Have you ever thought about why you endure weather conditions deemed miserable by the masses? When in the presence of fish, you embrace the most unfavorable hands dealt by Mother Nature. While the obvious answer lies in the catching aspect of our sport, think about what subconsciously happens to your mind during the moments leading up to the hook-up. You achieve a moment of complete and total clarity, an escape from everything going on in your everyday world, freeing your mind just long enough to dedicate all your concentration to the one desire all anglers share and crave — the connection between man and fish. The fish stands as the tangible component that attracts us to the water, but the intense state of focus we take on while in pursuit keeps us in it. Only one variable holds the potential of breaking us out of this addictive state — harsh weather.
Since its inception Simms’ G4 Pro™ Jacket has enabled countless anglers, who would otherwise have been forced to head for cover, to remain in the elements indefinitely in pursuit of one more cast. At Simms, we operate under a simple philosophy: If it ain’t broke, let’s make it even better — and that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished by raising the bar yet again with the new G4 Pro Jacket. This version will allow you to withstand conditions you never thought possible. When you wear this jacket, pouring rain and howling winds will be the farthest thing from your mind. Taking a look at the G4 Pro Jacket’s life cycle, from its earliest inspirations to the piece of fishing armor into which it has evolved validates our longstanding commitment to keep you on the water longer.
Simms’ drive to innovate with purpose, passion and curiosity all started with the company founder and namesake, John Simms of Jackson, Wyoming. Always intrigued with problem solving and a firm believer that necessity truly is the mother of invention, John’s first products were as much for him as they were for customers. His cerebral wheels never stopped turning and he relentlessly pondered ways to improve various outdoor situations. If a product didn’t already exist for him to augment, he’d fabricate his own. As a ski patrolman, John developed a pole that screwed together and used it in avalanche rescue operations. What started as a simple but effective tool John needed for his job turned into Life-Link International, a company he started that specialized in skiing safety products.
When the winter snow melted and the rivers cleared, John switched gears to another passion — fly-fishing. Just as he did on the mountain, John developed devices that catered to his specific needs on the water. Reel Deals, Tippet, Net and Spool Tenders all started as accessories for which John found a personal use. Before too long he realized a void existed for such products in the marketplace, so it only made sense to include Simms under the Life-Link umbrella. As the business expanded, John’s primary focus was neoprene. After a Los Angeles based wet-suit company came out with a pair of neoprene waders, John saw an opportunity. So he did as he normally would and made his own waders — only John made his better — John developed his waders with anglers in mind. Simms neoprene waders were warm — they were dry — they were a vast improvement over non-breathable polyurethane coated nylon, the industry standard of the day.
Due to the success and popularity of Simms neoprene waders, Simms’ undying urge to innovate and enhance sparked conversations with W.L. Gore and Associates. At the time, nobody had any idea these discussions would eventually develop into a symbiotic relationship giving Simms a solid foothold as an industry leader. While the GORE/Simms relationship transpired, farther West through the smog of 1993 Los Angeles, a young management consultant caught wind of what was unfolding at Simms and learned of an opportunity to acquire the company. K.C. Walsh jumped all over it and watched his big city life disappear in the rearview mirror as a trout mecca approached.
K.C. Walsh credits his love for fishing to the time he spent as a child on the water with his father and grandfather. In addition to an innate passion for fishing, K.C. was also born with an entrepreneurial spirit. When it came time to further his education, K.C. enrolled in the business school of Colorado College. On the surface, it may have seemed as though K.C. made his decision based on academics and other scholarly merits of the institution, but let’s not kid ourselves, he also chose it for the fish that resided on the outskirts of campus.
Across the board, K.C. saw opportunities at Simms but there was one that was extra attractive — the budding relationship between his prospective company and W.L Gore & Associates, Inc.
As a devoted backpacker, K.C. was already well aware of GORE-TEX® fabric and its advantages. Despite not knowing exactly where the affiliation between Simms and GORE would lead, one thing that never dropped from the back of his mind was that the technology undoubtedly had a ton of potential in fishing environments.
K.C.’s timing couldn’t have been any better as this was a critical time for Simms. His philosophy matched perfectly with what GORE wanted to accomplish. Both parties sincerely appreciated each other’s willingness to push the envelope of breathability and functionality. Simms recognized that bringing cutting-edge products to market was essential in order to be important in the fishing industry and the odds of doing so dramatically increased with the implementation of GORE-TEX® products. By the time K.C. was fully onboard and after rounds of breathable wader prototypes, Simms got it right and the wade fishing world would never be the same.
While some companies break the bank on fancy photo shoot locations and ego-inflated celebrity endorsers, GORE opted for something a little bit less flashy but every bit as effective, a marketing campaign that would forever be remembered by those who fish.
The location — the Drive-In on the Bighorn River. The models — real deal Montana guides decked out in Simms waders and Dry Coats who just so happened to be three of the first anglers to put GORE-TEX® fabric to the test in a fishing environment.
Growing up in Eastern Virginia on a trout stream, Mike Craig cut his angling teeth and developed an intense appetite for the water during his youth. He ended up becoming a realtor in Denver, Colorado, but traveled to Montana each summer to fish. During one vacation, Mike fished the Bighorn River.
He loved it so much he called his boss, quit his job and made the move west to Fort Smith — a stone’s throw from the Bighorn. Mike renovated a small building close to the river, built a quaint motel and called it the Bighorn Angler. In a very short time, Mike became very well dialed-in and was asked to have his guides field test the first GORE-TEX® Waders. Two of these guides were Bob Krumm and Paul Dubas.
The folks at GORE wanted honest feedback about their fabric and asked each field tester to wear the waders, record various types of data each day and submit their conclusions. Mike, Bob and Paul were three guides who reliably turned in their findings each day. So if you were assuming they were selected for their high cheekbones and stunning good looks, you would be mistaken. These three were chosen because to GORE, these three were the ones who really put the new products through the wringer. As a photographer, you want your images to be remembered. You have to capture a special, yet extremely brief, moment in time and which means, everything has to be just so. Behind the lens for the Bighorn shoot was Andy Anderson, a photographer from Mountain Home, Idaho. For three days he and his crew followed their models up and down the river, staging shots at various locales along the way.
Lucky for Mike, Bob and Paul, GORE wanted the Dry Coat front and center in the ad because for the majority of the shoot, it rained and it rained hard. To make matters worse, each day was colder and more miserable than the previous one.
The result Andy was aiming for was for the three models to look stern, a facial expression none of them wore on most days. However, because it was so cold outside and because Andy was such a stickler on composition, the three couldn’t help but bear a sober appearance. Even though the guides/models were chilled to the bone, all three remember how impressed they were with the products they were wearing, especially the Dry Coat. No matter how heavy the drops of rain, nor how long they stood posed for their cameraman in the constant downpours, they all stayed dry. After shooting roll after roll after roll, the clouds parted, the dense precipitation briefly conceded and Andy fired a frame that became “the shot”, a photograph that gave the notion this new Dry Coat was as rugged and tough as the guides in the ad.
As impressed as Mike, Bob and Paul were with the Dry Coat, they wouldn’t realize all its glory until weeks later when the air temperature began to settle into a normal summertime groove. The 3-layer GORE-TEX® fabric not only kept rain out but it allowed them to stay comfortable even in hot summer temps.
To bolster the dryness of the Dry Coat, Simms integrated waterproof cuffs (specifically designed to not catch fly line) as well as an adjustable hood. From a practical standpoint, the Dry Coat featured oversized front pockets with hand warmers designed in such a way that an angler could still access his vest through the jacket. Aside from breathability, an outer shell and seams impervious to rain, and all the functional bells and whistles an angler could possibly ask for, the Dry Coat had style. Up until this point, wearing a fishing jacket off the water wasn’t exactly an advisable fashion statement. The Dry Coat on the other hand, fit in on the street as much as it did on the water.
Due to its success and popularity, the Dry Coat quickly gained the reputation as the best damn rain jacket out there. But, after time and plenty of evaluation, Simms’ product development team couldn’t help but acknowledge new technology that would ultimately increase the Dry Coat’s durability and performance. In the end, the next generation retained the same look and admirable fishing features, only this version, the Guide Jacket, was constructed with GORE-TEX® XCR fabric. Using this material was a major upgrade in the sense that it improved breathability by an impressive 25 percent and was also a much more resilient fabric.
The sensation of breathable waders followed by the positive reception of the Dry Coat and Guide Jacket more than verified Simms’ commitment to evolve through innovation. Just like their products, anglers too were progressively advancing and Simms acknowledged the phenomenon from the ground floor.
With a freshened-up logo, Simms was prepared to make a big statement with the release of the 2004 G3 Guide™ Jacket. Just like its older siblings, the G3 bucked the elements with ease and could take the abuse from the most demanding guides and then some. At that point, the G3 was the most technical jacket ever to leave Simms’ warehouse. The G3’s most distinguishing feature was that it sported a look and style completely unique from anything else on the market and the younger generation gravitated to it immediately. Built on a solid foundation laid by the Dry Coat and Guide Jacket, the G3 really set the stage for something even more progressive to come years later.
Much like the Guide Jacket, anglers took to the G3 Guide Jacket so well that it remained in the line when the latest and greatest Simms anti-weather armor piece was introduced — the original G4 Pro Jacket 2008. At first glance, the G4 closely resembled the G3, but in reality, in terms of functionality, ruggedness and technology, the G4 couldn’t be beat. Constructed from lighter weight 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro Shell fabric, the G4 Pro featured pit zips, two chest pockets under storm flaps, four vertical zippered chest pockets, a large back pocket and fleece-lined hand warmer pockets.
Specifically designed for the most hardcore guides and anglers on the water, the advancements found in the G4 Pro Jacket harmonized perfectly with the mentality of those who wore it. As anglers, we relentlessly seek perfection even though deep down we all know that in fishing, no matter how good we get, perfection will always remain just out of reach. But you know what? That’s a good thing — is that not the reason we come back to the water day after day after day? Wanting something you know you can never have only makes you try harder to get it. Similar to your passion and curiosity as an angler, we too are obsessively inquisitive and will never settle on complacency — it’s just not in our DNA. You may look at the previous G4 Pro Jacket and ask — why mess with a good thing? Our answer: When a product can be improved — why not?
Tasked to lead the charge of revamping the already beloved G4 Pro Jacket was Simms Design Director, Brian Krezel. While some might consider such an assignment intimidating, Krezel felt the emotion of excitement more than anything else. Based on a strong foundation laid by its predecessors, Krezel and company knew that in essence — the job was simple — to create the baddest most weatherproof fishing jacket the world has ever seen. As with any new product, the procedure began with a brief addressing the direction, needs, wants and features of a considerably upgraded G4 Pro Jacket. With significant technological advancements readily available, right out of the gate, Krezel’s development team had a strong foundation from which to start. Based on input offered by trusted fabric vendors, the lighter weight materials offering better breathability and durability were chosen which ultimately spurred an even more dynamic/wearable construction. With fabric and assembly cemented, the staff worked through a multi-part concept ideation process involving loads of sketches and tons of open discussion that finally lead to a single concept that captured the functional needs, aesthetic direction and most importantly, the problems these updates would solve. Once the final concept was in place and the technical specs balanced out based on the desired fit and finish, the new G4 Pro Jacket went straight to the development and testing process where conceptual ideas were either confirmed or denied.
From the beginning, Krezel and his crew knew they had to retain key attributes but also had to overcome the bigger challenge of improving the overall functionality of the jacket. In truth, it was more so a matter of fine-tuning rather than re-designing but as with most things, paying close attention to details always yields a better end result.
In the end, the overall fit and finish were significantly enhanced, as was the abrasion resistance of the jacket. While popular features such as the built in retractors, and hand warmer pockets were left in tact, the performance of other well-liked aspects of the jacket were boosted like the Stormhood, and collar construction as well as the Dry Cuff™ and storage space. The team also incorporated a tuck away fly patch and while it’s a subtle detail, it’s one that will come in handy daily.
Undeniably, Krezel and his crew accomplished what many might consider an insurmountable undertaking. Like you, we were happy with the original G4 Pro Jacket but once again, when the best can be better, we absolutely cannot resist making it so. If you need validation for such a bold statement, no worries — simply put the new G4 Pro Jacket on, load your pack, string up your rod and when Mother Nature picks a fight — fight back.
In a modern world consisting of rods weighing less yet yielding more power than ever before and reels with drag systems in place that can practically slow a moving vehicle, advancements in outerwear rarely receive their due credit. But — perhaps that’s our own fault. After all, Simms products work best when you don’t know you’re wearing them. This has always been our mission and through years upon years of constant and continuous innovation, the new G4 Pro Jacket has evolved into more than just a rain shell — it’s a fishing tool every bit as critical as a rod or reel. Those of us at Simms are not unlike you. We fish too, and selfishly, we want to acquire the best tools possible so we can stay on the water longer.