Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Buying Great American Made Gear at a Good Price

Lately I've put a premium on buying fly fishing gear that is made in the USA.  For me, it's not necessarily a patriotic gesture, but rather, a feeling that the quality is superior.  Of course, the price for American made fly fishing gear is often not worth the perceived difference in quality. It all started a few years ago when I purchased my 2nd set of waders in less than two years only to have them leak on my first trip.
Having put up with wet waders for two years I decided it was time to put some money in a good pair of waders.  Also, dealing with the warranty on a foreign made set of waders was extremely time consuming.  Thus, I spent the dough on a pair of Simms Waders and I can honestly say it's been worth the price.  I feel confident in opining that Simms waders are worth the extra cost.
My next goal was to find a good Made in the USA fly reel.  I ended up purchasing a Lamson-Waterworks reel.  I have to admit, I'm not quite sold on whether or not buying a Made in the USA reel is worth the extra cost, primarily because trout fishing very rarely requires a high quality reel.  With that in mind, my first Made in the USA reel was for an 8 wt. with the idea that I would be using it for salmon fishing in Alaska.  Bottom line for me:  I don't think it's worth the money to buy an expensive reel just for trout fishing.
Next, I was in the market for a Made in the USA fly rod.   I purchased a Winston Boron 9 wt. and tried it out on the Little Red River.  I had high hopes for this rod, but it was an extreme disappointment.  I've always heard good things about Winston, but this rod was so bad that I returned it.  Thankfully, I was provided a full refund.  I ended up buying a G. Loomis 8 weight, and it is simply amazing. I can't wait to use it for Salmon in Alaska this summer.
During this whole process I learned a valuable lesson in purchasing American made fly rods and reels: you can get a good deal if you understand the life cycle.  A company will make a certain model for a few years, and then discontinue that model.  Generally, it's almost impossible to get a good deal on a Made in the USA fly rod or reel, but the minute they discontinue the model, it immediately starts selling for 30-50% off.  This is a prime opportunity to pick up a brand new Made in the USA rod/reel at a great price.  In addition to the price advantage, you have years of feedback on the rod or reel to determine if it's of excellent quality.  For example, I picked up a Sage Z-Axis at a great price as soon as Sage introduced the One to replace the Z-Axis.  By all accounts, and by my own account, the Z-Axis is an outstanding fly rod.  Buying such a rod for 30-50% off the regular price makes it relatively affordable.  So if you're in the market for a great Made in the USA fly rod/reel, look for models that have recently been discontinued, do your research, use one if possible, and find the best deal online or at your local store.