Lately, I’ve been flipping through the pages of some recent fly fishing catalogs and have been shocked by the prices. $800 for a rod? $500 for waders? $750 for a reel? I was disgusted by what companies were charging these days for gear that is slightly better than (or in some cases worse than) their far cheaper predecessors. In my early days of fly fishing, a high-end Orvis rod would set you back $350 and you could get an amazing Hardy reel for $100. Lines didn’t cost $120. They were more like $30 and cast just as well as the ones today. I realize there are mitigating circumstances like inflation, increased production costs, etc., but you can’t tell me an $800 rod casts $500 “better” than a $300 rod.
I have some Sage rods that I paid less than $400 for that I think are better than rods that cost double that today. In fact, I sometimes go on eBay to find retro gear that I think is better than what’s available in today’s catalogs. Not because it’s cheaper–I just think it’s actually better.
Still, there are some things worth paying more for. One example is the Regal Vise. For years, I wanted one, but thought they were too pricey (plus I couldn’t really afford one). But when I finally could, I treated myself to a Regal Medallion–probably one of the most iconic vises in the world. And it’s been one of the best investments I’ve ever made in fly fishing gear. I’ve thrown away $500 waders that leaked after a year, but because of its fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, and smart engineering, this vise will certainly outlive me and I’ll likely be handing it down to my grandchildren. And when you look at how they’re actually made, the price actually seems more than reasonable (especially when so much of it is done by hand):
The point I’m trying to make is that there’s a perception out there (mostly due to marketing) that the more you spend on your gear, the better angler you’ll be. I vaguely recall a story where someone gave legendary fly fisherman Lefty Kreh what most would consider a piece of junk, cheap fly rod and reel. He picked it up, double hauled it, and immediately cast the line into the backing in a perfect loop. Then, he handed it back and said, “here, take this piece of s**t out of my hands.”