Patagonia Great Divider Review by Steve Schmidt

1mulN03oI7yxtQa9wvgHfWaG5MJT7wnjZsHJmgMrvmw,Aihs2ufry_wTAfSfn7p17EXiOT7r915J4VaJWfDCGcUWhen Patagonia first came out with the Great Divider I thought it had issues; the waterproof zipper and it’s price. I must not have been the only one because Patagonia dropped the bag for a year or two, however enough consumers must have liked it since Patagonia eventually brought it back.

Not much changed with it on its second go around, but during that time I’d been through a number of other boat bags supposedly designed to perform as the Patagonia Great Divider was intended to do, but they all failed so miserably that I finally bit the bullet and bought the Patagonia bag. That was a long time ago and it was a purchase well worth the investment.

One of the design features that bugged me was the waterproof zipper, yet after having cameras floating around in the bottom of the other bags and after having on a number of occasions to empty the contents of those other boat bags and dry everything out I understood that if your going to have a fly-fishing bag its going to be getting wet, yet the idea is it’s contents should remain dry and protected.

So I’ve gotten over the bulky zipper after I realized that it was a necessary evil and that it was a feature that made the bag truly waterproof, which for a boat bag is a necessity. In the latest version of this bag, I’m still sporting the original green one, the zipper is much easier to use, yet it performs well with a lot less effort and bulk.

After all the years and places I’ve traveled and used this bag I haven’t found another one that performs as well or is as durable as the Patagonia Great Divider. It’s adjustable compartments gives you a myriad of options for packing your reels, cameras, tablet, phone, flies, leaders, tippets, cigars, and articles of light clothing. It’s not only a great boat bag, but excellent for carryon when traveling, or storing your stuff in, between trips.

There’s a reason why just about everyone in the shop uses this bag. It’s a great bag and the Great Divider flawlessly does what it’s suppose to. If you’re looking for a boat bag that will serve you well for years, protect your valuable fly-fishing equipment and accessories Patagonia’s Great Divider will do just that.

To purchase or see other great fly fishing products visit our website here…

Patagonia R1 Field Shirt Review by Steve Schmidt

12033233_10156055923215203_2031007513125560217_nFor the past 30 years I’ve chased steehead in the fall around the great northwest. This affliction must be some what infections since now most of us at Western Rivers take time off each fall just to pursue these fish. The crew and I all know it’s a game where the elements can present fishing and comfort challenges. From a clothing standpoint if you don’t have a good layering system, including a very good rain coat, you can be miserable. When these fish are in their rivers the weather often isn’t very accommodating. I know first hand what that’s like and in my early days of fly-fishing for steelhead had a number of trips where I spent as much time at the laundry matt drying out as I did fishing. Over the years I’ve realized the importance of having good gear and I include clothing in that category when it comes to being comfortable in winter, spring and fall when the weather can send you home if you don’t have a functional layering system.

As I do most fall seasons my first steelhead trip of the year is our Western Rivers hosted trip to BC. This year was no exception. As I began to pack I pulled an original Patagonia R1 top from my drawer and after a decade or more of service it still looked good, but it had gotten pretty thin. Coincidentally we just happened to get the new Patagonia  R1 Field 1/4 Zip top in at the shop and with all the changes in design and fabrics this new piece of insulation incorporates, it’s a significantly improved top from when Patagonia first introduced Regulator fleece.  52720_FTGN.fpx
For starters, the fabric in the new R1 Field 1/4 Zip has a much improved hand, ability to move moisture and regulate you temperature. Sounds pretty high tech, as this and other Patagonia fabrics are. On the sleeves and shoulders it is reinforced with a DWR layer that will help keep wind and water out and you more comfortable in a variety of different weather situations. This reinforced  layer isn’t waterproof, but its water repellant and a great added feature for those who fish since we’re often fishing in the rain, or dealing with wind on cool fall and spring days. It’s also got two chest pockets; one inside and one out.

After purchasing the R1 Field top there was a good reason I wore this shirt for 10 straight days; it just worked in so many different situations. For starters the recycled pilled fleece was noticeably warmer and more comfortable. On this trip for some reason we had a lot of wind, and the reinforced layer that wraps around your shoulders and down the sleeves really helped keep the chill off. Unlike Windstopper fleece, which is a challenge to get dry after it gets wet, you’ll find the RI fleece breaths so well it dries much quicker. Given the mix of weather, especially wet weather I had, it was an ideal layering piece when swinging flies or hanging around camp. Although I didn’t retire my original R1 top, after this recent acquisition it might be a while before it gets worn again.

These things are killer and going like hot cakes, if you’re interested in more info or would like to purchase please visit our website.

Simms G3 Guide Jacket Review by: Bryce Nichols

The Simms G3 jacket has been a staple in our shop since Simms came out with it many years ago. For fall 2015 Simms has launched it’s newest iteration of the G3 jacket. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, they outdid themselves.

Steelhead SS 001 (36)With technology in Gore-Tex continually improving the G3 jacket is now 25% lighter weight than it’s previous version. Not to mention some key design features that are not only cool, but we feel enhance your fishing experience while wearing it. The new front layout is cleaned up, it has 2 built in retractors, vertical pockets (large enough to fit a fly box or two in), and a sweet hemo clip. Everything is very well hidden and tucked away where it’s easy to use, but clean enough to prevent line snags, which has been an issue in the past. For chilly days when you’re using it as a windbreaker you can tuck the hood away, which is a feature some of the earlier versions had, but in recent years wasn’t offered. The wrist seals are easy to use and extremely comfortable, which is as expected in this type of jacket.

One of the first trips I ever did to Alaska I had a typical lightweight packable rain shell, after the first 3 hours of fishing I was soaked, and still had 6 more rainy days of fishing. It wasn’t the most pleasant week I’ve had fishing due to being sopping wet the entire time. I always wondered why people would spend so much on a jacket, and after my experience in AK, it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. The first thing I ordered after returning home was a Simms G3 jacket, and for the last decade it’s all I use. We know they aren’t cheap, but when the weather gets nasty it’s worth every penny. In my experience they are extremely durable and last for years (based off how hard I am on gear if they last me for years, it’s usually a decade for most), which helps ease the pain of the initial hit when purchasing.

Now whether you’re fishing for a few hours on a local stream in some nasty conditions, or headed on an extended fishing trip; stay warm, dry, and comfortable in the Simms G3 guide jacket. Trust me, if you find yourself in those epic fishing situations that seems to present themselves mostly when the weather isn’t ideal you’ll be stoked you made this purchase.

Sage One Spey & Switch Rod Review by: Steve Schmidt

Steelhead SS 001 (33)I first got my hands on a Sage ONE Spey Rod on the Dean in August of 2011. Nothing like getting teased with something you can’t have. Sage fly rod Company along with other fine fly rod manufacturers have played an integral part in the development of today’s spey rods and their growing popularity. With the introduction of their new ONE Spey Rod they prove they are still an industry leader and have pushed the envelope in two handed fly rod technology and performance once again.

I remember my first spey rod, a Sage I purchased in the 90’s. Being an obsessed steelheader I was drawn early to the advantages of a two handed rod. Jim Vincent sent me some hand drawn stick figures on paper along with a formula for how to build a spey line and off to the park I went. Since then both Sage and I have come a long way in this game. Given today’s options in spey rods and lines if I had started my adventures today my learning experience would have been much easier. Looking back at my journey, however I have no regrets. After all, I didn’t get into fishing with flies because it was easy.

Credence to Sage’s prowess in the spey rod game is their iconic TCX 7126-4, affectionately known by steelheaders as the “Death Star”. This rod really addresses today’s Skagit and Scandi style of casting and steelheading techniques that were pioneered by the likes of Ward, O’Donnell, McCune, Howell and others in the northwest. This rod is light, quick and can easily handle a variety of Skagit or Scandi lines, heavy sink tips and lead eyed flies. Even with this “one” series of Sage spey rods, the “Death Star’s” cult following will not see this rod go away anytime soon.

Steelhead SS 001 (2)So how does this new series of spey rods differ from some of the other rods that are out there?  Why are I and my staff so impressed with this Sage’s latest series of spey rod?  For starters it is light thanks to its boron carbon fiber blend. The markedly slim profile is also quite evident, yet amazingly these rods possess a thicker wall construction compared to other Sage spey rods. That doesn’t sound like much, but given the average length of today’s spey rod the narrow profile will allow for improved line speed and on those blustery fall steelhead days, make a significant difference in your ability to turn over a fly. All this is good on the water, but that said probably their most noticeable attribute thanks to Sage’s Konetic technology is the ability of these rods to track like few other rods we’ve had the pleasure of putting a line on.  Having now fished and cast most of these new spey rods, I find them to be consistently nice in the hand, smooth and throw a line rather effortlessly when matched with the appropriate line.

The prototype rod I was introduced to on the Dean was a 7130-4; a rod length that never made it to production. Personally I thought the tip was a little stiff. When I got an opportunity to cast a production rod, the 7136-4, the extra inches took care of that problem and made for a smooth, very light yet very responsive and powerful spey rod. The day this rod arrived I called all my steelhead buddies for an afternoon session in the park to get some feedback. Everyone was impressed with this rods versatility, weight, ease of casting, and ability to track a line. Given the variety of rods this crew owns and fishes: Berkheimer’s, Winston’s, T & T’s, Scotts, Meiser’s, Sage’s, their more than favorable appraisal of the new Sage ONE 7136 was fair testament to its broad appeal. We’ve found that to be true with most of these new rods, but especially the 7136-4 ONE  and 7126-4 ONE. Both meat and potato rods for the waters we fish in BC and the northwest.

There are a lot of good spey rods out there. These new Sage rods however are somewhat of a game changer. Again, when it comes to rods we recognize that we all have personal peculiarities when it comes to rods and even more so when it comes to spey rods.  That said, if you are in the market for a Skagit, Switch, Scandi, or more traditional line, whether it’s your first rod or one to fill a niche, your should test drive one of these new Sage ONE Spey Rods. They are impressive.

Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boot Review by Steve Schmidt

7The Patagonia Foot Tractor takes wading to a whole new level of comfort and traction. Several years ago we; Western Rivers staff had an opportunity to test these boots out on our annual shop trip. After 4 days of pounding around in them we were impressed. The Foot Tractor right out of the shoot was noticeably an improvement over the Aluma-Bar boot. After using the Patagonia Aluminum Bar Boot for the past 3 seasons (which still have plenty of life left in them), I left them behind this fall as I headed to BC for my first steelhead trip of the year and some of the most challenging wading anyone will be confronted with.
Regardless of the new bar and sole design of the boot, which is grabbing everyone’s attention, this was the most comfortable 8heavy duty wading boot I’ve ever worn. The lacing system is ingenous, and I’m glad that they didn’t use the BOA system, which they initially intended to do. Their new system almost feels like the laces are being pulled through pulleys on the lower part of the boot. The top two hooks cleat the laces in place once you pull them in. These hold the laces firmly in place while you finish tying the boot, keeping the laces secure and tight all day long. The wide upper makes the Foot Tractor super easy to get out of, also at the end of a long day this boot is so comfortable you won’t be in a hurry to take them off.On the traction side I definitely prefer the new bottom and the way they’ve integrated the aluminum bar into the rubber sole. The new bar pattern is definitely better, especially when you’re scrambling around on the bank. For those who fish out of a boat, or have an occasion to, the new bar and sole design is really nice. I hardly noticed the bars in the dories we floated. Compared to the old boots, they we’re much less slippery in the boat, on dry rocks, and on steep grassy banks, which were issues they needed to address.

IMG_1713The new Patagonia Tractor Boot is a game changer just as the Aluminum Bar Wading Boot by Patagonia was. Although it feels heavy in the hand, I never noticed the weight after spending 10-12 hrs in them. For those having trouble getting around in the river, whether its the wading or you are simply looking to feel more grounded as you wade, this boot by far, will give you the security your looking for. Plus do so in a very comfortable fashion. My only regret is they aren’t offering these in just a sticky bottom version as well. Rumor has it that Patagonia is working on them.

We are freshly stocked up on Patagonia Foot Tractors, you can purchase from our website or give us a shout 801-521-6424

Simms Headwaters Guide Hip Pack Review


In today’s fly fishing world there seems to be a million choices in hip and waist packs. After recently returning from a steelhead trip, hear what one of our guides have to say about the newly updated Simms guide pack.

“We all have our preferences on our favorite fly fishing pack system. Whether it’s a sling pack, backpack/vest combo, hip pack or chest pack we can all agree that a well designed piece is more comfortable while still making simple tasks on the water much quicker, easier and less of a headache. The 2014 Simms Headwaters Guide Hip Pack is one of our new favorite outfits for the angler who likes to come prepared for anything.” Click here to read the full review…

Patagonia Stormfront Roll Top Pack Review by Steve Schmidt

ImageThe Patagonia Storm Front Roll Top Pack is another well thought out fly-fishing product from Patagonia. I found it interesting that on the product content page on the Patagonia web-site that they referred to the island of Haida Gwaii as an ideal location to use the Strom Front Roll Top Pack. Ironically enough I just returned from there. When fly-fishing for steelhead in the northwest, keeping your things dry is a challenge. I was faced with this challenge as I prepared to head out the door to fish the Queen Charlotte’s in January. In doing a little research, Haida Gwaii gets some serious rain, 18′; yep feet. We just happened to get aStorm Front Roll Top Pack in right as I was trying to figure out what I needed to carry my stuff in, since you do a fair amount of walking in this remote steelhead location and because of the frequent rains, if you don’t have a waterproof pack, you’re stuff is going to get quite wet. Since their new Storm Front Packs also accommodate their modular vest pockets, the options the new Storm Front Roll Top Pack offered was a no brainer for this and many other destinations where I’m fortunate to fly-fish. TO READ THE FULL REVIEW CLICK HERE.