William Joseph Confluence Chest Pack
Likes – A lot of packs regurgitate design without taking the chance to make something better, so I commend the attempt to included innovative features. Their Zip-No Closure System was the number one reason I selected it (If you aren’t familiar a conventional zipper is replaced by a strong magnet). In theory it’s a nice feature, but I struggled with it streamside (more on that in the dislikes). It comes with some other very nice built in features like a Tippet Control System, two integrated retractors and a gink holder on the inside pouch. The second reason I considered this pack was its size. I needed something to carry more gear than my FishPond Arroyo and the Confluence delivers at 2000Ci. The two side compartments compliment the large front pocket along with several enclosures on the back carries everything I need for an extended outing. The pack is well constructed and no doubt will hold up to years of abuse. It distributes weight evenly making it a very comfortable product.
Dislikes – The features which impressed day one disappointed most every day after, starting with the closure system. Nice concept, but the magnets struggled to close or align when nearing capacity. I started under packing the compartment or moved fly boxes to the less convenient back storage to remedy the issue. The main pouch includes a foam fly holder though I rarely use it. The Velcro seldom stayed attached to the foam and flies left on it were smashed against fly boxes. The built in retractors are poorly placed, located above the magnetic closure. While they do provide straps to hold the attached nippers or hemostat in place, they got in the way of the magnet or trapped inside the main compartment. A smaller pocket contains the Tippet Control System. I found the system impeded the movement of my spools causing more headaches on the water. When I stopped using it I was left with an awkward little pocket relegated to holding my camera. 50% of the storage is in the back which wouldn’t be a concern if it were easy to get at. The pack has two snaps located under each armpit. Perhaps it’s a lack of upper body flexibility, but I find it difficult to get it on and off making it cumbersome to get to the gear in the back. As I start subtracting inconvenient storage I realized I could carry about the same amount in my smaller bags.
I notice some debate among those who do gear reviews on the web. Some write influenced by sponsors or omit reviews of disliked products and others take a balanced approach. When I buy a product I read a variety, but I focus on what doesn’t work. It could get 98% favorable reviews and my eyes instantly go to the 2%. While this pack doesn’t work for me there are plenty users/reviews which speak highly of it. Again, I applaud the areas of innovation unfortunately it just fell short of expectation.
Simms Headwaters Sling Pack (Old Model)
I’m beginning to realize I’m fishing a lot of “last year’s model.” I’ve got Z-Axis which made way for the One, a Lamson Litespeed which in 2 years is now three models old and now my Simms Headwater Sling Pack is completely overhauled for 2014. If you read my blog “Buying Gear on Ebay” you know I’m a fan of the values a discontinued line brings. This pack is no different. Fly shops are marking down this pack by $20/$30 to make way for the new version (Sierra Trading Post for $44.95). So while this review will be obsolete by the year’s end it may help the thrifty angler get a great deal on a new pack. Here are my thoughts on the “old” Simms Headwater Sling Pack.
Likes: My favorite aspect of this bag? Simplicity. Sure I’m a sucker for clip-ons, pockets, pouches and specialized compartments, but then I feel the need to fill them with gear I don’t need. In some cases more is better and I’ve got packs to fulfil specific roles based on species or the amount of time I’ll be on the water. Due to the compartment size this bag is dedicated to my warm water pursuit. It has two pouches in the front, one for a spool of 12lb fluorocarbon and the other for my camera. The main compartment is cavernous to say the least and provides ample space for large streamer boxes. This pack distributes weight well and converts to a waist pack. I like this feature for the hike back after a long day. Once you’ve figured out how to adjust the sling pack it stays put and the minimalist design and positioning eliminates line tangle.
Dislikes: This was my first sling pack so I’ll admit it took a couple tries to figure out how to wear and adjust it. Perhaps it’s not a critique as much as operator error, but it wasn't intuitive. I recalled a humorous video MidCurrent and Orvis made about how to correctly wear their sling pack (seen HERE, and no I didn’t try to put the strap between my legs) so I know I’m not alone. It does take a bit effort to make it comfortable and then more adjustments to switch it from sling to waist, unless your dimensions are perfectly square. The pad on the neck strap is also a little small/narrow so it needs to be fine-tuned to avoid discomfort. The pockets in this pack are deep which is great for larger items, but you’ll be elbow deep trying to fish out something small like an indicator. It also comes with Velcro patches I assume to customize storage, but I never really figured out how to situate them so I gave up and just removed them completely.
Each pack I own serves a specific purpose and while I wouldn’t use this as a trout pack, it is ideal for me as a warm water bag. It handles a couple big fly boxes and all the gear I need to chase bass, pike, etc. Often the pack is just a mode of transportation and is at times left on the bank when fishing lakes or on the deck when fishing from a boat. Most of my bags are set up with the need to “just add flies” or jockey a handful of items around, but this bag is simple. It’s set up and ready to roll with a moment’s notice. I’ll admit the new bag looks cooler and probably solved some of the challenges with this pack, but in the change may have taken away some of the features that make this a great bass bag. So if you are looking for a deal on a new pack and are like minded in purpose, I’d recommend checking out this old version of Simms Headwater Sling Pack.
Fishpond Arroyo Chest Pack
Fishpond Arroyo Chest Pack
Like my wife with purses I’ve got a gear bag for every occasion. They are even specific to length of trip and species. Although you wouldn’t know it at the end of a day of fishing, I keep them well organized to maximize efficiency on the water. Each bag is fully equipped with the essentials so when it’s called into action I only need to add flies, license and water. They range from a lanyard to a full vest. The Fishpond Arroyo is my 2-6 hour trout pack making it my most used. Below are my thoughts.
Specs (from Fishpond):
Likes: Fishpond has a very distinct look throughout its product line making it one of the most recognizable on the water. While some of their designs are a little too much for me, the “overcast” color scheme of this pack really suites my eye. Not to mention it has a great shape. I have a broad chest and I was concerned the small size would look disproportioned. To borrow a phrase from Tommy Boy “fat guy in a little coat.” But with its design and materials I’m pleased with the look and fit. One of the greatest features is its ability to convert from a chest pack to hip/fanny pack with ease. Fishpond thought through the details providing an extra slot to store the neck piece when not in use. So if I decide to make the switch streamside I don’t need to worry about where to put the extra strap. Either way it is extremely comfortable. 90% of the time I wear it as a chest pack but when hiking out on especially on hot days I’ll drop it to my waist. I’ve had this pack for three years and as mentioned it is my most used bag. Besides some well-earned stains, it has held up extremely well. For its size it has plenty of storage options. The main cavity has three compartments with the one closest to the chest divided into two. In one of these pockets is a key ring. There is also a mesh zipper pouch which use to store my indicators so they stay in one place. The secondary compartment is divided as well with a fold down flap complete with a foam “fly bench” that holds a 90 degree angle for easy access. On the outside are several connection points for accessories. I’ve got it loaded with tippet dispenser, nippers and hemostat and still have room for more.
Dislikes: Speaking of its size Fishpond describes the pack as “when a single fly box isn't enough, but more than two is just too much” and I agree. The trouble is I don’t have the discipline to carry only two boxes. One of the tradeoffs to diminutive stature is volume so you may need to get creative to store all your flies. I designate this as a trout bag because if I needed to carry big bass or pike patterns I’d be lucky to get one box in there. Fortunately I’ve fallen for the Orvis Super Slim Fly Box and I can carry 4 of them (over 700 flies) comfortably. If you are going to be out long enough to warrant water or a snack you better consider a different pack. With the fold down fly bench in the front compartment you could theoretically carry more flies but there is a sacrifice. I found if I put anything else in the same pocket I knock them off the foam. There is an additional pouch in the same space, but it won’t hold much. If you are going to use the bench, plan on losing half the compartment for storage or use it for something you won’t be taking out often. The compartments nearest to the chest are problematic as well. The overhang of material & zipper make the two pockets difficult to access especially when the bag is packed full. You need to pull back the flap and fight the deep compressed pocket. My work around is to put in items I don’t need to access frequently like my keys, phone, license and extra leader material. One other feature I would have liked to see in this pack is a water proof compartment. No such luck.
Overall this is a great pack, but it’s taken a while to figure out my system. I needed to understand its limitations and adapt to it. Take the bag for face value and for me its sweet spot is a 2-6 hour trout pack. It carries the flies and tools I need, but not much else. Good thing - if I had more space I’d feel the need to fill it!
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