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.

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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.