Chugach & Anchorage area
...But I really have nothing to compare it against, other than a cheap Okuma fly rod. This is my first serious rod and I've enjoyed fishing with it as I've progressed as a fly angler. I got an 8-wt to battle Alaska salmon, but not so heavy as to be solely dedicated to big fish. I've caught more small fish (rainbows, dollys, grayling & baby kings) with it than anything. I've also caught some bonefish and jacks and it has no problem handling salt water. Although the weight isn't ideal for most trout, I can still throw out small dries, nymphs and others all day without getting tired of casting. Of course this just wet my appetite for a lower weight, higher quality rod--go figure.
Pros & Cons: Same as previous review. Only a tad bit of green has rubbed off on my socks but this was without a full on sweat fest. Wished Altra offered a few more color options. Tread is thin, but seems amazingly durable--no signs of wear yet after a few outings. The tread picks up the occasional small pebble, but they are usually easy to get out.
I normally wear a 9.5 and sized up a half size as Altra recommends. Fit is great. Also, if you're switching to forefoot style strike, follow Altra's recommendation and ease them into your workouts. Your calves/lower legs will scream in soreness until you get used to them.
Now THIS is a fly box. The grooves are simply awesome--holds flies perfectly and won't harm delicate patterns. They are also easy to remove. You can really load these boxes up with tons of flies. I think C&F will probably be the only fly boxes I purchase in the future.
...on the 5-star band wagon. I've found these to have less line memory than some of the other leader brands I've tried. Usually one pass through the leader straightener and you're set (if they've been rolled up again).
If you don't clean your fly line, you're wrong. If you don't treat your line with this stuff after you clean your line, you're very wrong. Your line will shoot farther, float higher, shed water much better and last longer...RIO has some great youtube videos on how they recommend cleaning/treating fly lines. Good fly lines are not cheap--make them perform and last longer with this stuff.
Having loved the original Sparks, I picked up a pair of these (although for far less). Overall they're a great shoe, but there are a few things to consider. First, due to the GTX insert, these will not stretch out a little bit like the normal Sparks. Even from the get-go, they feel narrower than the Sparks, so if you have wide feet, you better try on a pair. Second, I stress fractured the top of my foot a couple of years ago and these shoes (due to the tight fit) occasionally put somewhat uncomfortable pressure on that particular spot--usually only during walking, not running. Anyhow, that's not really the fault of the shoe, but an issue I have. Third, as others have mentioned, the grip is good on these shoes, but the rubber wears out pretty quickly, especially if you use them on the road at all. Scarpa should use a different rubber compound, however it might cost them some weight savings. Last, for going down trails fast, I feel the narrow fit doesn't provide as much control as my Altra Lone Peaks.
On the plus side, these shoes keep you dry, they're light, and they have minimal drop. I use them on the road, on the trail, and everywhere else. I like their styling and they don't unnecessarily stand out like some other trail running shoes which means I can wear them with jeans or whatever and not look like a complete dork.
If they had a more durable outsole, I'd give them 5-stars.
Derek pretty much said it all. These provide a great balance of feel versus protection. I've found them to dry quickly and not get in the way of anything I'm doing on the water. Perhaps that's their best feature--I forget I'm wearing them. They've helped prevent me from dropping small, slick fish and have kept my hands warm enough fishing in 40-45 degree F cold with light rain. These were a very solid investment. I have sort of small hands and the S/M fit great.
4 tools in one! Like Brandon, I do perfection loops on my leader to the fly line, but it gives me some peace of mind to know I could tie a nail knot if I had to. Sharp hooks are also a must. I wound up breaking off the hook eye cleaner (intentionally) because I kept stabbing myself on it every time I'd reach down to grab the nippers (the D-ring would always fold down exposing the needle). So far I haven't missed it. Instructions are great too, but I usually end up tying an improved clinch, palomar, or a perfection loop to tie on flies or hooks.
I replaced my SA GPX with this line and I like it quite a bit better. It shoots faster and I can get more line out there with fewer false casts. It's easy to pick up 50+ ft of line and throw it back out there with no false casts. Also, leaders seem to dig into the loop connection less than the GPX (removing a heavily loaded leader was damn near impossible). I also like the dualtone marking system a lot. My rod is a med-fast action. I almost got the Gold, but my local fly shop talked me into this one.
I caught rainbow after rainbow on one of these when the fish were feeding on the surface. The only issue was it had to be dried out several times to keep it floating (I forgot my floatant!)
It's the soul mate of your leaders & tippet. It just works!
*Revised* - Downgrade to 3 stars. Perhaps I put too much pressure on the pads when straightening out my leaders, but this leader straightener started developing gashes in it that would coat my leaders with a black film. It was possible to remove most of the film, but very, very annoying. I bought a straightener from a different company and will see what happens w/ it. This one still gets the job done, but if my new one doesn't coat my leaders with a film, I will have to not recommend this one.
The small plastic circle where the tippet holder and chamois attach somehow cracked all the way through on mine. With enough force I could snap everything off. If this was sturdier plastic I'd give it 5 stars. Fly chamois is of low to moderate usefulness. Big flies completely saturate it. My t-shirt usually works better.
The Tracker2 is the gold standard for fast and simple effective beacons. The harness fits snug and comfortable--you'll almost forget you're wearing it. My only complaint is you have to be careful about pushing the search tab back in when you are digging. You can put the beacon back in the case, but you cannot fasten the buckle without it pushing the tab back in and going back to Send (which is a good safety feature honestly when you're about to drop in). But, the beacon could fall out of the case, getting in your way, or also bump the tab back in, causing you to have to stop and pull it back out again. More of a minor annoyance than anything, and the beacon will beep at you and let you know you've gone back to transmit mode. Despite this, it's still awesome.
This is my go-to shoe. I wear it daily for just about everything. It's performed well on trails, roads, indoors, with yak trax on, and in light drizzle. The tread is showing some wear, but that's it. They breathe extremely well and are super comfy right out of the box--never had any blisters or hot spots. At 9.5 oz w/ a low drop, it gives you somewhat of a barefoot feel, but provides plenty of cushion and support when and where you need it. I have two pairs already, and will be buying these again!
Great fit, solid construction typical of OR (except the fly on my pair, see below). These pants can be found for significantly less than similar softshell pants.
- Schoeller-like fabric seems very burly & sufficiently stretchy.
- Even with re-enforced kick patches, they weigh less than other pants.
- Grommets, although I have never used them before. I do see their utility since I hate wearing gaters.
- I like the cut/fit of these pants better than my two Patagonia softshell pants (previous generation Alpine Guide & Backcountry Guide). The thighs are slightly tighter and they are a little less baggy at the bottom but still fit snugly over my ski boots. For reference, I'm 5'9", 32-ish waist, 160 lbs and Medium feels about right.
- Built-in adjustable tabs w/ options for a belt or suspender loops.
- Color! Digging the pewter style & getting tired of black.
- Hand pockets aren't that deep, but I usually don't carry much in these pockets anyway. Stuff in pockets work to make saggy pants.
- Sort of a negative, but happens with all my softshell pants....since the hand pockets "double" as vents, you can noticeably feel the pants get looser in the waist/hip areas...which can also contribute to sagging.
- Same issue with all of my softshell pants, they could be about an inch shorter.
- Unfortunately, my pair have a factory flaw--the zipper teeth are not secured together at the bottom base of the fly and inevitably, my fly unzips itself from the bottom up...I have to get this fixed. That's one place I don't want cold air or snow in! Surprising given ORs usually outstanding quality.
Everyone else pretty much hit all the highlights. Don't buy into the "anti-fog" stuff though. They are pretty easily to fog up during hard/fast skinning, especially with light or no wind conditions. Anyone that says otherwise is either moving too slowly or has sufficient air movement through the vents. Regardless, I really like the Explorers.
I opted for the I/OS since I have a narrow face and usually have a hard time finding sunglasses that aren't too wide. I love Oakley products but the hype about the Smith I/O swayed me this direction. I don't regret it. The fact that they come with a second lens is also a bonus. I have yet to scratch the one on them though. They're comfortable and don't fog up. Highly recommended.
This is in addition to my post below. A decent overall pack. While roomy enough, it's weak for side/back-country skiing due lack of organization...OK if you aren't getting in and out of the pack all the time. A single compartment makes it simple and light, however, access to a shovel and probe aren't that convenient due to the roll top. Also, there is potential for getting stuff wet w/ snow from your shovel or skins (unless you're using a skin bag).
I am continuing to use the side straps for A-frame ski carry, even though they aren't meant for that. It works pretty well, but you could cut the straps with your edges (as Keelan says below). Again, a pretty versatile pack that can do a lot...
What's not to love about these? Not too heavy, easy to get in and out of, they walk well, hike well, and ski well. Intuition liner is very warm and comfortable. No issues wearing these all day long.
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