Joe Drake’s 2019 Gear and Gift Guide

This year, I have made a point to try out a couple new things in the fly-fishing world: a couple new techniques, a couple new books, a couple new places, and most importantly, a bit of new kit. Hear are some items I’d recommend.

Unfortunately, part of my new kit was a direct result of breaking my old five-weight. I actually really liked the previous generation Orvis Clearwater series (the one with the green blank). Well, I had managed to get almost seven years out of it before I managed to break the tip. If you know how clumsy I normally am, you know that is a testament to how robust those rods are.


So, after that long, I picked up the new generation Clearwater nine-foot five-weight. And, although skeptical at first, I have to admit, it is also going to be a long-time favorite.

For those out there who are thinking of switching out, or if you can pick between the two rod models, in my opinion, the newer generation casts a bit faster (i.e., is a tad stiffer) than the older generations. But, it is accurate and feels good in the hand. For those wishing to get into fly fishing, or just expand their arsenal, the outfit is a good choice and a great gift for someone, too.

However, I am a bit disappointed by Orvis, as they haven’t introduced a new generation packable rod. As such I had to look elsewhere when I was in a pinch. I ended up grabbing a Fenwick World Class Fly Rod  in a five-weight-and-six-piece configuration for a trip since it was relatively inexpensive.

I wasn’t looking to be impressed, just to be able to cast a fly when I got to my destination. But, considering the price point of this rod right now, I probably will buy another for when I break this one! Because of all the connections, the five-weight feels more like a six-weight or is maybe just a little chunky. But, it does pretty dang good in the field. And, the six sections mean it fits in a carry-on with no issue at all.



At the bench, I have been trying to spread out from my normal wets and foam bugs. So, I picked up some heads and tried to tie some big ol’ streamers. Specifically I have been trying after stripers and blues, and I tried to tie some squid patterns (with these heads) and using some weighted heads, too, to get the flies down. The flies I tied helped me get on my first striper on the fly, FYI.

I have been reading the Gary Borger fly fishing book series, and I can’t recommend the first book enough: Fly Fishing The Film.

Borger’s take on fly fishing comes from a well of experience. And, even though it might seem like a simple notion, he breaks it down into its most basic components and then down to the atomic level, building it back up to really help us air-breathers understand what a fly is doing in the film and how it looks to a fish.

I have been practicing some of his strategies when I have gone out, and it has definitely helped turn around some of those really slow days.

I love backpacks. I don’t know why. Maybe, it’s because I am a gear head and need a place to stick all my crap. Maybe, it’s the subconscious notion of adventure a technical bag brings with it. Maybe, well, maybe I am just a sucker for good gear.

So, I picked up a Vedavoo Made in the USA (Leominster, MA, actually) Spinner Day Bag. I have used it for half a year now. It carried everything I needed through airports and through the Scottish Highlands and while giving a conference talk (and, stealing away for fishing during said conference). It fit everything I needed, and had for a rod tube and a tallboy.

I put it through several rounds of security and many miles of rainy and thorny vegetation. It still looks and works like I picked it up two days ago. Might I also say that I love Vedavoo’s net holder and their pack/pinch pouches, too.

I don’t just fly fish. I surf cast and spin fish, too. I just like to fish. And, by far, my two favorite and best producing lures, no matter the freshwater species, is some variant on what I call a plow-jockey (a pre-rigged worm) and the always lovely Rapala. For both, just size up or down depending on the species.

For the worm, it works for both panfish to bass (see here and here).  And, there are so many variants of the Rapala, I will leave you with the one I have been using to drudge up some smallies and browns: a one-inch sinking brookie imitation. Finesse works.

Being a gear head, I really like a good pocket knife. I know not everyone thinks it’s worth having in your pocket, but sometimes you just need a tool to cut some rope, line, or whatever. I have found that, due to my clumsiness, I also need a knife that can be replaced when it slowly waves to me as it drifts down the water column while I float down a river in a canoe.

Enter the Kershaw Chill. I have been using this knife for several years now. Well, the current one, for about eight months. I have nothing to complain about it. The blade stays sharp, and it fits in a pocket easily.


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4 thoughts on “Joe Drake’s 2019 Gear and Gift Guide

  1. I think that Orvis does have travel rods now for sale right? I swear that I saw some six piece rods for sale on recently.

    1. Awesome! Last time I had checked, they hadn’t released the pack rod version of the new generation clearwater! Thanks for keeping me up to date! At the time I purchased the Fenwick travel rod, they definitely didn’t have the model available yet.

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