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Ronan's report

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Perhaps the defining piece of gear for the fly angler, the fishing vest fell out of favor here in the western US something like a decade ago. Often attributed to the late, great Lee Wulff, the vest was a brilliant idea, with loads of pockets for holding the millions of flies and other gadgets that fly fishers need and love. But for all their brilliance, vests never seemed all that comfortable. You piled 10 pounds (or more) of gear into the front pockets, and none into that one big back pouch, because at midstream it's dang near impossible to get anything out of the back. The result was a trademark, forward-slouching posture and craned neck that many passersby confused for concentration. The slouch was only enhanced if you were trying to find a tiny dry fly on the surface, 50 feet away at last light, in hopes that you might actually see a fish eat it.

Fishing vests finally met their match when companies started making some great other products like chest packs and fanny packs. I jumped on the band wagon and have been using versions of the Split Front Chest Pack from Bucks Bags since about 1999. Sadly, the design has changed, and last Wednesday my last pack broke. Leave it to me to endorse a discontinued product. Just one zipper broke, but until I get it fixed, it's useless.

So, forced to adapt on short notice, I looked back instead of forward. I dug deep into one of my Rubbermaid tackle bins and found an old friend - a warn and sun-faded Patagonia Vertical Pocket fishing vest. The one I got back in highschool for $10 at the outlet shop in Dillon. The one that I clumsily sewed patches and a forceps loop onto. The one with climber cord for zipper pulls. The one I wore all the time until I became one of the cool guys wearing chest packs. I dumped out my busted chest pack and filled up all those vest pockets with my steelhead flies, camera, tippets, extra spools, Clif bars, fishing licenses, and all the rest.

And on Saturday morning, sometime before dawn, I stepped into the river wearing the fly angler's defining piece of gear for the first time in 10 years.

So, for a while at least, if you're out on the water here in Oregon and you see a guy in an old-school faded green fishing vest, casting and old school long(ish) belly Spey line, and slouching forward in concentration, stop and say hi.

Take Care and Fish On,

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