Thursday, May 19, 2011

Essential Gear | A Proper Wading Jacket | Kokatat Tempest

I have worn them all. Patagonia SST, Orvis Tailwaters, Cabelas XRT Wading jacket, Barbour, Marmot (the jacket I wear in the snow), and more. All of the above have failed me on the water to keep me dry and comfortable in a rainstorm- downpours-torrential rains from sunrise to sunset. Specifically, velcro strips to tighten over the wrist don't work. Rain coats made by anglers just don't work. Get one made by people that get submerged in water all day.

I sold the Orvis jacket to a guy in Russia via ebay. The SST jacket was returned and THW used the money toward a ski shell. The Cabelas jacket is in the dry hatch of my boat for clients. Barbour jackets are just not made for fishing, they are reserved for going out on the town.

This all started around 2002 when Tom and I went steelhead fishing in New York on the Salmon River. It was cold and rainy. And by rainy, it rained the entire week. We camped in the rain and slept in wet tents. We fished in the rain and had to hang our gear bags from the trees due to the stream bank being submerged. Our only respite was going to the Ponderosa in Pulaski and  laying our gear out on the empty booths to dry.

The weather was so bad that Tom and I had the entire upper length of the lower fly stretch to ourselves. We could only see about 20 feet in any direction. And it was the best week of steelhead fishing we have ever experienced! On a side note, it was yellow or pink estaz flies or size 12 flash back pheasant tail nymphs. 

This was the week I started using 2-handed or spey rods. My right arm was always at an angle holding the cork and rain constantly seeped through the 'dry' cuffs on my tailwaters jacket. My wool sweater and base layers were soaked. I was cold and pissed off. This was all by 0600 and we fished until dinner time each day. This is a picture of how hard the rain was for the first 3 days.

 Tying up flies in Ponderos. 

If the fishing had not been so phenomenal I would not have noticed how miserable I was. I wanted a raincoat that would keep water from running down my sleeves, from blowing into my hood and then draining down my neck. I had spoke to the owner of a now defunct company called Ghillies Gear. He made a nice jacket. I asked if he could make a fly fishing jacket based on a kayaking dry top. He said he and I would buy it but 99% of his clients wouldn't. I was stuck with my leaky rain gear.

In 2003 I started to work at the local outdoor store, Hudson Trail Outfitters. I purchased an Imersion Research jacket. It had latex gasket wrists and neck. It was terribly difficult to put on but once I was in that jacket I could literally dive into the Salmon River and come out with just my face and hands wet (while wearing waders of course). I purchased an XL size so I could properly layer underneath, to include my North Face Nuptse down vest.

With this jacket I was weathproof. The rain and wind could not enter my jacket. I could submerge my arm to the stream bottom to pull out snags and land fish. I may have looked goofy in a raspberry and grey jacket but I was dry and that was most important. Here is Joe's camp with my gear drying out on the sofa.

I fished with that jacket for a few years. I ended up having to put on a neck gator to protect me from cold air coming down the river. That was the jacket's one fault- other than putting it on and off-no hood.

I spent a few years searching for a dry cuff and neck kayak dry top with a hood and finally found one. After extensive internet research and using the Google shopping function, I found the Kolkatat Tempest  Paddling Jacket:

Here are the specs: Kokatat: Kokatat Tempest Paddling Jacket - Product Description: Waterproof/breathable TROPOS fabric keeps out splash and spray, and the latex wrist gaskets keep arms dry while landing your catch. The Kokatat Tempest Paddling Jacket also has an integrated hood which can be stowed away when not needed, and a double skirt integrates with pants or bibs to offer a dry ride even in rough conditions. 3M® reflective highlights keep you safe in fog or low-light conditions.
  • TROPOS fabric
  • Hooded pullover
  • APT collar
  • Skirted to mate with pants
  • 3M®reflective tape on hood and sleeve
  • Left sleeve pocket with reflective tape
  • Adjustable bungee self fabric hem allows easy on/off
  • Factory sealed seams

Sure the jacket is 'mango' colored and people have made fun of me for scaring the fish- but it works. I've never been more comfortable on the water all day when its pouring. Be it wet wading or rowing my drift boat. The color is a bonus if say you get stranded or lost or injured and someone had to come looking for you. Frank and Steve will agree about orange jackets. The reflective tap let people down stream know where you are when they are finding a spot before sunlight. The tape also reflects light when you are on the water for boats to see you. 

I don't know how many of these jackets are left on the market but you should get one before they are gone. I should get one as a backup.


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