Gray’s Best Awards 2015

ACCESSORIES: Finn Utility Essex Sidebag

When it comes to carrying gear, fly anglers range from devotees of the bulging vest to practitioners of the lanyard-and-pocket approach. Chest packs, slings, and lumbar packs all have their followers. But few anglers these days favor a shoulder bag because, well, there just aren’t many being made. Reminiscent of the days when all fly anglers toted fly boxes and Mucilin in a wicker creel, the Finn Utility Essex Sidebag ($230) is a classy alternative to the contemporary fray of super-technical vests, packs, and slings. A relatively new company, Finn Utility is the brainchild of Ryan McDonald, whose products are handmade in the USA. From the canvas streamer wallet to bombproof luggage, packs, reel cases, and even a unique canvas roll for carrying multiple rods without a hard tube, Finn is a throwback to more pastoral times. Based in Vermont, McDonald’s creations hearken to his childhood fishing the Rangeley Lakes of Maine with feather-wing streamers. They possess a real connection to American fly fishing heritage. Waxed canvas, brass, shearling wool, and beeswax-treated leather are hallmarks of all Finn Utility goods, but the Essex Sidebag garners Gray’s Best status. Slung over one shoulder by its English bridle leather strap, it is just the right size for a couple of fly boxes, essential tools, and accessories. In concept and deed, the Essex Sidebag is an elegant manifestation of the outdoorsman’s adage: The more you know, the less you need. —S.W.