Oakley Wades in Deep for a Shot at the Fly Fishing Angler

tn  mz ranch 023

Seeing the fish matters. Watching microscopic insects hatch off the water and seeing that subtle trout sip at the surface – really matters. Taking a direct hit in the eye by a weighted streamer traveling at 150 feet per second – really, really bad news.

These are all things that fly anglers either know instinctively or pick up pretty quickly after just a few hours on the river. The folks at Oakley know that performance matters most in fly fishing and are on a mission to prove that point.

“Without the best optics, you can only guess at what’s going in that other world under the water. But if I can see, that’s one of the most powerful assets I can bring to the table,” said Frank Smethurst, a professional angler one of Oakley’s Masters of Vision. “When you’re fishing, you’re only as good as you are vigilant – and it’s hard to stay in the game without great optics.”

Oakley has firmly set its sites on becoming a legitimate player in the niche and sometimes fickle fly fishing market. In doing so, Oakley recently applied a laser focus on making sure those who fish and write about fly angling understand their technology and optics. Their first stop for 2008 was on the banks of the Montana’s Gallatin River to tell their story and test their wares first hand.

Thirteen journalists, photographers and other fly fishing industry types joined Oakley’s Rolling O team and their mobile laboratory for a demonstration of technology followed by two solid days on some of the most classic rivers, lakes, and spring creeks in the country. After a 45 minute demonstration where concepts and terms like wrap, rake, prismatic imbalance, ANSI standards, Plutonite, injection molding, hydrophobic lens technology were explored… and about 10 pairs of not-so-cheap shades were demolished during different types impact demonstrations… the crew of anglers, guides, and technologists broke into small groups and hit the water.

Some of the more popular frames chosen by guides and anglers included the Monster Dog, Hijinx, and Straight Jacket. Oakley’s Polarization, VR28, and hydrophobic technology were put to the test with very favorable results – almost everyone on the trip caught fish.

Despite adverse conditions including snow, sleet and rain, the guides from the Gallatin River Lodge were able to find water on private spring creeks, still water lakes, and even managed a float trip on the lower Madison River. On the banks of a private spring creek on a sprawling cattle ranch, Montana resident and photographer Dan Armstrong hooked, fought and landed a monster brown trout that measured in at 24" in length. In the same afternoon, in addition to some smaller trout, two other fish estimated at 20"+ were brought to hand and capped a day highlighted by big trout taken on small flies.

“Fresh experiences on the rivers are always exciting to be part of,” said Armstrong. “The energy of the Oakley technical support crew upon their return from the Madison was awesome. To hear the general enthusiasm from a group of people that rarely have the opportunity to fly fish gives anglers like myself an understanding of how incredible the sport truly is.”

The following day a large contingent of the writers and anglers hit the two plus miles of private water on the DePuy Spring Creek, tucked delicately in between Absaroka and Gallatin mountains. Oakley Pro Frank Smethurst took some time out of his day to put on a fishing clinic for the staff who had never picked up a fly rod before. Smethurst was able to talk about the nuances of fly fishing from the ground up – turning over rocks to inspect the natural insect life in the river to subtle casts and mends of the fly line in the long deep runs and skinny water riffles.

Whereas the water on some of the larger rivers was blown out and muddy, the DePuy Spring Creek was gin clear and an excellent environment to test optics even in overcast conditions. Although a bit spooky at times, rainbow and brown trout rose from the depths and flashed from the undercut banks to take a wide variety of flies during the day.

Writers, anglers, and guides were able to spend some time with Oakley products and technology in the field and the Oakley team was able to get a first hand look at some of the challenging conditions faced by fishermen everyday.

“I thought it felt really collaborative, and that they were truly into an exchange of information rather than just trying to market something to us,” said Bruce Smithhammer, a freelance writer who also guides professionally out of the Jackson, Wyoming. “It was great to see Oakley sharing what they are really knowledgeable about, and being totally honest and willing to learn about what they weren’t.”

All in all it was a bountiful exchange of information and one that Oakley will find valuable as they continue to crack the code on the fly fishing market. Which, as we all know, is the thing that really matters.