I have worked out the principal criteria by which I judge an item or items of fishing clothing, and it’s pretty simple really - if said item doesn’t annoy me in any way then chances are I really like it. For sure I need whatever bit of clothing it is to work for me and my fishing in the way that it is intended, but beyond that I need to see if there’s something about it that annoys me via some proper fishing time with it - and it’s interesting how some things can look so good on paper and indeed via initial impressions, but when you spend time fishing with or in them you can often find a few things that really annoy you about the item of clothing…………..
I can think of any number of times this has happened to me, indeed later last year I got hold of a waterproof top to try out - and it looked pretty damn good for the price especially. Within about two minutes of wading out into an Irish surf I discovered one major flaw with this top though, and then later on that day when it started peeing with rain (only occasionally in Kerry I might add!?) I discovered another really annoying flaw. It had become very obvious very quickly that this waterproof top had been designed around a table and had not been tested out in the real world. The top annoyed me and I didn’t like it.
So we’ve got this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket to talk about here (I’ve got the Charcoal/Black one as per the pix here, there is also a Bronze/Black colour available). Hodgman is a US brand of fly fishing clothing, waders and wading boots especially, and more recently their gear has been introduced to the UK market by Pure Fishing (Google this jacket for example, there are plenty of UK stockists). It is not remotely budget gear and I have been trying out some of their waders and wading boots for a while now (more to come), plus I have had their Aesis Shell Jacket for my fishing for a few months now. I have used it in all manner of conditions for my own lure fishing and I have tried and tried to find something about this item of clothing that annoys me - but I can’t. Damn this is one hell of a waterproof jacket, and whilst it is of course designed for the fly fishing world, to me it’s about as good a wading style jacket as I have ever (lure) fished in.
Here’s what Hodgman says about this jacket: “Forget the weather, focus on the fishing with the Hodgman® Aesis Shell Jacket thanks to its 3-layer waterproof and windproof V-TecH™ breathable fabric. We designed the Aesis Shell Jacket with a double water-shedding rain fly on the front zipper and fully taped seams, so even in the worst torrential downpour Mother Nature can throw your way you’ll be sure to stay dry. The integrated wire brim hood incorporates a 3-way adjustment to seal out rain from entering where the jacket meets your face while maintaining your peripheral vision. Water tight cinch cuffs also eliminate water from running down your sleeve when casting or while releasing a fish. We know you want to focus on catching your next fish so our ROM™ (Range of Motion) fit incorporates a gusset under the arm and articulated sleeves to eliminate binding along your shoulders when casting. Large low profile chest pockets are perfect for storing fly boxes or gear, and numerous interior and exterior pockets are designed to customize the way you use the jacket. A removable magnetic patch on the chest is perfect for quick fly or hook storage when changing out presentations for your next cast. Both front and rear D-rings allow for accessory attachment.”
For a long time now my go-to waterproof jacket for fishing has been the outstanding Vision Kust (review here), a minimalist style of wading jacket that I liked from the off and then nothing about it that has annoyed me in any way over a long period of time. This equally lightweight and incredibly easy to wear Hodgman Aesis jacket that is very much from the fly fishing world has pockets on the front, because if there is one thing that most fly anglers seem to do it’s stuff every available pocket full of fly boxes and leader material - I don’t though, so whilst some front pockets may well be really useful to lots of you here, I must admit that I haven’t yet put anything in them. They don’t remotely bother or annoy me though and I am sure that one day I will end up actually putting something in them. The pockets are there if you need them I guess.
I was advised to go one size up with this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket, so whilst I tend to take an XL in most things, I have this Hodgman jacket in an XXL. It’s the perfect fit for me, especially when I take into account the different layers I may or may not wear underneath depending on the weather, and very, very importantly for me and my fishing which of course calls for repeated casting - the arms on this Hodgman jacket are the perfect length. If there is one thing that will annoy me about a waterproof top it’s if the arms keep “pulling” or “catching” on me when I cast, indeed the perfect arm length was one thing that made me very happy very quickly about that outstanding Vision Kust jacket.
Same here with the Hodgman one - the arms are the perfect length and don’t catch at all when I am casting, and the way of securing the sleeves is about as good as I have come across. They will keep out a lot of rain before a bit of water eventually creeps in, you can do them up nice and tight if needs be (wear sweatbands on your wrists to stop any water getting down your sleeves, secure the jacket sleeves over them, top tip!), and I am not remotely criticising a bit of water eventually getting inside with how lure fishing keeps putting your sleeves up to the rain, because I have never come across a waterproof jacket yet that keeps all rain out when it’s really peeing down for a long period of time. Hodgman do their sleeves about as good as it gets for me.
Another thing I look for in a waterproof top that can often end up bugging the hell out of me is the hood. I don’t particularly like wearing hoods but of course when it’s peeing down it kinda makes sense to do so! I would suggest that somebody at Hodgman HQ has actually gone from design to creation to properly testing the hood on this Aesis Shell Jacket, because this one works. It should go without saying that a waterproof jacket at this price is actually properly waterproof and easy to move around in - which it is - but it’s the way a hood sits and fits that seems to be so easy to get wrong. Not here though. I put this hood up when I need it, it doesn’t bloody blow off my head when there’s a bit of breeze about, it doesn’t annoy me when I am fishing, and with a baseball cap on and the hood done up it’s as good a hood design as I can remember using for stopping rain and spray getting in and down your front.
Basically this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket is a seriously class bit of kit. Designed primarily for fly fishing it may well be, but then so is a lot of the gear that we use and wear - waders and wading boots ring any bells? One thing that could have let this Hodgman jacket down would be a dodgy front zip, but nope, this one’s got a proper zip that can’t rust up and fail on you with saltwater use. Nothing about this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket annoys me at all and I have had enough time for any niggles to have come to light. Outfriggingstanding. You all have a good weekend.