by Kelly Bastone | photograph Dave Cox
Fly fishing isn’t bringing production back to the U.S.—in this industry, domestic manufacturing never fizzled. Most American brands still make the majority, if not all, of their fly rods stateside, including G.Loomis and Sage in Washington, Winston in Montana, and Scott in Colorado. And the American-made emphasis extends beyond rods to include RIO and Scientific Anglers fly lines, Simms waders, Ross and Nautilus reels, Vedavoo packs, SmithFly organizers, and Denver Outfitters’ carrier, the Rod Vault PRO.
Why keep it red, white, and blue? Because manufacturing is a numbers game. Nike may enjoy substantial savings by making shoes in Asia, but fly-fishing companies rank as small-fry. “Fly fishing is a tiny industry, and the minimum order quantities for Asian factories are prohibitive for many of our products,” says Tom Rosenbauer, marketing manager for Orvis, which makes two entry-level rods in Asia, but all others in Vermont. Domestic manufacturing also lets companies protect their intellectual property. “Asia tends to be a lot more casual about patent and trade secret protection,” says Rosenbauer.
Besides, fly fishing has always emphasized artistry over efficiency. Any yahoo can sling worms to catch dinner, but fly anglers spend years perfecting their cast just to net one memorable trophy. Likewise, when it comes to their gear, craftsmanship matters. Here are four “Made in America” picks that merit spending your money.
Field Test: Fiberglass fly rods used to be crap, but this one reinvents the category by approximating the feel of bamboo. Like those pricey classics, the Superfine is a flexy, slow-action tool that lets you really feel the line load—better for beginners than fast-action carbon models, but also perfect for experts who sneer at throwing anything but dry flies. From New Mexico’s Pecos River to Colorado’s St. Vrain, I was able to present flies with outstanding accuracy, even at close range.
Why It’s Timeless: Unlike carbon, fiberglass can withstand backcountry abuse. 3-6 weights, various lengths
Field Test: A do-it-all freshwater rod, the MOD marries power with ego-stroking accuracy, excelling at close range casts. On Utah’s upper Fremont River, it was flexible enough to flip roll casts in tight corridors and mend line with an effortless flick of the wrist. On the broader Yampa River in Colorado, it hit 40-foot targets and muscled fat, tailwater-fed footballs to the net. It’s best at tossing lightweight dry fly and nymph rigs, but it’ll also hurl heavy streamers with grace.
Why It’s Timeless: It comes in an ultralight package (our five-weight testing rod weighed 2.5 ounces). 2-6 weights, all 9 feet long
Field Test: This floating line’s extra-long tip taper creates nimble turnovers, lays down graceful roll casts, and lands dry flies with delicacy. On Colorado’s Blue and Yampa River tailwaters, it facilitated effortless mending, creating the perfect drift required to fool “seen-it-all trout.” Why It’s Timeless: It’ll turn you into a sharpshooter. 3-6 weights
Field Test: Occasional anglers don’t need the G3’s bombproof multi-layer construction, which includes a layer of Gore-Tex Pro Shell, but diehards will covet the nearly puncture-proof fabric. It’s not as breathable as gauzier options, but it kept me tolerably cool during Indian summer sessions on Colorado’s North Platte River.
Why It’s Timeless: Simms also makes a women’s G3, with booties sculpted for lady-feet and a tailored fit.
From our Early Summer 2016 issue.