Most fly fishers are all about gear. The fly fishing industry has a product for everything – and in a size and color that you need. But what happens now and again, even for the most gear-focused anglers, is that something that isn’t made explicitly for fly fishing enters the rotation. Sometimes, that thing can even become a favorite.
I’ve gotten to know Spencer Durrant through the fly fishing circles that we travel in. He’s had the opportunity to spend some time “getting to know” a neat product from a company that I have been a customer of for years. Enjoy the review, and take a moment to consider what other options might be out there for your fishing arsenal.
Fishermen – and especially fly fishermen – are creatures of habit. One only needs to visit the Henry’s Fork two years in a row at the commencement of the salmon fly hatch to see the same anglers from the year before, in the same spots, maybe or maybe not catching the same fish.
We love habit because it’s familiar, because it’s dependable, and because venturing into the unknown isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. We stick with the same fly rod manufacturer for years (I’m guilty here – I’ll only fish Winston), the same company for our waders, and there’s always at least one brick-and-mortar fly shop we buy something at every time we drive by.
The problem with habit, though, is that it leaves little room for experiencing – and possibly better – things in the world of fly fishing.
That’s where the Pathfinder Jacket, from Outback Trading Company, enters the conversation. Outback specializes in Western apparel, with a wide range of hats, coats, shirts, and vests from which to choose. What’s interesting is how much crossover exists between the Western apparel market and what fly fishermen choose to wear. Outback’s Baron performance shirts are as comfortable, light, and moisture-wicking as any comparable shirt from Orvis or Simms.
And their Pathfinder Jacket has quickly become my favorite piece of outerwear when I’m fishing in cold weather. Made from 100% oilskin cotton, the jacket is completely waterproof. I was recently in Idaho during a blizzard that turned to slush midafternoon, and the Pathfinder kept me completely dry.
It’s large enough to fit over a down layer and your waders, features plenty of pockets for fly boxes, and even two pockets with concealed carry holsters. I carry a pistol daily, so it’s nice to have a spot in my fishing coat for my gun where I know it won’t get wet or scratched.
The Pathfinder is incredibly warm and a great insulating layer. It doesn’t breathe very well – cotton rarely does – but that’s the point. It’s a heavy, thick outer layer meant to keep the chill at bay and you completely dry, a task it accomplishes handily.
I’ve been fishing in this coat for almost a month now, as winter has finally set in here in the Rockies. Not once have I felt the need for another warmer layer on top of the Pathfinder – and I’ve received more than a few compliments on how it looks from waitresses in out-of-the-way diners tucked next to the West’s famous rivers.
A year ago, I’d have turned my nose up at wearing something while fly fishing that wasn’t “made for fly fishing.” I think that’s a trap many of us fall into, but it’s a trap that’s easily justifiable considering the high quality of products from companies like Patagonia, Simms, and Orvis.
I’ve since had the luck of receiving some down coats from Browning, insulating layers from Fortress Clothing, and a half-dozen merino wool brands. All of these companies have one thing in common – their main target isn’t fly fishermen. Yet their products work just as well – and in some cases, better – than name-brand ones. You’ll often pay a fraction of the price to boot.
As someone who lives and fishes in the West, and loves everything about this unique part of America, something feels right about wearing Western gear while fly fishing. Nostalgia isn’t quite the right word, but it comes close to capturing what Outback provides in their gear. Their products are much more blue-collar than anything you’ll find for sale in big-box outdoor retailers, a fact I find heartening.
While I can highly recommend the Pathfinder Jacket, I can also highly recommend looking in different-than-normal places for your next piece of fly fishing apparel. You’ll be surprised at what you find. Outback sure surprised me.
Spencer is a novelist, outdoors columnist, and sports writer from Utah. His debut novel, Learning to Fly, was an Amazon Hot New Releases Bestseller. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram @Spencer_Durrant.