Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Great Jacket Hunt - Chapter 2

As recorded in Chapter 1, I reached a nice orderly shortlist of 4 jackets.  At this point there was nothing to suggest that there would be any difficulty in buying one of each; deciding which I liked best; and returning the other three.  I could not have been more wrong.

I ordered the Taimen, Guideline and Nomad jackets over the internet on 16th February.  As the Snowbee was my fall-back there was no need to buy an example at this stage.  What follows is a commercial sorry story that contains some salutory warnings to others.

Guideline Experience

I had high hopes of this jacket and was looking forward to its assessment.  I placed the order with John Norris and paid by card.  Within 90 minutes their stock manager sent me a charming email informing with regret that they had none of the 2015 jackets left; the 2016 stock would not arrive until mid or late April; and asking whether I wished to keep the order open.  I replied that I didn't, so they refunded my payment within the trading day.  John Norris' professionalism and efficiency were amongst the few bits of good news in the saga.

After failing at John Norris, I looked up all the UK stockists on the Guideline website and started contacting them.  My first discovery was that not every Guideline stockist carries their clothing, so I endured several wasted calls.  The second was that none of the major suppliers had an Experience jacket. Fortunately all my UK calls are free: in this operation you have to grab and hold any shred of good news.  Finally, Angus Angling thought they had one somewhere, and if not, they were due a large delivery from Guideline that week. They would contact to let me know whether they had a jacket or not.  I duly placed an order over the phone and gave my details.  Sadly there wasn't an Experience jacket in the delivery and I had no choice but to terminate the order with Angus.  I felt really sorry for Angus, who are really nice helpful people, because Guideline had left them in the lurch and probably cost them more sales than just mine.  Life is tough enough for small tackle shops without this sort of treatment from their suppliers.

I find it amazing that Guideline as a major supplier of quality fishing clothing should have no stock of its mid-range jacket available in the UK retail chain for a 2-3 month period across the start of the salmon fishing season.   That is precisely the time of year when you might reasonably expect stocks to be at their peak.  Instead, owing to Guideline's dire supply chain management I haven't been able to assess their product.  

For those reasons the Guideline Experience was eliminated: one down, 3 left.


I had previously lodged an enquiry with Nomad, who gave me advice on sizing, so my order wasn't a surprise.  I ordered via their website; used the PayPal 'pay on delivery' service; and got an automated acknowledgement.  After a while I tried the mobile telephone contact number on the site, which didn't work.  Two days later the owner/manager emailed me to say that he was out of the country doing product promotion and filming until 3rd March.  If, however, I sent him a reminder he would get a jacket to me on the 4th (I had told him that I was tied up with business 7th - 11th and flying to the Gulf on the 12th).  I sent the reminder by email and text message, since which I have heard absolutely nothing.  The payment was deducted from my bank account on 4th March.

I like supporting small businesses.  Not only does it make me feel better, very often they offer innovative high quality products, and the prospects for this jacket were excellent.  Small operations don't have a big payroll, so I'm prepared to accept some compromises in business processes and administration.  But taking payment when you are incapable of fulfilling an order is wholly unacceptable practice.  If you can't fulfill an order, and you haven't trained your wife/friend/partner/labrador as the sales and despatch clerk, then you really must put a notice on your website saying: "We much regret that we unable to take orders between X and Y, but will be delighted to attend to your needs immediately thereafter".  And you turn off the ordering and payment functions on the website.

There is a golden rule in business: once you take someone's money you change from amateur to professional.  I am too busy running my own business to be wasting time messing about with amateurs, no matter how good their product might be.  Only an amateur would have the brass neck to ask a customer who has ordered and paid for a £200 product to send them a reminder.  Mr Wright and Nomad might benefit from some training in customer handling skills, and I for one do not like being made to feel that my order is a nuisance.  I can only hope that  the refunding of my payment proceeds more quickly than anything else Nomad has done to date, but I'm not holding my breath.  (After note: request for refund acknowledged by email 13th March, with a statement that it would be posted to me on the 14th.  It wasn't as it didn't arrive until the 23rd, so I would not recommend buying stamps from Nomad.)

Nomad was eliminated on the grounds of incompetence and frustration: two down, two left.


Spending £220 with a Polish company of unknown provenance was an act of faith.  They have a nice website and an immense array of products.  After a little research I selected the Chuluut jacket, but when I came to order, I encountered the first problem.  There was no size guide.  Undaunted, as I am around Large with most wading jacket makers, I selected Large, ordered and paid by card.  As the order form helpfully allowed me to enter notes, I remarked on sizing, giving my dimensions and seeking their advice.  This led me into a prolonged exchange of emails with the charming Ola.  However, the development of our mutual understanding was seriously constrained by her lack of English.  Her friend Monika from Accounts was similarly nice, but she only added 3 new words to the dialogue.  Eventually I learned that Taimen Polish Large is indeed big, with a chest measurement of 120 cm (about 4 feet) and a waist of 110 cm (about 6 inches bigger than me), so I opted for Medium.

They processed the order the next day and the jacket arrived in good time and condition via UPS.  Sadly it did not fit - too small at chest and waist, but too long in overall and sleeve length.  Clearly it was tailored for an Alfa Romeo driver and not an English salmon angler.  It was obvious that the hem and arms of the next size up would reach most of the way to my knees, and so there was no point proceeding further.  Accordingly I returned the jacket immediately and Taimen emailed to say that they had refunded my payment.  The credit arrived in my account within 2 days: extraordinarily they appear to have refunded their original postage.  Within the limits of their English, Taimen were quite efficient, although the lack of a sizing guide on the website and English speakers in the sales department are handicaps.

The jacket was well made and finished.  The Polartec membrane is robust and heavily taped along the seams, which suggests that the Chuluut would be durable and waterproof.  The front attachments are not conventional D rings but a perforated flap of composite material through which you attach your zinger.  The design is probably viable, but it doesn't offer the ease and convenience of the qucik detachment from a hard D ring, and I was worried about its durability.  The Chuluut has a mass of pockets in most of the right places, fitted with waterproof zips.  The obvious deficiencies were the lack of secure, dry inside pockets; and a rear 'lunch' pouch.  The more closely I looked, the longer the list of failures against the specification becameI was especially dubious about the fiddly nature of the fine-toothed front zip (the first fitting took 3 attempts) and its long term robustness.

As I was moving the Chuluut around for photography it dawned on me that what I was looking at was a very close copy of the features of the Simms G4 Pro.  Shown here, the cuff and adjuster design is identical, although the internal lining material is different (a rather unpleasant plastic texture).

The similarity extends to the closures on the main pockets, with identical shape, positioning and dimensions of the 3 velcro patches.  Across the board there are design details in the Chuluut that are taken straight from the Simms G4, but in every case the materials used in the Simms are of a higher specification.  For example the velcro strip across the main pocket is wider, tougher and more closely stitched.

The neat stowage of the loose ends of the bottom adjuster is a further example of the transfer of Simms' design.

Once one recovers from the righteous indignation of apparent copying you can draw some sensible thoughts.  First, there aren't many ways of skinning the cat and being original in the design of a wading jacket.  Second, it you're going to copy, then Simms are a good place to start.  And third, the Chuluut is less than half the price of a G4, although it lacks several of the G4's features and involves some tacky compromises in materials that are inconsistent with its £200+ price tag.

With exchange rate differentials, postage and insurance, my abortive experiment with Taimen cost me about £30.  This underlines the risks and costs of internet shopping outside the UK.

Three down, one left.

The Unexpected

After 2 weeks of this debacle I was becoming increasingly frustrated and fed up.  My master plan for a perfect acquisition process was in ruins; I'd wasted loads of time; and I still didn't have a jacket to show for my efforts.  On the Sunday night I resolved to have done with the whole thing and place an order with Snowbee on the Monday morning for a new Prestige.  And then Murphy did a back-flip.  On the Salmon Fishing Forum, Doon Rod offered his used Simms G4 Pro jacket for sale.  We'd done business the previous week, when I gave him an old B&W fibreglass rod against a charitable donation to the Ure Salmon Trust.  The price he put on the jacket was fair - half RRP - and fired by frustration and hope I made him an offer that was immediately accepted.  The jacket arrived the next day, fitted me perfectly and met my requirements in full.  It needs some minor repairs, but with Simms' lifetime repair policy, a trip to Montana in the next close season should solve all the outstanding issues.  In the interim it's ready for service.

It's better to have a plan than no plan at all.  But when you're confronted first by failure and then the unexpected, you have to be ready to ditch the plan and exercise judgement, even if it involves a solution that you'd excluded from the outset.  Dealing with someone you know and trust is a great help in such matters.

So now I'm the owner of a Simms G4 Pro, contrary to all expectations, at a price within my budget.  By the end of the season I shall be able to have an opinion on whether a new one is worth £499.


  1. Maybe it would be worth going to a shop next time?

    1. That would seem sensible. However, because I live in rural North Yorkshire my nearest fly fishing shop with a decent stock is John Norris in Penrith, which is 100 miles away. As I am not fishing in Scotland this year I will not be passing through there and cannot justify the cost of a specific visit. There was no realistic alternative to web shopping.

  2. You have some patience M! Thought I would read your blog after seeing the link on SFF. I too had a similar experience with Nomad when ordering from their website. I had the same email explaining they were at a show and won't be able to process orders. Then the delay in receiving the jacket. Their products do look good and seem well made. They get the manufacturing part of the business right, however the front end sales and website are very poor! I would not return based on my dealings with them. Andy.