New Issue of This Is Fly

This Is Fly Cover TH

It’s been a long time since I’ve submitted an article to a magazine, so I am especially honored to have my article take the cover story in the new issue of This Is Fly. I can’t say I didn’t luck out though as the subject of the article is Bryan Gregson — an extremely talented photographer and angler who lives an extraordinary life.

To check out the new issue of This Is Fly, please click here.

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Review: The Thomas & Thomas Exocett Surf for the Demands of Coastal Fly Fishing

Exocett Surf rod Thomas & Thomas

Fly fishing the surf is no beach picnic. The elements alone — especially on the Pacific — can be demanding. Trekking through the cold water, navigating the occasional rogue wave (that has potential to kill you if you’re taken down in waders), and dealing with coastal currents and rip currents are just the start. When it comes to fishing, the surf can be one of the toughest games around. Surf anglers have to duck and chuck heavy sinking lines and big flies over waves then strip fast enough to keep the flies going through the waves and before the next wave completely kills the movement of the fly. In short: fly fishing the surf can be difficult and tiring, and great gear can make things far less difficult (though not easy).

Since moving to California in 2012, I have searched long and hard for every possible gear remedy for surf fly fishing challenges. Single-handed rods have come and gone, stripping baskets of yesteryear are stacked in the garage, and more lines have been tried than I can keep track of. As for rods, fast-action switch rods have been the best fit thus far, but it’s been difficult to find a rod that is just right.

When I fished the salt early this year with the new Thomas & Thomas Exocett, I was impressed to the point of giddiness. And recognizing that T&T has a stronghold and tradition in the Northeast among striper anglers, I had my fingers crossed that a surf rod was in the works. So when I learned that Thomas & Thomas had created the new Exocett Surf rod, I couldn’t wait to get one to the beach.

Thomas & Thomas Exocett Surf

Thomas & Thomas has been hitting home runs with rod design over the last couple of years, and the Exocett Surf rod is their latest score. This rod has it all. The Exocett Surf is a fast action rod that is ready for battle but offers enough feel to allow you to know what exactly is happening with your monster backcasts in the wind and over high-sloping sand.

This rod has backbone and allows for great line control over waves or with mending and lifting sinking lines in the riffles. Casting Whistlers with wire leader and T-14? This rod is ready to handle that along with the battle of a bluewater beast ready to go the distance and test your gear.

What’s important about this rod is that it isn’t a switch or Spey rod that will work for the surf. Instead, this is a rod designed for the surf. Surf angler needs are unique, and this rod uniquely fills a role that is largely absent in the market. The Exocett Surf rod makes the challenges of fly fishing the surf less challenging. Well done, Thomas & Thomas!

The Thomas & Thomas Exocett Surf is available in a 11’2″ 10-weight and a 11’2″ 12-weight. The rods cost $925 and come in a hard rod tube and have a lifetime warranty. If they add a 7-weight, 8-weight, and 9-weight to the lineup, I’ll have myself an Exocett Surf quiver!

To learn more about the Thomas & Thomas Exocett Surf, please click here.

– Tim Harden


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Review: The Sage SALT HD Fly Rod for Saltwater Fly Fishing

Sage SALT HD RodAs frequent visitors of The Venturing Angler know, I went bonkers over the Sage SALT rod when it came out several years ago. I actually did two reviews of the rod before then becoming the proud owner of Sage SALTs in weights 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13. Never in my life have I had so many rods in one series. The rationale was simple: I travel all over the world for mere shots at saltwater fish, and I want absolute confidence in my rods when I’m casting and when I’m putting the breaks on the fastest and hardest fighting fish out there. For me, there was no better rod for this (ever made) until the Sage SALT. That is, until now.

Admittedly, I had mixed feelings when I heard the news that Sage would be unveiling a new saltwater rod in July. With six SALTs in my saltwater quiver, the idea of my rods becoming a thing of the past didn’t sit well. Maybe this was due to my affection for the rods. And in my opinion, new rods should only come out when the technology has advanced or the manufacturer truly has something bigger and better. With that, I was almost committed to not liking the new Sage SALT HD, even before casting it. And with this reluctance to like it in mind, I must say I was even more blown away than expected with the Sage SALT HD.

The Sage SALT HD is the real deal. With trout, anglers can compromise more with performance than with saltwater gear. That said, I am completely unforgiving of rods that have any deficiencies. For me, a saltwater rod must be fast. It needs to be able to handle heavy lines and heavy flies. (Note: Some companies make certain that their rods are smooth on the lawn, but it’s a different story when you’re casting more than the line.) Despite these needs, I don’t want a broomstick that won’t load at short distances or lacks feel when I’m casting. This is difficult balance to nail down for a rod designer.

And to make things even more demanding, the rod needs to be able to handle fish ranging from bonefish to tuna to giant trevally — all without compromising feel. Often the nicest casting rods have no backbone or strength in the butt section when fighting fish.

The Sage SALT HD rod takes all of the successes of its predecessor with all of these aspects and makes improvements in each of these categories to make a stronger rod with more feel.

With the SALT HD, Sage uses its KonneticHD technology to have a thinner, lighter blank that does not compromise with lifting power. In the salt, fish move quickly, hard, and unpredictably — often putting gear in compromised situations. While I avoid vertical lifts on tuna and other bluewater species, surprises like a sudden change of direction can easily test your gear (and often break it). I once even had a top tier rod shatter on its first fish when this happened. While I still want to avoid putting my gear at rise, I know the SALT HD has the muscle to endure such situations.

In many ways, saltwater fly fishing is a confidence game. Having the right state of mind impacts casting — whether a quick close shot or a long presentation cast, and knowing that your rod is strong enough to handle these fish allows you to put the heat on these fish when necessary. This really comes down to confidence in your gear, and the Sage SALT HD gives me that confidence.

These rods are all made in the U.S. and have lifetime warranties. They are available in 6 through 16 weights, and each rod is marked with its weight on the reel seat for those moments when you need to grab a rod fast without thinking about which is which. Believe it or not, this can make all the difference when that surprise specie arrives and you need to make a quick change. The SALT HD costs $950 and comes in a hard rod tube.

To check out more on the Sage SALT HD fly rod, please click here.

– Tim Harden


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Gear Review: The YETI Panga Waterproof Duffel


For traveling anglers and other adventurers, very few pieces of gear are more important than a duffel bag, and for some, a good duffel is the foundational piece of gear that holds critical value. (After all, the duffel is what transports our most important gear!)

For years I had several mediocre duffel bags that were no more than good enough. But after all of my clothes (and Christmas gifts) were soaked after my bag was left outside on the baggage cart at the airport during a December Colorado storm, I knew I had to get serious about my travel gear.

I travel a fair amount, and from the mountains of Alaska to the jungles of Nicaragua, I rely on duffel bags. Duffels have been with me on international travel, and I always have at least one with me on the many road trips I take. And at the risk of sounding like I have a duffel bag addiction, I feel like I’ve tried them all. There are actual stacks of duffel bags in the garage that now store gear but are too insufficient to make it on trips.

Some duffels cut it. I have duffel bags that I love and have received deserved high praise on The Venturing Angler. That said, there has been no duffel bag that I have encountered that is as impressive as the new YETI Panga Waterproof Duffel.

Announced this summer, the YETI Panga Waterproof Duffel immediately caught my attention for two reasons. First, these bags are attractive and look like they might be tough enough to get it done. Second, YETI has a great record of making superior gear and their entry into duffel bags could only leave me to assume they would make excellent travel gear.

YETI Duffel

Sure enough, YETI nailed it in every regard with the Panga. Coming in three sizes (50, 75, and 100L), I was fortunate to test the 50 and 75L bags. These tough-as-nails duffels have been overthought and overbuilt to benefit the user in every conceivable way.

First, these bags are as durable as it gets. Not only are they fully waterproof and submersible (seriously!), the thick nylon shell gives additional piece of mind as it almost feels like protective armor. I can’t always care for my gear the way I want to. From baggage handlers to how my bag is holding up under a dozen others in the back of a truck, stuff happens. The thick material on the outside of the bag gives me some peace, especially when I have camera gear, a laptop, and other gear inside. In a similar way, the EVA molded bottom adds more durability and also gives me comfort knowing that what’s inside might better endure the trials of travel. The thick materials provide toughness but also enough structure that the bags hold their form — even when the occasional odd or heavy object is inside. Additionally, the bags can be stood upright. This makes for convenience in a number of situations.

Another important exterior feature is the straps. The straps allow the Panga to be comfortably warn as a backpack, allowing for much more convenience. And these straps are also built tough. I often load a ton of gear in my bags, and with all of the weight, the straps are usually the most vulnerable part of the bag. The thick and durable material will endure a great deal, and the MetalLock™ hardware that secures the straps will keep the bag held together strong where the straps are secured (and where they often break on other bags).

I could rave on and on about the YETI Panga, but two additional features that stand out for me are the six lash points on the Panga for securing gear and also the mesh pockets inside to keep valuables secured and organized.

The YETI Panga is one of the best new pieces of gear I’ve encountered in quite a long time. And from the numerous float trips to the jungle fly fishing exploration I have coming up, I am confident that I have the best travel gear accompanying me on my journeys.

The YETI Panga Waterproof Duffel is available now and comes costs $299.99 for the 50, $349.99 for the 75, and $399.999 for the 100. Considering the valuables inside as well as the lifespan of these bags, the price is well worth it.

To check out more on the YETI Panga Waterproof Duffel, please click here.

– Tim Harden

Disclosure: YETI is in a professional relationship with The Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.

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Take Action to Protect Bristol Bay

no pebble 3

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is up to his shady secret shenanigans and now Bristol Bay is at serious risk. It is imperative that the fly fishing community comes together to voice their opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine, which, unfortunately, might have the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (of all people) as a key supporter. If this happens, it’s over. Please take action and add your voice to those commenting that we do not want this mine.

To take quick and easy action, please click here.

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Tell Congress to Defend National Monuments


A leaked document reveals that Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke intends to recommend to the president that 10 national monuments are compromised to accommodate business interests. Some of the monuments mights be shrinked while others will be deregulated to allow for mining, drilling, and commercial fishing. This can’t happen.

To tell your congress person to defend public lands, please click here.

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Gear Review: The Patagonia Tough Puff Hoody

Patagonia Tough Puff Hoody

“The Patagonia Nano Puff is the greatest jacket ever made.” It would be impossible to even guess how many times I’ve repeated these words. In fact, it’s probably so frequent that it classifies as excessive. Like Uncle Rico talking about his high school football days, I must’ve subconsciously believed if I told just one more person, I’d be one step closer to enlightening the masses. Well, it turns out, maybe the Nano Puff isn’t the greatest jacket ever made. I now believe that crown goes to the Patagonia Tough Puff Hoody.

The Nano Puff has two features that contributed to my love fest. First, it packs down to fit into its own chest pocket, making it ideal for travel. Second, the jacket is a perfect match for a wide range of weather conditions. In the case of the new Tough Puff Hoody, anglers get an easy-to-pack jacket that handles different weather conditions as well as features that will add further appeal to anglers.

Let’s start with the word “tough.” While the Nano Puff remains a favorite jacket, it did at times have a hard time keeping up with me. Thrashed by brush and stabbed by plenty of flies, my Nano Puff has been patched and pieced back together enough that I almost wear it with honor. However, I’d frequently desired a solution to fears of abrasion. The Tough Puff Hoody is that solution.

The Tough Puff Hoody features a 100% polyester outer shell with a “moisture-shedding DWR (durable water repellent) finish.” Bringing enhanced durability, this jacket is designed for handling the conditions anglers often face.

The Tough Puff Hoody also delivers comfort. Similar to the Nano-Air® design and the idea that you would never want to take it off, the Tough Puff feels as comfortable as my favorite cotton hoody but with technical features that make it more practical in the mountains or on the water. In fact, during a day recently with extreme temperature fluctuations, my Tough Puff kept me warm on a frigid morning then raised eyebrows later when I was still wearing it zipped up after highs reached 80 degrees.

The Tough Puff is also my new favorite because of additional design features that suit the needs of fly anglers. In addition to its water repellent and abrasion resistant finish, the Tough Puff features a “60-g FullRange® 100% polyester stretch insulation.” The stretch is key. From climbing around the bank to reaching for fish, the stretch brings added comfort and mobility. And for those times when you’re trekking through the woods or rowing the raft, the material of the Tough Puff brings warmth but also breathability. A Capilene® lining inside also brings enhanced breathability and moisture wicking.

I tested this jacket day-in and day-out in a wide range of conditions but knew my concluding thoughts would come after a weekend in steelhead country. It is often on the water up in Northern California where I discover shortcomings to technical gear, but in the case of the Tough Puff Hoody, this is where I found more to love about this piece. The crew at Patagonia truly thought of everything with the Tough Puff. As someone who always wants to cut down on bulk with my packs and attire, it came as a surprise that the Tough Puff has two chest pockets for fly boxes. Most jackets with these pockets tend to be bulky in the chest, but here they are low-profile, which makes the Tough Puff a more suitable crossover to daily casual life. In addition to these pockets, the Tough Puff features lower pockets as well. With many fly fishing jackets having upper fly box pockets but not normal lower pockets, this design feature brings even more practical use. And finally, elastic in the cuffs helps keep the cold out while allowing comfort with layering underneath.

Look out, friends! A fair warning that you will hear me talk about the Tough Puff Hoody a good bit from now on. This is undoubtedly my go-to piece from here on out.

The Patagonia Tough Puff Hoody comes in Black and Bay Blue and retails for $299.

To check out more on the Patagonia Tough Puff Hoody, please click here.

– Tim Harden

Disclosure: Patagonia is in a professional relationship with the The Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.

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