I first saw the Work Sharp Combo Knife Sharpeners in Alaska, where our camp hands would sharpen our fillet knives to razor perfection each day…and realized I had to have one. These things are cool and will put a beautiful edge on just about anything!
STORMR first made a name for themselves several years ago by producing a very cool and unique line of neoprene foul weather gear, mostly notably the Strykr series. Since, then they have been branching out and making lighter weight rain wear. I wore the super-light and packable Nano jacket and pants guiding in Alaska all last summer and found them to be really well made, comfortable and, better yet, excellent protection from the rain.
With the new AERO jacket and bibs, STORMR bridges the gap between the heavy duty neoprene stuff and the lightweight packable line. With all this rain we’ve been having in Northern California this winter, I’ve had plenty of chances to test it out. Here’s what I have found…Click here to read more…
El Nino is here…is your foul weather gear up to the challenge? When it comes to rain gear, let’s be honest here — as much of a fan of breathable rain gear as I am, there’s a point at which it eventually gets saturated. So, when it’s really going to be nasty out, I’ll usually go with good ol’ rubber. Of course, the issue there is the lack of breathability — which means if you are doing anything but sitting idle, there’s a good chance you are going to be wet on the inside — from sweat.
With their new high tech neoprene technology, could STORMR’s Stryker jacket and bibs be a good option for fishing in the cold and wet? I aimed to find out…
Neoprene Core Technology
At first glance, a jacket and bibs made from neoprene seems like it would make you feel like you were wearing the Michelin Man’s suit of tires. But alas, this isn’t your grandpa’s neoprene! STORMR has developed what it calls “Neoprene Core Technology,” which enables them to laminate ultra-thin neoprene with more traditional fabrics to create a warm, comfortable hybrid.
The super thin neoprene has a lot of stretch to it, so your mobility isn’t limited. It’s also wind and water-proof so the elements stay out. STORMR also seals all its seams with thermal tape and coats the outside of the garments with a water-repelling finish for extra protection. On the inside, there is a micro-fleece lining.
Throw in the fact that neoprene is a buoyant material — when worn together, the jacket and bibs provide 10 pounds on buoyancy — and you have a pretty impressive looking outfit. Now, of course, its not designed to be used as a personal flotation device, but that extra buoyancy is nice should you end up in the water by accident!
A Closer Look
The front of the Stryker coat has burly zippers on the pockets and main opening. You can also see here the interior flap that keeps water out when you are all zipped up…
Cuffs have been the weak link in many of my coats as far as waterproofing goes. It’s hard not to get water trickling down your arms when holding a fishing rod or rowing a boat. The tight inner neoprene cuffs and adjustable Velcro outer cuffs look like this jacket could be the best one yet for me for keeping water from sloshing around down to my elbows…
The taped seams throughout are impressive…
And the micro fleece interior looks like it should help wick away moisture. The cell phone pocket is a nice touch too…
The bibs look good and feature the same construction. There’s also a built in D-ring for the kill switch on your motor (or pliers)…
I have worn the Stryker suit over they past couple years so I have had a really good chance to put it through the ringer. Here’s what I have found…
Though the suit looks and feels heavy at first, it really is comfortable. The stretchy neoprene flexes with you. The interior fleece is nice too — comfortable and warm. Overall, a really nice feel!
Just be sure to get the right sizes: I am 6′ and around 200 lbs. and wear a L coat and XL bib.
This is where the Stryker bibs and coat really shine: I’ve been in the coldest, wettest days imaginable, guiding fishing trips between Nor Cal and Alaska. The very first suit I had had a design flaw that allowed water to pool up in my waist while sitting down…and then it would run through the zipper on the bibs. But that’s what’s really cool about STORMR…I let them know about the problem and it was corrected immediately.
The new bibs keep me perfectly dry. Same for the coat. Recently, I was running my open tiller sled in the California Delta and had a 15-mile run home in the driving rain. Other than some wetness around my face at the opening of the hood, I was in good shape when we got back to the dock. Wish I could say the same for the guys in my boat wearing lesser gear!
You can see how the water beads up on, rather than soaks into, the fabric…
Speaking of running the boat, this suit is awesome for those cold, foggy days when you have a long run to make — even when there is no precipitation in the forecast. It’s like a suit of armor against the elements but the Stryker garments are plenty comfortable enough to for wearing for hours on dry days. I wear it pretty much every morning late fall through the spring. In the case below, it protected me from the huge splash of this big striped bass that blew up on my surface popper just a few feet from my rod tip :)
What’s really cool too is the Stryker bibs and jacket are so warm that you don’t need to wear anything bulky underneath. When it’s super cold, I may go with a cotton hoodie under the coat. On the milder days, I may just wear the bibs to keep my core worm — and to keep the inevitable splashes and fish slimings at bay…
In the end, I’ve found the Stryker gear to be extremely durable, comfortable and dependable. I think it’s a great option for anybody who fishes salmon, rockfish, halibut, crabs and lings offshore, where the wind and fog can chill your core in a hurry. As I noted earlier, I’ve worm it a lot on super soaker days rowing the drift boat and running various open boats from CA to Alaska in all kinds of crazy weather.
I even wore the entire Stryker suit the last time I went snow boarding and ended up with a dry backside and knees!
While the gear isn’t breathable, the micro-fleece interior seems to keep sweat away from your skin. I’ve never taken off the gear on a warmer day and found myself to be damp on the inside — like I have done 1,000 times with rubber gear.
There’s a lot of adjustability too — from inside straps to loosen or tighten the bibs around your waist to the hood, which features an adjustable strap on the top and internal cords for ratcheting it down around your face. It all adds up to a really comfortable rig that I wear almost daily on the water. I still occasionally bust out my Gore-Tex now and then but find myself reaching for the STORMR gear more days than not. And I don’t use my PVC rubber stuff at all anymore.
I love new technology — especially when it works!
Where to Buy
Here’s a quick look at the bibs too…
It is rare that I get super fired up about a new rod company these days. After all, there are a bunch of manufacturers producing a mind-boggling number of quality sticks.
Aside from cosmetics and subtle tweaks, it’s hard to keep track. Blindfolded, I’d be hard pressed to tell one manufacturer’s offering from another. Anymore, it kinda comes down to the classic ol’ Ford vs. Chevy argument — pick one of the top end brands and you are going to be fine.
That all changed for me, however, when I was introduced to the amazing lineup from relative newcomer Douglas Outdoors. Based along the shores of the Salmon River in New York, they’ve been in the fly market for awhile but the new conventional offerings blew my mind.
Designed by veteran salmon and steelhead guide, bass pro and globetrotting angler, Fred V. Contaoi, the X-Matrix series are the lightest, most sensitive rods I have ever fished with. Period.
Those properties come from the fact that the rods are constructed from super high modulus graphite. Typically, the problem with high end graphite is that it is very brittle. It’s awesome to fish with but rods tend to break easily.
The real magic to these beautiful instruments that Contaoi has crafted for Douglas is that they are built with a proprietary, space age resin that allows them to remain light and vibrant while being also very durable. While there are no rods that are “unbreakable,” these babies are amazingly tough.
This sweet combination of strength and sensitivity sets these sticks apart from all others on the market. The first time I tied one, it was almost disconcertingly light. Used to having much more weight in my hand, it took a little while to get accustomed to the feel. Once I got used to how feather light the X-Matrix was I knew there’d be no going back. I was, pun intended, “hooked!”
That first day, I caught a steelhead that I feel I wouldn’t have hooked up with any other rod. It’s hard to describe but I swear I felt the fish breathe on my bait before he ever picked it up. That, of course, got me thinking about all the other uses for such a light and sensitive tool!
Contaoi has personally designed each rod from the ground up and has overseen the production in the factory, constantly making sure each action is perfect and that the guide placement and handle balance are exact. That’s what also attracted me to Douglas: I can see the heart and soul that went into these rods. The blood, sweat and tears have been considerable on Contaoi’s part, but the end product is amazing.
He’s got rods for everything, too: a very thorough bass section and an impressive array of technique specific salmon and steelhead sticks. But that’s just the beginning…there are X-Matrix rods that will cover species from trout to sturgeon and beyond.
Douglas’ X-Matrix rods are not inexpensive, ranging in the $300 range (but oh so worth it!). But if you are like me, buying a quiver full of rods in that price range isn’t happening anytime soon. Luckily, Contaoi has also designed a lineup of rods for the company that are aimed at the more budget minded angler.
The LRS (Lake, River, Sea) series has a bunch of really cool multi species rods that have great feel and lack of weight. I’m very impressed with these as well. Somehow Contaoi and Douglas figured out how to make a really high end rod without the accompanying price tag.
What’s cool too is there are many models in the lineup that could serve as multi-species sticks. My current favorite, which I used for most of my salmon season on the Trinity River is the LRS C835M (which I know for sure they sell at Redwood Marine in Eureka).
Its’s an 8-foot, 3-inch casting rod rated for 14- to 25-pound line. It made an awesome plug stick for salmon and would be a hot one for trolling for stripers as well. The slow tip and solid backbone also make it perfect for sturgeon fishing as well as drifting bait for halibut. Pretty sweet, especially when you consider they run about $168 if I remember correctly.
Well, anyway, you get the point. I’m impressed as heck with Douglas. Check em out for yourself on the web at: www.douglasoutdoors.com.
If you’re like most anglers, tungsten was probably just a faint blip on the outer edge of your radar screen until fairly recently. Sure, Jeopardy fans and techno geeks probably knew that tungsten is used to make filaments for electric lamps and vacuum tubes — and waterfowlers discovered it to be an alternative to lead and steel in shotgun shells several years back. Anglers have been late to the party but we are catching on quickly!
As it turns out, tungsten is really useful!
Before we get too far along here, let’s take a look at exactly what this mystery substance is. Simply put, tungsten is a hard metal that has a high tensile strength. It’s extremely dense for its size — more so than even lead — and is quite resistant to rust and oxidation. It can be forged, extruded and spun into many different forms such as foil, powder, rod, mesh and wire, which makes it highly versatile. So multipurpose is tungsten, in fact, that it is being hailed by some as “the new lead.”
At roughly 20 times the price of lead, tungsten’s largest drawback is cost. That aside, however, there are many attributes that make it extremely attractive to anglers.
Quite possibly tungsten’s greatest quality is the fact that it is non-toxic. We’ve been using lead sinkers for so long now that nobody really thinks twice about it, but the simple fact is lead is extremely poisonous to humans and can be lethal to water birds and other critters. To that end, there’s a large movement towards getting lead out of our lakes and streams. Great Britain banned the use of all lead sinkers in 1987 and since 1997, it’s been illegal to use sinkers and jigs weighing less than 50 grams in Canadian national parks and national wildlife areas.
On the home front, New Hampshire became the first New England state to outlaw lead weights in fishing tackle in 2001 and Maine has since banned the sale of lead sinkers weighing a half-ounce or less. In May of 2004, New York State followed suit. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently discussing the ban of lead sinkers and jigs on National Wildlife Refuges where birds such as loons and trumpeter swans breed.
Weights and lures made from tungsten are non-toxic, which is a good thing for the environment — and anglers who handle them. From a lure manufacturer’s standpoint, tungsten products are a lot safer than lead to produce.
Tungsten is also attractive because it is more dense than lead. That means anglers can use smaller weights to get down. Bass pro and past Bassmaster Classic Champion, Skeet Reese, of Auburn, CA, is a big fan.
“Tungsten weights are cool because they are much more compact than lead,” he says. “When practicing a technique like flippin’, the smaller sinker will more easily penetrate the cover and get you where you need to be. You also get a quicker fall rate when your offering hits the water. From a cosmetic standpoint, I like that I can use a tungsten sinker that is a lot smaller than a lead sinker of the same weight. A smaller sinker gives you a more natural presentation.”
Tungsten is also starting to replace lead in lure body design. Terminator has a tungsten spinnerbait which has a small body profile without compromising the lure’s weight. Lucky Craft has puts tungsten bearings into some of its rattling plugs and several other lure manufacturers have plans for tungsten as well.
Sensitivity and Sound
Reese says that one of the largest advantages of using tungsten weights is that they are much more sensitive than lead.
“Tungsten sinkers are hard and that helps to transmit a lot more of the action through the line,” he says. “Tungsten really allows you to feel what your doing down there. And when you’re drop-shotting, shakin’, Carolina rigging or fishing a Texas-rigged worm, these sinkers will create a lot of noise when they tick the rocks.”
While bass fishing is a hotbed of tungsten use now, there are many other arenas in the world of fishing where it’s being employed. Tungsten beadheads have become quite popular for tying natural-looking nymphs that need to get down deep and its even found its way into fly lines.
“All of our sinking lines are made with tungsten now,” says Simon Gawesworth of Rio Fly Lines. “We use the powdered form in the lines. Being more dense than lead, we can make a thinner diameter line that sinks quicker with it. Steelhead fishermen, in particular, have really taken to the stuff. Tungsten is also environmentally friendly and safe to produce at our factory.”