Waders of the year 2015 - Vision Ikon. I’ve not had a great year with various pairs of breathable waders, but these Vision Ikons keep on going (review here). They were my waders of the year last year and I haven’t used a pair of breathable waders since that has impressed me more than these ones. I did slip and put a small hole in the knee of mine, but that’s my fault entirely and it was a simple patch-up job with Aquasure. After my trials and tribulations with my (not bloody cheap and pretty crap really) Simms G3 waders, I am left wondering if a lot more money is buying us any extra performance in saltwater especially? Some thoughts about this are here.
Spinning reel of the year 2015 - Stumped to be honest. The Daiwa Caldia 3000-A Mag Sealed spinning reel that I have used so much this year (review here) is just the most fantastic bit of kit, and I love lure fishing with it. I really like how you get a spare spool with it, the price is great, and it’s a lot of reel for the money - but, and it niggles me, I had to send the reel back to Daiwa UK to be mended because it eventually went all rough feeling and I couldn’t get around this by simply oiling up the bearings that I could get at. I hold my hands up and admit that it could be my fault for not having checked and re-oiled the roller bearing, but on the other hand I don’t think it should have failed on me in a relatively short space of time. Wonderful reel though. Was I just unlucky?
Not cheap braid of the year 2015 - Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power Tracer 8-strand (review here). No change from last year. I have had the same spool of this braid in the PE#1.2 (20.8lb average breaking strain) for so long now that I can nearly empty a spinning reel when I catch something like the Patchinko just right - as in I’ve cut back that many frays, tied multiple leaders etc. that over time I have lost a fair bit of line, but still I can run my fingers along this braid and it feels close to brand new. I don’t know what Varivas have done to the coating on the braid, but it’s some pretty special stuff. Hell, I have even swapped this particular spool of Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power Tracer 8-strand between different spinning reels and it just keeps on going - ok, so it’s not cheap, but when you get that long from one spool of line it makes a lot of sense to me. Money no object and I will go for the high-end Varivas braids until the day I come across something that I think is better - which hasn’t happened yet.
Hard lure of the year 2015 - Like many of you I am sure, I have a number of different hard lures that I tend to use the most, but I am struggling to think of either a new or at least “new to me” hard lure from this year that really stands out. Let’s be honest and say that most of the ways in which we might use hard lures are covered these days by some mighty fine lures, and whilst variations on these lures continue to come out and might offer something subtly different, have any of you come across a hard lure recently that has really make you think wow, this really is doing something very different to what I already have? If you have by the way, please tell me about it!! Not remotely a criticism, rather I see it as encouraging that we can get our hands on more and more great lure fishing gear these days. It’s still mainly IMA, DUO, MegaBass, Daiwa, Tackle House, Duel etc. lures that I find myself turning to the most, with IMA still being my favourite hard lure brand.
Worst Buy 2015 no.2 - Mustad Fastach lure clips. Check here. I took a punt and it didn’t work out. Losing one of my most favourite bass lures in the world hardly gets me all warm and fuzzy about a new lure clip. I tried them and they failed on me. One beloved cotton candy Skimmer down and it still niggles me.
Worst Buy 2015 no.3 - Gliss line. OK, so I didn’t buy it because somebody at the Swords fishing show in Ireland very kindly gave it to me - but there’s no getting away from how rubbish this new Gliss line is for saltwater fishing. How can a new line like this go to market when it has so obviously not been rigorously tested in saltwater? I was so excited about using Gliss, but sadly it’s rubbish. Braid is where it’s at for me and I wonder if anything else is ever going to come along and replace it?
Best fluorocarbon leader 2015 - YGK Nitlon DFC. Boring I know, but it’s the same YGK Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon as per the last couple of years I think. Apart from what must have been one dodgy spool of the 16lb that for some reason kept on snapping when I tied a leader knot (I threw it away), this YGK Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon has continued to work perfectly for me. I use the 16lb breaking strain the most, but I tend to drop down to the 12lb in clearer or brighter conditions, and then the 20lb might come out when it’s pounding. I like the price, I like the 100m spools, and I just like this fluorocarbon. For all the different leader materials I have tried, I keep on coming back to this one.
Best Accessory 2015 no.4 - Breakaway Mini Link lure clip. Simple, brilliant, so easy to use, and so far I haven’t found any kind of soft or hard lure I might use that won’t fit onto these little lure clips. I did a blog post about them recently, check here.
Best Accessory 2015 no.5 - Seaspin Gamu SW single lure hooks, in sizes 1 and 1/0. More to come on this, but these are the specialist single hooks for lure fishing that have floated my boat the most so far.
Far too expensive but very good 2015 - Van Staal titanium pliers. Whilst I hated fishing with their VSB spinning reels and got rid of the two I owned, these Van Staal titanium pliers that I swapped for one of those reels are just awesome. It’s a lot of dosh to spend on a pair of pliers, but because I did an exchange on them for a reel (that I hated), it felt much better in my head. I have had them for a long time now and they are just as easy to use as the first day I picked them up, and whilst I don’t cut wire with the cutters hence they should not be wearing down of course, they are in fact as effective at cutting thin 8-strand braids as they were on day one. I did change the clips from the pliers to their lanyard because those bits were seizing up - I have used some big, tropical fishing sized Varivas split rings I happened to have - but the pliers themselves are as good as new, and the leather sheath is just fine as well.
The big one - Album of the Year 2015 - Music is as much of an obsession for me as fishing, and whilst I am eagerly waiting for a few of my absolute favourite metal bands to release new albums next year, there has of course been some mighty fine metal about this year. I can’t choose between my three best albums of the year so I’ll list them all. The mighty Enslaved from Norway keep on releasing the most immense collections of songs, indeed their track above is probably my standout song of 2015, and their latest album “In Times” is a progressive metal trip. I keep thinking I’ve “got it”, but then I listen to it again and I keep finding stuff in there that creeps into my head.
The US band Deafheaven have somehow gone and released a new album that manages to live up to their 2013 release “Sunbather”, and 2015’s “New Bermuda” is just immense - progressive black metal? Call it what you will, but this is music that does it for me in a serious way.
And then we come to the Swedish band Tribulation with their new album “The Children of the Night”. Crumbs. I got into a bit of Ghost this year, and I have seen Tribulation referred to as Ghost but with a set of balls. I like that. Tribulation are catchy as hell, as heavy as you like, and their infectious black metal groove keeps on coming at you. Roll on 2016 and the release of Rotting Christ’s new album in February (new track here, and yes, I am almost crying with emotion about it). Daft name for a band, but holy cow do I love ‘em. You all have a good weekend and may the weather do some relenting wherever you are.