By Jack Nickens
Kokatat’s new Leviathan PFD and Astral’s new Ronnie Fisher 2.0 PFD are two performance fishing PFDs I put to the test on my recent trip fly fishing adventure down the Watauga River in Eastern Tennessee. Through wind, rain, sleet, and snow, they both performed at a high level.
Kokatat Leviathan PFD
What I liked:
The best two features of this life jacket are the high foamed back as well as the range of motion that this PFD provides. The high foamed back is essential for a comfortable day of paddling, allowing the paddler to not be scrunched up and cramped in the cockpit of a kayak, or on the rowers bench of a raft. Made with eco friendly, CFC free foam, you will have no guilty conscience purchasing this PFD. One of the best features is the large range of motion given to your arms. Worn while rowing a raft, this PFD never inhibited a stroke of the paddle or a rubbed an arm during a double haul cast through the wind.
What I want to see on the next version:
One of the main drawbacks of the Leviathan is the excessive amount of zippers. When I first looked at this PFD, I was immediately aware of the number of things that fly life or leader could be snagged on. With eight zippers hanging of the front of the PFD, line was constantly being fouled up while fishing in the wind. The price of the Leviathan is also a concern. Ringing up at a cool $159.99, this PFD is on the upper side of the price range.
The Bottom Line:
For any kayak fisherman, the Kokatat Leviathan is a great PFD with a freeing design and eco-friendly construction. It is perfect for the hardcore, all-day paddler using conventional tackle, however, fly fishermen beware of the potential snags this PFD could cause.
Astral Ronny Fisher 2.0
What I Liked:
The two big pockets on the front of the Ronny Fisher 2.0 are perfect for holding fly boxes, floatant, and any other tool you need for a great day of fishing. While these pockets are spacious, the best feature about them is their slim design. They do not cause the PFD to feel bulky or unwieldy. Another great aspect of this PFD is the loads of anchor points that are provided. The plethora of places to attach gear allowed me to have everything I needed to change a fly, besides the fly itself, without opening up a pocket. The great layout of these anchor points also allow you to organize your gear in a way that best suits you. The Ronny Fisher is also made with CFC free foam.
What I want to see in the next version:
While the pack away rain hood seemed like it was going to be a great idea, its performance left much to be desired. The hood, when stowed, left a slight bulk on my neck that became uncomfortable when trying to turn around. This hood also seems to be unnecessary. If it is raining, a rain jacket will easily and comfortably fit under this PFD while providing rain protection for not only your head, but the rest of your body as well. It is also important to note that while the Ronnie Fisher uses Asral’s ThinVent back, it it does not have a high foamed back. Priced at $159.99, this PFD is not cheap.
The Bottom Line:
If you like to have the kitchen sink while on a day trip fly fishing, the Ronnie Fisher is perfect for you. The ample storage provided combined with the extremely comfortable fit makes the Ronnie Fisher a high performance and a worthwhile investment for any non-kayak fisherman.
Who should buy the Kokatat Leviathan PFD?
If you are a hard-core kayak fisherman that mainly uses conventional tackle, the Leviathan PFD is perfect for you. It is also a great PFD for kayak fly fishermen, but beware of the snags.
Who should buy the Astral Ronnie Fisher 2.0?
You can’t go wrong with the Ronnie Fisher 2.0 if you are a boat or raft fisherman that loves to bring all your gear with you. With ample storage and the ThinVent back, this PFD is perfect for fishing off a boat or raft.