Reviewed this week

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Alpha+ fly rod

Get out your largest streamers and introduce them to their new best friend.

When chasing Taimen, Muskie, GTs (… ), there’s no worry about over-arming your kit. These fishy athletes demand large flies, often in windy conditions and a fly rod capable of wrangling them to shore, or to your oversized net. Winston’s Alpha+ fly rod is the rod for that kind of a job.

I tested one of the leaner rods in the series, a 7-weight, and came away thinking “this rod is a beast,” sporting enough backbone to manage and land the biggest, brawniest fish, all the while letting you know that it will not let you down.

How did I know this rod wouldn’t let me down? The answer is: feedback, and it’s something that far too many big-game fly rods lack. Every Winston fly rod that we’ve tested in the past provided a high level of feedback, instantly transmitting all underwater fishy activity as well as informing you of how that back cast is (or isn’t) working out - the Alpha+ is no different.

I have said on numerous occasions that I’m not a fan of over-lining rods, but happily bent the rules with the #7 I tested. This rod not only responded very well to a #8 fly line, but practically demanded it.

Materials, build, fit and finish are all top-tier. See company website for expanded list of technical details (among them, extra reinforced ferrules for truly remarkable lifting power).

Final note: Whenever I test a big-game rod, I line it up and perform some admittedly unscientific testing (sorry, Winston). There were two other persons present when I tested the Alpha+, both of whom told me, “that rod’s going to break.” It didn’t.

Every rod in this series is 9’ (4-sections). Available in 5 through to 12-weight.

Highly recommended.


Freestone Ambidextrous Tactical sling pack

Rather than the usual exterior shot, we went with the photo above in order to showcase this product’s capacity and organizational power.

The SIMMS Ambidextrous Tactical sling pack was designed and fitted with enough internal/external dividers, stretch pockets and zip compartments to keep a fly-gear-librarian happy. The end result is a very intuitive carrying system: all of your gear is within instant reach because everything is in the right place. 

An adjustable front panel contains a loop field for wet fly storage, secured tippet holder and essential compression straps for rod storage – something the vast majority of sling packs lack.

No stone was left unturned, even the wide, padded and very comfortable shoulder belt was fitted with nylon stretch pockets for quick access items like floatant of flatter items like leader envelopes.

Built with durable, lightweight materials, the Freestone Ambidextrous Tactical sling pack is a five-star product that represents an outstanding value in a carrying device.

Ambidextrous design allows left or right shoulder carry.

Load capacity is an impressive 15L (916 cu. in.)

Highly recommended.


Pro wader

In a few words: a new breed of workhorse waders.

Built with a combination 4 and 5-ply super-tough Cordura-based textile, these waders are tough where you need them to be, yet pliable in areas that require a little more flex.

Other intelligent goods Orvis threw into the mix: loads of configurable pocket space, beefed up gravel guards, a sturdy, wide wading belt (something that several wader manufacturers have been skimping on in the recent past), an oversized, foolproof suspender system and belt buckles.

Another thing you’ll really appreciate about these waders are the integrated, soft knee pads that protect you during those times when you’re kneeling into gravel. Ouch!

Waders like this don’t just happen magically: Orvis designers thought these waders through very carefully, and product testing must have been in the thousands of hours.

Summary: these are well-crafted waders able to stand up to considerable abuse. I fully suspect that they’ll provide many seasons of service.

Highly recommended.