ASTRAL came out with a new life jacket in 2015, the Ronny Fisher. It is fantastic to see more companies taking notice of kayak anglers and make PFD’s specifically for us. The Ronny Fisher is designed for the kayak fisherman in a number of ways. First of all it is light, just 1.84 lbs and is made from rip resistant material . One great and comfortable feature is the vented back. There is a thin layer of material on the sides and then has a mesh vent in the middle. They also have a couple decent sized pockets in the front, a knife holder, spot for pliers and any other small gear you carry with you, a stowable rain hood, and even a stowable drink holder. The pockets zip down and small straps on each side stop it at a 90 degree angle to the jacket and make it into a small shelf you can use. They even give you velcro you could attach to a small tackle or fly box that will then secure it to the pocket. The thought I had was that this life jacket has many great features for the angler but how does it fit and feel after a number of hours on the water?
When I first put on the jacket it felt very bulky in the front. I was afraid that because they made the back thinner, they had to put too much foam in the front. There was no issue with bulkiness when paddling, or fly fishing, except for the occasional feeling the bulkiness when my arms rested. One downfall was when I grabbed my spinning rods and started casting. When I cast from my side, overhead, but especially flipping there were issues. The butt of my rod kept knocking into the PFD. I do like medium to longer butts on my rods so this is always a concern of mine. If I was just fly fishing then this aspect would not be an issue. It was very comfortable with the ventilation in the back. I never noticed any sweating or discomfort of any kind. Plus the neck not even noticeable, which was great because of the hidden rain hood added a little bit of bulkiness. The pockets are easy to reach and use when wearing the jacket. Because of their size, they hold a decent amount of gear. The drink holder is quickly accessible and folds away easily, however it does get in the way even more when a drink is in there.
The true test, how well will it keep me afloat? I dumped myself in the water as when I was wearing a drysuit and this life jacket. The jacket brought me to the surface immediately and kept me there with no problem. It also kept my face looking up so I wasn't face down into the water, which is a big thing especially if something were to happen on the water and you were knocked unconscious.
The Ronny Fisher costs $160 not on sale. That puts it at the top cost wise when compared to similar life jackets. Although this jackets has many features, some of those features gets in the way of fishing. Even though it is made well and has these extra features, I don’t believe it warrants the price attached to it. You can find jackets from reputable companies that offer many of the features for less. So until that price comes down, and they adjust they bulkiness in the front, I say the Ronny Fisher is a RELEASE.
I purchased this PFD for the specific reason of reviewing it. I love my NRS Chinook and don't think anything can get me to change. This PFD however has me thinking.
I have only had this PFD for a few short weeks, and have only had it out 4 or 5 times. It is comfortable (you forget you are wearing it), stylish, and has pockets and storage galore. If you are one who doesn't like pockets then this is definitely not the right PFD for you.
The back of the vest is perfect for my Native first class seat...it doesn't interfere at all. It has a concealed rain hood for those pesky southern afternoon storms (you northern folks wont understand) that does not get in your way when it is stowed. Reflective piping for better visibility in low light conditions. The vest even has a pocket that will fold out to hold your favorite cold beverage. I am not sure I will ever use that, but you never know.
I have not had a chance to use it in the heat so I cannot yet comment on the comfortability in our wonderful summer months.
I bought this PFD for a review only, but it may see more regular use in my paddling times. I don't think I will ever get rid of my Chinook, but this PFD may back up my Chinook!