Aussie fly fishing author, Greg French, with his favourite Patagonia Stormfront backpack

Aussie fly fishing author, Greg French, with his favourite Patagonia Stormfront backpack

In superfast streams, like those commonly found in New Zealand (as well as Europe, Asia and the Americas,) knee deep currents can sweep you off your feet in a trice. Yet bold wading is often essential, either for effective casting or in order to gain access to the far bank.

I’ve never pretended to be a natural when it comes to stream crossings, but my inadequacy was laid bare when fishing the South Island’s huge braided rivers with local master Anton Davidson. Whenever I tried to follow, I quickly found myself in trouble. By the time I was knee deep, the water would be scouring shingle from beneath my feet and seriously threatening to flush me away. Then I’d remember the camera and lenses in my backpack, and quickly chicken out. Invariably I’d have to walk a kilometre or more upstream in order to find a wider, shallower crossing, and by the time I caught up with Anton all the fishable fish would have been fished out.

Anton gave me lots of good advice about efficient and safe stream crossing. ‘Find water that is shallow enough to wade. Angle thirty degrees or so downstream so that you get carried by the current rather than having to fight against it. Don’t look for a solid footing — just dance across lightly. If you lose contact with the substrate, your momentum and that of the current will carry you down and across. You might do a few ghost steps, but you’ll soon touch bottom again.’ It looked so simple, and I knew I had to master it, but I always carried expensive equipment, was always too scared to try.

Then Daniel Hackett from FlyShop1864 presented me with one of Patagonia’s Stormfront daypacks. I was sceptical — can a conventional looking pack really be completely waterproof. The material looked up to the task — and so too the welded seams — but what about the silicone zipper?

I tested the pack in the bath, and was impressed. Then I tested it out on a fast freestone river, throwing myself into the current and allowing myself to drift fifty metres or so downstream. The inside of the pack remained bone dry.

Confidence is a grand thing, and I soon found myself pushing way beyond my comfort zone. I doubt I’ll ever be as graceful as Anton, but these days I am happy to follow him anywhere.

Surprisingly, the pack also proved to have major advantages in more mundane situations. I fish a lot in very wet conditions, and nothing in my Patagonia pack ever gets wet, not even when I rest it on sodden ground or in the shallows of a marsh. When camping in the backcountry for days on end my camera equipment, flies and maps, all remain perfectly dry no matter how cold or wet the weather. And when wading lakes, I find myself happy to venture ever deeper off shore, even when the substrates are suspiciously soft or slippery. Unsurprisingly I find and catch more fish than I used to.

The silicone zip still works well after two years of intensive use. The last centimetre of closure has always been quite stiff, but I find that maintaining a fully watertight seal is only essential when actually wading. For general use, even in the pouring rain, I just keep the zip ‘comfortably’ closed.

All up, this Patagonia product is the most practical daypack I have ever used, and these days I can’t imagine being without it.

Greg French is one of Australia’s best known authors, with regular contributions to FlyLife Magazine, as well as best selling books that include Trout Waters of Tasmania, and Frog Call. He’s used the Stormfront Pack for almost 2 years, across 4 Continents.


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