Through the years I have been using different kinds of vests and packs to store my fly fishing gear. I started out with a simple vest after which I moved on to the famous Marc Petit Jean vest. I loved my Fishpond Double Haul Backpack/Chestpack combination, but eventually started looking for a solution that would literally take the weight of my shoulders. After doing quite a bit of research I arrived at the new Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack.
I won’t go in to all of the features of this pack, as you can easily find them on Fishpond’s website and probably read about the pack already. What I will focus on is how I have experienced using this pack; the pros and the cons. As that is probably what you are wanting to know. The Fishpond Westwater Guide Lumbar Pack is a large ‘waterproof’ pack that you carry on your hips/waist. It has basically just one large main compartment and two smaller sleeves on the inside. Then there’s a compartment (both on the inside and the front) that is closed by a ‘waterproof’ zipper. It costs about 139 dollars or 129 euro’s. It has the usual straps and tabs to hang your gear from and on the bottom of the pack there’s two straps to hang a rodtube or a rain jacket from (while walking). All the materials used, including the buckles, are of good, sturdy quality.
Now that I have been using it for a while, I must say I’m happy with my choice. The pack does what I bought it for; it takes away the weight from my shoulders and back. The big advantage here is that after a long day of being on the water, my neck, shoulders, back and arms are not giving me any grief. For that reason I never use the shoulderstrap that comes with the pack. I feel more free in my movements while fishing. For me this is the reason right here, why I love this pack. It’s also a large pack, and it’s largely ‘waterproof’ (you can’t submerge the pack, so I feel the use of the word waterproof is wrong).
The pack is large! The guide version is really a large pack. It holds anything you would want to bring in a pack. If you can’t fit all your gear in this pack, you really shouldnt be using a pack to begin with. I carry three medium sized fly boxes, all my tools, fishing licence, lunch, water, smartphone, carkeys, a (compressed) sweater or raincoat and all my small misc gear (leaders, tippet, bandaids, etc.).
The materials used are really sturdy. This stuff doesn’t scratch or tear. It keeps out the rain or any water splashing.
There is one thing that comes to mind right away when I think of things that I dislike about the pack and that’s that there is no place to store used flies quickly. I want to be able to keep a couple of my favourite flies close by. Give used flies a chance to dry also. The pack doesn’t really have an option for this. Since the material of the pack is waterproof, you can’t just go around and stick flies in to it. That means that every time I want to switch flies, I need to turn the pack from my back to my front and open it up, to get out a flybox and change flies. That’s a hassle.
Another negative for this pack (which I guess is the same for all lumbar/waist packs), is the fact that you need to try to find a way to get it to balance on your hips. I’m a skinny guy. I don’t want the pack to slide down my legs, but I also want it to be loose enough to be able to turn the pack fron my back to my front and vice versa. And I want the weight to be supported by my hips, not by my abdomen. Depending on the way you are build and what clothes you’re wearing, you need to adjust your pack to rest on your hips in the right way.
A third thing that bothers me is the fact that the pack makes it hard to wade deep. I prefer to not wade to deep, but sometimes you need to just make those few steps through deeper water to get to that perfect casting spot. Since the pack is low on your hips, as opposed to a chect pack for example, you sometimes feel that the pack is floating on the water surface when you’re wading to deep. It’s not a huge problem and I guess its inevitable with a waistpack. It is however, a bit annoying then, that the pack isn’t fully waterproof. A dunk in the river, or even submerging the pack by wading to deep, will get the gear inside wet.
At first I loved the fact that the pack has the option to ad a tippet cord to the outside, to hang your tippet spools from. (Although it seems weird that when you pay quite a big amount for a pack, you have to buy the tippet cord seperately) It keeps your tippet readily accesable, without having to open the pack every time you need tippet. After a while of using it however, I noticed that my tippet would get tangled around the cord. Which is annoying. But perhaps that’s more my fault than the packs. I never seem to have time to place the elastic bands of the tippet spoll just right so that the tippet material won’t come off the spool.
The special opening in the belt, through which you can stick your net is a cool feature. I personally however, don’t like a net poking in my back and it’s not possible to hang your net from the pack, since the pack is low on your hips. This is however, more a personal preference. I see many fisherman carrying their nets this way and they don’t seem to be bothered by it.
So what’s my final judgement on this pack? I seem to be able to mention more cons then pros, but I love the pack. The big pro is that it just works. It does what it needs to do. It makes my fishing days so much lighter and makes me feel more free when walking, wading and casting. It’s big enought to bring a lot of gear, food, drink and a rain coat, but it’s never in the way. It’s waterproof as long as you don’t actually submerge it. It looks really nice, which to some anglers (myself included) does matter at least somewhat. It’s not cheap but to me it’s well worth the price. I would recommend it!