The claim, the Field Test, the Verdict…
SAGE DART FLYROD
The Claim: Sage’s small-water rod delivers small flies in tight spots with short casting distances.
Field Test: Not only is my spot on the Pecos—and most of the rivers I fish—a longish approach, but it’s also small, but full of wild Brown and Cutthroat trout. So I’ve dropped my long, heavy 5-weight rod in favor of light and short.
Verdict: At 7’ 6”, the Dart is a full two feet shorter than my other rod, and it comes in 0 to 4 weight models. I chose a 3 weight, and its fast action was perfect for dropping tight loops into tight spots. And when a fish strikes a tiny caddis dryfly a few feet away, it’s game on. $700
COSTA MAG BAY
The Claim: These polarized sunglasses that remove refracted light glare off the water’s surface are essential for sight fishing.
Field Test: Small, freestone rivers and streams mean spot fishing for spooky trout, and for me matters get complicated because I wear a prescription. SportRx.com—a San Diego-based group of opticians that work with sunglass makers like Costa, fit my prescription into these performance frames.
Verdict: Not only did I see fish in the water with the Trivex lenses, but the lenses were progressive—that’s basically no-line bifocals to you hawk eyes—meaning I can look down into the lower part of the lens and tie on a tiny Mayfly, a total day changer. Prices vary depending on your RX.
SIMMS G4 PRO SHIFT FISHING BACKPACK
The Claim: With the pack on, you can unclip the lower “fanny pack” compartment and spin it 180-degrees around your waist while the shoulder straps and pack stay on your back.
Field Test: My local stretch on the Pecos River in New Mexico requires a bit of a scramble to get to the goods. I thought this pack would help.
Verdict: The Shift allowed me to carry everything I needed without having to change into my waders at the put in. With its two separate compartments, the reel, flies, tip-it, float sat in the lower waist pack while the rest of the gear rode up top. In my case, I removed the upper half of the pack, and fished with the essentials in the lower pack until I got to a hot spot. $350
GRAYL ULTRALIGHT PURIFIER
The Claim: The cartridge on the Grayl removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, while also filtering out silt, heavy metals, and microplastics.
Field Test: When I’m on the water, I don’t carry water, but the deer and elk upstream of me don’t care. The Grayl works like one of those coffee plunger pots, pull it apart, fill the lower half with water, then plunge.
Verdict: I never want to get Giardia again! $60
KAMMOK MANTIS ALL-IN-ONE HAMMOCK TENT
The Claim: Finding a patch of ground devoid of rocks, roots, and windfall branches to set up a tent can be vexing, so why bother?
Field Test: I never find that one rock—until I’m settling into sleep. This year I lofted it, hammocking to avoid tortured terra.
Verdict: All I needed was to find two live trees between 12 and 18 feet apart, and I hung the webbing straps and attached the carabiners integrated into the hammock. I was swinging in less than five minutes. The bug net can be removed, and a rain fly guyed out hovers over the hammock. An optional Pongo Pad inflatable mattress helps keep the base flat to avoid the banana effect on your back. And all at under three pounds. $229
The Claim: A great solution for “dogs must be on leash” campgrounds, this hitching rope ties to two trees above the ground, and you simply attach your dog’s leash to the thread-locking carabiner for 20 to 30 feet of tangle-free rover roaming.
Field Test: My German Short Haired Pointer, Daisy, will never sit still. Who better to test it?
Verdict: Tangle-free Daisy. One end has webbing with loops to adjust to various tree or post diameters, the rope is reflective, and the stuff sack is attached to the rope for no more “where is that little sack?” moments when packing up. $60