I felt terrible, 20 years of hard fishing displayed proudly on my vest; assorted tears, imbedded flies, stains from Muskol and fly floatants, tattered wool patch minus the wool, and the reek of perishables left in pockets forgotten.
It was the perfect vest, the kind that your girlfriend holds with two fingers at arm’s length; shoulders sunbleached from olive to indescribable, pockets tattered, stitching non existant… I felt like I was telling the vet to put the needle to Old Yeller.
I needed a new vest.
I have always been partial to “shorties” – and now that exposed midriff is fashionable again, am even more so. The short vest allows a gear fiend to load what’s required, and keeps fly boxes, cameras, and sandwiches above the water line – safe from harm.
Researching what was available affirmed that gear had come a long way. Instead of a single “D” ring for the landing net, there were attachments and retractable devices aplenty. Pockets had multiplied by at least a dozen, linings were available, colors were rampant, but shorties were still in short supply.
Requirement: Neutral Color
I love the new colors available, but I would rather blend with my environment. Red or Burnt Orange vests are very dapper, but I would as soon sneak up on you undetected.
The stitching and lining must be accessible so that I can restitch or repair the vest when needed. The down side of dangling items is heavy brush – as I am defending my rod, the vest will recieve the brunt of limbs and thorns. You will tear attachments from your vest, you’ll snag open pockets as well – make sure you select a vest that can be repaired easily. Tippet material and a bare fish hook can be used to quickly repair a torn pocket, it’ll hold until you get back to town.
Requirement: Unlined or mesh
I am going to wade stupid repeatedly, and the bigger the fish – the more likely I will wade agressively. I will get wet, I need the vest to drain quickly. Extra lining means additional drying time…no issue in August, but a big issue in January.
Requirement: Loose fitting
I may need to shuck out of this straight-jacket in a hurry, and I might have to do it underwater. This ain’t high fashion.
Requirement: Comfortable Neck enclosure
If you insist on loading your vest with everything you own, you will feel it on the neck and shoulder area. Your neck will be sunburnt, and even the slightest chafing will be painful. Get soft material near the neckline if possible.
I bought a Simm’s Vertical Master – not quite a shorty, but short enough to keep dry flies above water, mesh lined for a fast drain, and has a soft collar to ease the chafing.
This is season one with the new togs, it has performed as advertised, holding 2 to 3 times more gear than my old Columbia shorty. It appears that Columbia has moved onto mainstream gear, as I could find no vests in their product catalog.
What is not replacable is the patina acquired by the old rags…it gave all of my fish stories instant credibility, inspiring fear in fellow anglers, and revulsion from their womenfolk.