These days, when it comes to products there’s a lot of tough talk.
This plastic case is built to withstand being stepped on. This — ads will say — well, this is built to withstand being driven over. Until the past few years, I had no idea so many fishing products were the victims of untimely vehicular deaths.
Now, there’s no doubt this can be a good thing. The recent review in which someone dressed as a bear dropped coolers off the back of pick up truck ripping down some dirt fishing roads? Pretty funny — and helpful for when you bring your halloween costume, slam a 30 rack, and then drive to the pool.
But a lot of this tough talk neglects another side of the conversation: touch and craft. Questions like, “How does it feel in the hand? How does it handle? How does it wear over time? Who built it — and, who are they?”
Finn Utility’s products were built as if in answer to these kinds of questions.
I’ve written about them, and about their founder, Ryan, on this site before. Based up in Vermont, Finn is a shop shop with national reach — and, recently, some impressive growth. They’re now in the catalog of fellow Vermonter Orvis, and are popping up on sites and in mags seemingly all the time.
What they sell are products that are made by hand and built to last. They’re cut from the same cloth, so to speak, as Filson or Barbour; waxed cotton, thick stitching, rugged leather, and brass are standard features. Their motto — “Not without adventure” — encapsulates their ambition, and their roots. Ryan, who shows up to casting competitions and fairs in an beauty of a beat-up old car, has some good stories, the discerning eye of a craftsman, and the spirit of someone willing to crash on floor of a cabin to get at a good pool at first light.
I’ve been using one of their products, the Streamer Suitcase, for about a year now. I picked it up because it felt like something that my grandfather used. It’s a thick streamer wallet, with sheep shearling seemingly busting at the seams.
The pad here is thick, à la a royale with cheese. In sticking my streamer hooks into the pad, I felt distinctly like they would remain there — as they did when I opened the wallet on the stream, after it had been jostled in my hip bag on the way to the river. I know there are arguments for sealed fly boxes, but I find even the finest Wheatley metal boxes can rust over time, and even the best plastic gets torn up. These two patches of thick 100% natural Texas sheep shearling take a lickin’ a come back for more.
The waxed twill and the leather on the outside are tough. They have a noticeable thickness in the hand. And I’ve found that, through normal wear and tear, they withstand use and gain a nice character over time, almost like the character of copper.
This is not a thin plastic case built to withstand being run over by a car. But that’s also not the point. You could run this over, too, but I’d recommend letting the years do what they do best: impart stories and memories to a well-built accessory naturally, slowly. Plus, your hooks are better when bent in the water.