The adage goes something to the tune of “The quality of the fishing improves exponentially to the distance travelled away from civilisation”; perhaps this is just a personal mantra. The snag with this is that it normally entails a nail-biting flight in a small island-hopper or a bumpy ride across unchartered waters with a boat not designed to be a people-mover.
Applied to any of these modes of transport is excruciatingly strict baggage weight restrictions and when you are Fly Fishing addicts, Gear Junkies and a Media Crew all rolled into one, you prepare yourself well in advance for a series of tears, pleading and hair-pulling directed at officials that do not speak your language.
Our trip to Alphonse Island was no different; getting to the mainland of Mahe, Seychelles, was an absolute breeze, but when the final trip brief came in and stated that on the short flight across each passenger would be limited to 15kg of luggage my heart skipped a beat. I already envisioned that purchasing copious amounts of Gaffer Tape to strap various paraphernalia under my clothing to add significantly to the budget.
I set the scene as an introduction to the review because in a moment of panic minutes before the flight I squeezed more than 20 kg of camera equipment into the 2015 Fishpond Westwater Roll Top Backpack and stupidly my monopod with its sharp foot was part of this. The result was that I managed to damage the one seam on the base of the pack before we even got to our destination. With a quick DYI job applying some Marine-Silicone the Backpack was good as new, just wanted to state this upfront.
A REVIEW IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE CONDITIONS YOU TEST IT IN
Over two weeks of exploring the fishery offered by Alphonse Fishing Co. we fished ourselves just short of failure on the flats, coral fingers and coral high-spots of Alphonse Island and St. François. Every second spent fishing I had the 2015 Fishpond Westwater Roll Top Backpack and Headgate Tippet Holder on my person and, calculated, this gave me 77 hours of actual fishing time to test and review both of these.
Review conditions were:
- Blistering heat, sun and humidity
- Saltwater that coated us from dawn-till-dusk
- Howling winds averaging 18 knots
- Wading for miles over the flats in search of the next PB
Note: True to our reviews, I will only be commenting on and reviewing features of each item that I actually experienced or noticed, not on what is simply listed on the Fishpond website.
THE 2015 FISHPOND WESTWATER ROLL TOP BACKPACK
Marketed as a fully-submersible roll top backpack, it proved to be the answer to my needs for the long days on the flats. I always have a heavy backpack with me due to the camera and video equipment we require when on location and in my backpack each day was the following:
- Rain jacket
- Zoom H4n Sound Recorder, External Microphone and Lapel Mic
- 24-70mm f2.8 Lens & 11 – 22mm f3.5-5.6 Lens
- Various Lens Filters
- Canon 7D Mark II DSLR with 70 – 200mm f4.0 lens
- Manfrotto carbon fiber monopod with video-head
- Lens wipes and Tissue paper
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder with several spools of tippet
- Two large spools of 80lbs and 130lbs leader material
- Two fly-boxes
From this you should deduce that being 100% waterproof was a necessity – no room for error.
Though not overly heavy, more than what most would carry for a day on the flats but not once was I uncomfortable or experienced fatigue with all this strapped to my back. This was undoubtedly because of the ingenuity of the Fishpond design-team who made sure it is a fully fledged backback made to be worn, in comfort, for an entire day.
The padded and adjustable shoulder straps combined with the supporting waist straps allowed me to adjust the pack to my own frame and requirements – I managed to distribute most of the weight onto my hips which meant my shoulders carried negligible weight and my arms could move freely. The mesh construction employed on the shoulder straps and the back-padding meant that the pack did not smother me and did not add to the discomfort from the tropical climate.
The two sturdy loops on each shoulder strap came in really handy to attach nippers and my lens-cloth; though I prefer to keep line-snags to a minimum as most of the time in the salt chaos erupts when a fish decides to show up, these offer great versatility for both fresh-and saltwater purpose.
I tip my cap to Fishpond for the exterior front waterproof pocket, it was perfect for holding my fly-boxes and leader material that I needed to access regularly (especially when a permit showed up).
I would simply unclip the waist strap, swing the pack to the front and, with one hand only, be able to open the zip, get the desired item and close it again.
The main compartment of the pack is cavernous and big enough to meet even my OCD packing requirements. There is another zippered clear pouch on the inside that was great to keep my tissue paper and lens filters extra dry – with wet sungloves on and not being diligent enough to take these off this was a fantastic and extremely useful feature.
In the beginning I was very careful not to submerse the pack and would always get someone to hold it when I was changing lenses. Three days into the trip I would simply take the pack off, float it on its base in the water and work inside the pack. Remember I damaged the one seam? Well, after we fixed it the inside of the Fishpond Westwater Roll Top Backpack remained bone-dry for the entire trip and I had unflinching confidence in its waterproofing. Despite floating it in the water, continuously submersing it for extended periods as the tide advanced onto the flats and being smashed by the waves on our surf walks, I did not lose one piece of electronic equipment to water damp. All seams remained intact and did not falter once.
Weighing in at a mere 3.7 lbs. (1.7 kg) it is super-packable and can easily be slipped into your suitcase or, like I did, be used as your backpack to, at and from your destination.
The Fishpond Westwater Roll Top Backpack retails for $ 149.99, for more info and to locate your closest Fishpond Retailer Click Here.
FISHPOND HEADGATE TIPPET HOLDER
Look, I am not going to deceive you, initially I did not want the Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder for its functionality and versatility, nope, I wanted it for its killer looks. No, I am not kidding and once you see it in hand I am sure you will feel exactly the same.
In the same breath, coming from Fishpond I expected it to exceed all my design and fishability expectations and I was not disappointed. After two weeks in the salt and being the one piece of equipment I forgot to rinse off with freshwater after each day, it is still as good as new and the Spring release system as smooth as the day we picked these up.
The Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder retails for $ 19.99, for more info and to locate your closest Fishpond Retailer Click Here.