What you need to bring in a lunker
A. 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 don’t overwhelm your pack on treks to remote waterways.
B. Ross Evolution LTX reel $385 Ross modernized the classic Evolution LT with 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 the company’s commitment to precision machining hasn’t changed. The LTX feels as precise as ever and still emits that beloved quiet click.
C. Fishpond River Armor El Jefe net $230 Made of carbon fiber and fiberglass—covered with a protective Kevlar and carbon-fiber skin—the 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 tail- water trout before they snapped our superfine line.
D. 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 upgrades changed that. A grippier proprietary-rubber sole improves in-stream traction, an expanded neoprene ankle wrap boosts warmth and cushioning, and separate plastic plates embedded beneath the toe and heel facilitate a more natural stride.
E. Costa del Mar Montauk sunglasses $259 Glass lenses like these are heavier than polycarbonate, but they’re indisputably sharper, and we appreciated the extra clarity when scanning the water off Florida’s panhandle. Sticky Hydrolite rubber on the nose and earpieces stay in place through sweat and sunscreen, the full wrap blocks UV glare from all directions, and holes in the arms make it easy to use a scrap of fishing line as an ultralight leash.
F. Orvis Safe Passage sling pack $89 FisheWear artist Linda Leary lent her “groovy grayling” design 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.
G. Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth AST Plus Trout line $99 With a proprietary material that never loses its slickness, this long- shooting line makes any fly rod feel like a cannon.
H. Yeti Camino Carryall tote $150 Shove gritty shoes and wet waders into this tote, which has a water- proof bottom to protects your car from sloppy contents. In the field, rigid sides mean it refuses to tip over.
I. Umpqua UPG HD Weekender fly box $40 Hinged inserts on this improbably small box (just 1.75 inches thick) give it the space to accommodate a mind-boggling quantity of flies.
J. Gerber Magniplier tool $74 An angled nose enables 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 hand.
EGO-BOOSTING SALTWATER FLY ROD Orvis Helios 3D $849 The Helios 3D is a gloriously accurate rod. 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.
ARTIST’S FLY ROD Tom Morgan Rodsmiths Graphite $1,495 Designing the perfect graphite rod was a pet project for Tom Morgan, best known for crafting $4,000 bamboo masterpieces. This model makes a great daily, too. It excels at the short game, executing close-range casts with divine sensitivity.
DISTANCE FLY ROD G. Loomis Asquith $1,100 Light but bazooka-powerful, the Asquith is the first fly rod to use Shimano’s Spiral-X 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.
BIG-GAME SPINNING ROD Shimano Clarus $90 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.
TROUT-FISHING FLY ROD Scott G Series $845 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 high-mountain streams, there’s no better tool. Yet it’s surprisingly versatile, and managed to chuck a weighted streamer when duty called.