Looking for a new jacket? Then you might find some inspiration here. In this review Ceri Thomas takes a look at the Aesis Shell fly fishing jacket from American tackle firm Hodgman.
I’ve been on the lookout for a decent breathable jacket for a while now. Mobility is key when I fish, so comfort is a must, as are decent pockets for accessories and fly boxes. When we started stocking the Hodgman range of fly fishing gear, I really liked the look of the Aesis shell jacket, which ticked all of the boxes for me. So after a bit of deliberation over the winter I decided to pick one up for the new season ahead.
I often think in order to write a ‘proper’ review you need to give something a real test on the water; not just a few hours. So after a full month of pretty hard usage, I feel I have now gotten to know this piece of outwear inside out. So here are my thoughts.
The cut of the jacket is good – it’s clearly been designed by a fisherman, with fly fishing in mind. The arms are generous and articulate well, allowing for easy casting. The sleeve design is practical, with velco adjustable cuffs that help keep the water out. The inner cuffs are also nice and soft. I found the sizing to be pretty generous though, and opted for a Large, rather than my usual XL.
When trying it on in the house, the wife remarked ”Do you have to wear that for fishing?? It’s quite nice!” And it is a genuinely good looking jacket. You could get away with wearing it pretty much anywhere, as well as the river bank. It has a clean, modern look and is a nice carbon/grey, a neutral colour, so you wont stand out like a sore thumb, in the pub for example.
Initially it was obvious that the jacket was very light indeed, but still retained a durable feel. When wearing it you don’t feel weighed down or constricted in any way. It almost has the feel of a packable 2 layer. It’s actually a 3 layer, so reliability in heavy rain is assured. You can tell from the material that it’s not going to let you down. I’ve been out in some extremely foul conditions this spring, and every time the water has just beaded off, literally like water off a ducks back. So full marks for waterproof ability.
Regarding breathability, I have done quite a lot of mountain lake fishing this year, which involves a fair bit of rock hopping and scrambling up steep hill sides. I have also been doing a lot of urban angling on the South Wales rivers; which again can be quite physical and requires a lot of effort to get in and out of the water. Compared to other jackets I have worn (including premium GoreTex) the breathability is right up there. You can break into a heavy sweat and still feel comfortable in the Aesis shell.
Is it a wading jacket or a 3/4??
It’s kind of both. It’s not overly short, so provides decent cover for your back area. Neither is it too long and flappy. I guess it was designed for American anglers fishing from drift boats, who sometimes need to get out and wade. You can use it for river, bank fishing on the fishery or drifting across the loch in the boat; it is genuinely multi purpose.
For extreme deep wading its actually designed to be tucked inside your waders if required. There is a ‘belt catch’ loop that helps you do this. I haven’t used it like that as I seldom need to wade that deep, but there are drain holes in the lower hand pockets that actually worked.
Neat little touches
The hood is well designed and easily adjustable. Even when fully up your field of vision is still clear. The chest pockets, whilst not enormous, are generous enough for most standard fly boxes, several accessories and spools of tippet. Two of them have waterproof seals, so are a good place to keep your car keys or a small point and shoot camera.
The flap of each breast pocket has a velcro fly patch built in, and interestingly a small magnet with the Hodgman logo on it. Great for holding a fly while you change your leader. There is also a small inner security pocket for valuables.
There are built in reflective strips on the back of the hood and around the shoulders. These are not obvious but show up in low light; quite handy I guess if fishing with a buddy on a dark night or if crossing a road at dusk. They also look pretty cool.
There is a rear D ring and also one in a breast pocket. One slight issue is the net D ring is quite low on the back – so it can be a slight pain to get you net back onto it without twisting your arm a little. But that’s about the only negative I can think of.
After a solid month I am starting to think this is one of the best jackets I have ever owned. It’s functional, comfortable and a pleasure to fish in. It’s now a permanent occupier of my car boot, ready for action at any time.
Moving onwards, I’m looking forward to using it right through the warmer months, and maybe through the winter with thermals underneath. Its going to get a hammering but I am confident its going to last me a good few seasons.
At £239.99 it’s starting to enter the premium price bracket, but I feel the outlay is worth it. You pay your dollar, you get the goods! Great effort by Hodgman – keep it up the good work guys.
Hodgman Aesis Shell Jackets are available here.
Want to know more about the Hodgman brand?? Check out our blog post here.