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I sometimes forget how to use a fly rod when people are watching. I can’t cast, my fly gets caught in trees, or my hooksets start to resemble that of a bass angler. Add a time restraint to the crowd of onlookers watching me from the bank, and you can start to imagine how I felt during my first fly fishing trip in Montana. 

I was there with a small group of writers to test out the spring 2023 line from Free Fly Apparel—a performance fishing clothing brand. It was the last day of a short trip, and I was the only one who’d yet to catch a fish. My new buddy, Max Krapff, was pretty adamant about getting me my first Montana trout. The day before, I was next to Krapff when he landed his first Montana trout, then proceeded to top that with a beautiful brown later that evening. Now it was my turn. 

With one hour left before I had to leave to catch my flight, I stepped into the spring creek and started fishing. After nothing on the first few casts, I moved upstream and fired a hopper right off a cut bank. 

A trout smashed it as soon as it hit the water. A roar from the peanut gallery on the riverbank followed.

The New Free Fly Apparel Spring 2023 Lineup: Tested and Reviewed
A brown trout sits on the bank of the Ruby River in Sheridan, Montana. Free Fly

What is Free Fly Apparel?

Free Fly Apparel is a performance based fishing clothing brand. They set out to make the most effective and comfortable fishing apparel on the market and have had major success in doing so. Founder, Tanner Sutton, came up with the idea for Free Fly due to his frustration of not being able to find comfortable performance apparel to guide in. So, he set out to solve the problem himself. 

After some trial and error, Sutton landed on a natural Bamboo fabric that is extremely lightweight, breathable, and very comfortable. Now, more than 10 years later, Sutton, his sister Jenna, and brother-in-law Austin run the company out of their headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. They have since expanded their product line to include a wide variety of performance tops, bottoms, jackets, and accessories.

What Type of Angler is Free Fly Apparel Built For?

The brand is rooted in fly fishing, but its customer base goes beyond just the fly community. Free Fly apparel is ideal for any type of angler who finds themselves in warm temperatures and direct sunlight. Since the majority of Free Fly products are sun-protective clothing, they have a strong following in the Southeast saltwater community. Which isn’t surprising: This apparel excels in hot, humid, and uncomfortable conditions. 

As Free Fly has grown, so has its product line, which now includes a more well-rounded scope of options for a variety of situations. Like the new Cloudshield rain jacket ($248) and the new Latitude pant ($118). Are these budget-friendly pieces of clothing? No. But that’s a fair price range when you’re talking about premium performance apparel like this stuff. 

Here are some of my favorite Free Fly pieces from the Spring 2023 line. On sale today.

New for 2023

Mens Latitude Pant

A good pair of sun-protective fishing pants should be lightweight, comfortable, and breathable. The new Latitude pant checks all three boxes. It’s made from a lightweight, stretch-woven recycled nylon fabric that is a pleasure to wear and fish in. It also has a DWR finish so the outside stays dry. The comfortability factor is what sold me on these pants. You’re protected from the sun without being restricted by movement or temperature.

Cloudshield Rain Jacket

Maybe the most significant new piece of gear from the Spring 2023 line, the Cloudshield rain jacket is Free Fly’s first-ever outer shell layer. They designed this 3-layer fully waterproof jacket with a soft and comfortable feel—consistent with the rest of their line. And the comfort was the first thing I noticed when I put it on. It doesn’t feel bulky like many traditional rain jackets but still offers fully waterproof protection.

Men’s Headwind Jacket

Free Fly also released their Headwind jacket—a packable outer shell to protect against wind, cold, and light rain. When I first tried on this jacket, I knew it would be perfect for the high alpine lakes I fish in Colorado. The Headwind is light and compact enough to pack into a backpack or sling pack. Although maybe not the best option for a downpour, it adds a layer of protection on those less-than-ideal days.

Men’s Clearwater Hoody

This new quick-drying hoody from Free Fly lives up to its name: It dries off in no time. It’s perfect for saltwater fishermen who find themselves wading flats in search of bonefish, permit, or snook. It isn’t made from Free Fly’s signature bamboo construction, but the hoody is intended to repel water, keep you cool, and protect you from sunlight.

Other Great Gear from Free Fly

Men’s Nomad Pant

The Nomad pant is the perfect pair of fishing pants, whether you’re wading the flats, casting from the bow of a boat, or wet-wading in a trout river. I was impressed by how quickly they dry. While fishing in Montana, I fully submerged my Latitude pants up to my knees in a deep hole, and within minutes of getting out of the water, they were nearly dry. They are made from mostly polyester fabric with a blend of spandex that helps give them added stretch and comfort.

The New Free Fly Apparel Spring 2023 Lineup: Tested and Reviewed
The author wades the Ruby River in his Nomad pant. Ryan Chelius

Men’s Breeze Pant

The Breeze pant is my favorite piece of Free Fly apparel. It is the most comfortable pair of pants I’ve ever worn. I attribute it to the Bamboo lining that makes you feel like you’re in pajamas. I opted for the blue fog color because I like a little flash. But there are plenty of other options if you are looking for a more traditional style.

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