Well, it’s officially summer here in Denver, Colorado. We know you’ve already applied a hearty layer of protective storage wax to the bases of your five-ski quiver and your favorite sticks are safely stored away until the snow starts falling again. We’d be fibbing if we didn’t say that we find the summer months to be a little bittersweet here at FREESKIER; as the weather warms, it prevents us from doing what we love most, but it also gives us some time to rest the old quads, reflect on the past season and focus on other activities in the mountains that keep the stoke high and our passion for the outdoors sated.
Based in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, FREESKIER staffers have no shortage of summertime activities to keep us busy—just like many of you reading this right now. For those that know us best, it’s no secret that during the offseason we spend nearly every spare minute exploring the rivers and trails that neighbor our hometown.
FREESKIER’s Cian O’Connor is one of our own insatiable anglers. From urban carping in the heart of downtown Denver to chasing wild, active cutthroat trout in Colorado’s high alpine lakes, it’s safe to say he’s completely obsessed with rippin’ lips. Here, he’s compiled a list of his favorite fly fishing products for men and women that keep him and his fishing pals stoked on the river all summer long.
Sage Foundation Outfit
When we refer to a “one ski quiver,” we’re talking about a single pair of skis—one set that can handle powder, groomers, variable snow conditions and every kind of terrain. That’s exactly what the Sage Foundation Outfit offers for anglers. When pursuing trout here in Colorado, the 9-foot rod and “5 weight” line compatibility is the ultimate everyday, everywhere tool. Perfect for small, Front Range streams yet sturdy enough to slay on the tail-waters in the high-country. This completely handmade rod—27 pairs of hands build this Bad Larry—is constructed from high performance Graphite providing effortless control and a responsive feeling that’ll have you feeling like a top-tier guide.
The Foundation Outfit comes standard with Sage’s Spectrum 5/6 C reel, which happens to be the brand’s most popular trout reel, and RIO Gold Fly Line, a personal favorite because of its burly feel. Bottom line: This setup is incredibly versatile and should be your go-to for any fishing trip on the agenda this summer.
Patagonia River Salt Wading Boots
OK, OK—I know the first thing you’re looking at here is the price and saying, “What are you, freakin’ nuts, guy?” but hear me out. These boots are, by far, the most comfortable and lightweight wading boots I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing.
Last month, I spent six days wading the flats along the coast of Abaco Island in the Bahamas chasing bonefish wearing these boots; gnarly volcanic rock and coral surround the flats. I felt like Frodo hopscotching my way through Mordor on my way to Mount Doom—One fall and you’re face deep in a coral reef—but these boots handled the task gloriously. They are incredibly light and the perforated drains on both sides of the boots clear water quickly and efficiently. The MegaGrip soles also guarantee sure footing and they’re handmade by legendary boot builders, Danner. That’s right, these boots are 100-percent manufactured in the United States. Sure, they’re expensive, but will they last you the rest of your life? Without a doubt.
Simms SolarFlex UltraCool Armor Shirt
Staying cool and protected from the sun should be at the forefront of every angler’s mind, especially during the blazing summer months. The all-new SolarFlex UltraCool Armor Shirt from Simms redefines sun protection and comfort for those who spend all day casting lines. The Advanced Arva fabric is amazingly breathable and it wicks away moisture 50-percent faster than the competition while its UPF 50 rating keeps you protected from the sun sans sunscreen.
But the real kicker here is an integrated face mask built into the hood, a handy feature that proved its worth while I was tarpon fishing down in the Florida Keys. While we ripped at 30 miles per hour out to the tarpon zone, the mask, which wraps around the front of a ballcap brim, kept my lucky fishing lid snug against my head. And one additional benefit of the built-in mask is that you no longer have to worry about forgetting face protection when popping into your local fly shop. You’re covered, baby!
Simms Flyweight Wet Wading Shoe
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of rocking waders in the summer months—and that’s why I look to my trusty Simms Flyweight Wading Shoes. They are a hybrid wading/hiking boot, absolutely perfect for stalking the elusive carp in the Urban waters of Downtown Denver where you sometimes find yourself hopscotching through some questionable discarded items, and a game-changer for hiking up to high-alpine lakes. Built with trail pounding in-mind, they are constructed with a welded TPU film in high-wear zones to increase durability and prevent damage from rocks and loose debris. To round it out, Vibram outsoles stick to river bottoms like glue and provides necessary support when crushing multi-mile missions.
Stio Women’s Divide Hooded Pullover
One of my fishing buddies rocks her Stio Divide hooded Pullover every day we fish… Every. Single. Day. Designed with drirelease fabric, the 85-percent polyester/15-percent cotton blend wicks moisture, is incredibly breathable, won’t lose its articulated, flattering silhouette and, best of all, neutralizes odor, too. If you want to have a silky smooth next-to-skin feel that can be worn multiple times between wash cycles, head on over to the Stio website and take a gander. Based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Stio’s designers know a thing or two about creating apparel for those who live life in the great outdoors.
Stio Women’s Second Light Short
An absolute must-have for wet-wading or river-bound trips. The Stio Second Light is built as a running short but crosses over seamlessly into fly fishing: It is super lightweight, quick-drying and comfortable, perfect for a day on the river, especially when you’re hiking a few miles to your favorite fishing holes. The Meridian Stretch Mini-Ripstop Nylon construction keep things ultra-lightweight and fast-drying, both essential when you’re out fishing all day long. They are also incredibly durable and strechy—crucial when climbing over fallen trees or scaling down rocky terrain to the river’s edge. Did I mention the interior mesh brief and plush, relaxed fit, two-inch wide waistband? Two words come to mind here: Maximum Comfort.
Patagonia Women’s Spring Waders
Hands down, these are the Crème de la Crème of women’s waders—Patagonia spared no expense in developing ’em specifically for the lady angler. (Don’t worry, guys, Patagonia makes waders for you, too.) Ergonomically designed, the Women’s Spring Waders feature a useful rear buckle system that allows for quick relief on the riverside—I’ve been told this is an absolute game changer ladies out on the river all day. Articulated knees and anatomically designed left and right booties keep your feet comfy all day; four millimeters of neoprene help to keep those toes nice and warm when water temps are frigid; a reach-through hand-warmer pocket is convenient when fishing your favorite tailwater at first light. But the real eye-opener here is the brand’s repair and replacement policy: If anything happens to your waders, Patagonia will sew/repair at no cost to you.
Zeal Morrison Sunglasses
Sunglasses are one of the most essential pieces of gear for the experienced angler. Not only do sunnies protect our eyes from the unrelenting sun, they actually help us see into the water to better pursue our favorite fish. Zeal has absolutely nailed it with its new Morrison Shades featuring the all-new Auto Sun Lens, a polarized, photochromic lens. From dawn ’till dusk, I’ve experienced laser sharp, glare-penetrating vision because the lens automatically adjusts to the level of light outside. The frames are also noteworthy here: Constructed with Zeal’s plant-based Z-Resin Bio-Plastic, a technology derived from the Castor plant, the process replaces the use of traditional plastics and significantly reduces the amount of C02 produced during manufacturing. Seeing clearly all day long and protecting the environment? Count us in, baby!
Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net
The Guide’s Choice, my personal favorite and an absolute necessity when fly fishing. If there is one piece of equipment in fly fishing that often gets overlooked, it’s the net. At first glance, it’s just a net… right? How much technology can go into it? Well, Fishpond is changing the game. When you land a fish, proper handling of it ensures that the fish will live to see another day, another season and a long, prosperous life. Fishpond’s nets are designed with gentle fish-handling practices in mind—durability and ease of use.
I’m a fan of the Nomad Mid-Length because the long handle provides extra reach when trying to land a Big Hog that manages to stay just out of reach from a regular net scoop. Here, the net core is constructed from a lightweight yet ultra-durable Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass layup with an outer layer of woven (bulletproof) Kevlar/Fiberglass Composite that ensures durability for years out on the river. The net bag is also constructed mindfully from a durable rubber. More than just a simple net, eh?
Orvis Safe Passage Angler’s Daypack
The ultimate storage solution for any day mission—at a price you can’t beat. At first glance, the Safe Passage Angler’s daypack appears simple, but I was pleasantly surprised by its thoughtful design. The technical suspension system and padded straps are extremely comfortable and far superior to other daypacks I’ve utilized; the adjustability is fantastic and the suspension system maximizes airflow to keep you cool while hiking to your secret spots. Furthermore, the extra-burly nylon exterior is highly water resistant.
Now for the good stuff—internal storage. The purpose-built inclusions blew me away. Inside, three mesh storage pockets are perfect for a couple fly boxes, leaders, strike indicators and any of the essentials you’ll need for a day in the backcountry. It also features one medium-sized pocket perfect for your reel, buff or camera and will still maintain enough room for you to pack a lunch. Then, there’s the main compartment, ideal for extra layers and a spare water bottle. On the outside of the pack, there are three pockets—two side pockets with stretch to hold either a rod tube or water bottle and a super convenient pocket for your rain jacket or smaller items. Finally, for an extra 12 bucks, you can add Orvis’ Silver Sonic Waterproof Pocket to keep your phone and keys extra safe. All-in-all, this is a solid pack at an unbeatable price.
Buff CoolNet UV+ Multifunctional Headwear
The most underrated piece of equipment of all time is a face mask, and Buff makes some of the most versatile offerings around. Combining sun protection with the ability to wick sweat from your skin to keep you cool, Buff’s CoolNet UV+ does it all. The UPF 50+ protection rating guarantees that there’s no need to break out the aloe when you get home and made with a four-way stretch, 95-percent recycled microfiber and Polygiene odor control ensures days of use. There’s also more than 10 different ways to wear this thing, so you’ll be stylin’ until you reel in your last catch of the day.