua Phantom X Ultra Fluorocarbon Tippet
Like I was saying earlier, some fly fishing products are worth paying top dollar for. Like fly lines and waders. Other things don’t matter, like a reel.
Tippet is one of those things where you should always absolutely use the strongest tippet possible. Apparently Umpqua has made some advancements in their tippet construction, and that’s really interesting to me because I’ve broken off a fair amount of big fish and can’t help but wonder if I might have landed them had I went up a size in tippet.
The new Umpqua Phantom X Ultra Fluorocarbon has a 5.5 lb test vs. the commonly used RIO Fluoroflex Plus Tippet at 5 lb, a 10% difference in breaking strength. While there’s stronger 5x on the market, (particularly from brands that double construct their tippets, or use a co-polymer construction like Trout Hunter or Seaguar), Umpqua is a brand in just about every fly shop and tippet is just not one of those things I buy online (it’s kind of an impulse thing) so this is realistically what I’d be buying. Also, I crammed all my meetings into one day and didn’t have time to visit any other tippet brands.
Shirt I Would Actually Buy: NRS Men’s Guide Shirt
A few years ago, I bought eight of the same exact shirt from Mountain Khakis which was pretty much exactly this exact shirt, just a little different in color and slightly different material. So if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably buy eight of these shirts from NRS in different colors, and wear a different one every single day of the week. Oh yeah. That’s because I’m one of those guys who wear the exact same thing every single day of the week; just in different colors. I have six of the exact same pair of pants in different colors and six of the exact same pair of shorts in different colors and 8 shirts different colors and you get the idea. I wear the exact same thing every single day.
I’d put this shirt at the top of my list because it’s airy for hot days, perfect for the water but also dressy enough to wear to church. You know. I could see myself wearing this shirt every single day of the week type of thing. Plus it’s $20 cheaper than the Mountain Khakis shirt I bought but just as nice.
Accessory I Would Actually Buy: Fish Cat Cruzer
Ok, If I had to start over, I wouldn’t start by buying a mini boat. But I’ve been wanting one of these Cruzers for as long as I can remember. They’re super compact and light enough (18 lbs) to carry to specific river crossings or even hike a short trail to alpine lakes. A couple of the things I really like about the Fish Cat Cruzer is that it comes with oars. Plus you can actually sit up out of the river.
To avoid being in the halls of IFTD, where clearly, I didn’t belong, or at least that’s how it felt, I crammed my meetings into one days and did some of this for the other two days!
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