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Here is the list in ascending price order, from stocking stuffers to stand-alone gifts:
Rainbow Scud Dubbing (light shade) (link)
$6. I normally scoff at the notion of magical material. I no longer do, now that I’ve discovered rainbow scud dubbing. I’ve had many days when fish are not taking until I put on a pattern that uses this material. Sometimes, just a touch of this stuff is more than enough. I make flies with this dubbing from a size 10 down to 20. It works!
CDC Feathers (link)
$8. These are unbeatable for small emerger patterns or for nymphs at slow-ish water. Their life-like movement is a strong strike trigger. On some days when pressured trout are gun-shy, a pattern that incorporates CDC has saved my outing.
Tiemco 2488 Hooks (link)
$10 for 25. This is my favorite hook. The thin wire means that it easily sets with just a calm flick of the wrist. It has a 3x gape for tremendous hook-and-hold power, which is critical for tiny hooks. I have them in sizes 16 to 26. They are my go-to choice for dropper flies, from soft hackles to emergers to midge larvae/pupae.
Tippet Holder (link)
$9. A tipper holder is always with me on the outside of my pack. I use fluorocarbon for nymphing and for the termination end of my dry-fly leaders.
So, I always have some spools of mono and fluorocarbon with me, in various diameters, ready to go. No fumbling in pockets or the pack.
Frog’s Fanny (link)
$9. A great floatant, and I think is the best one out there. It’s particularly good for CDC flies, as regular floatant mats down the fibers.
This is a must-have, IMO, if you fish the Swift, Farmington and the Upper Connecticut’s “Trophy Stretch.” CDC dries work very well when targeting educated fish at such tailwaters.
Magnetic Fly Box (link)
$10. If you fish midges, you know how easy it is to lose them on a windy or cold day, and how annoying it is to take them in and out of foam slots. What’s saved me is having a thin fly box that has magnetized panels. I like one with many compartments, and this is where I store flies from sizes 20 to 30.
Small Hook Sharpener (link)
$10 to $16. Makes a huge difference on hook-up rates. Noted angler George Daniel notes that it is his most-often used accessory on the river. I agree. You’d be surprised how nymph hooks can get very dull very quickly. I sharpen my hooks often. It’s cheap insurance.
Ed Engle’s Tying Small Flies (link)
$17. If you fish the Upper Connecticut Trophy Stretch, Deerfield, Farmington or Swift, this book is a must-have, IMO. Engle focuses on fishing tailwaters in Colorado. Many of those lessons learned apply to us out east. And, they’ve worked for me in spades.
His fly-tying instructions are detailed and include many photos. He has some imaginative patterns, and they just plain work. A great book.
Tom Fuller’s Trout Streams of Southern New England (link)
$18. One of the best fly fishing books I’ve read. Detailed write ups on flies, access points and parking areas for countless waters in CT, MA and RI.
It is like having a guide with you at the house at all times. It’s how I started fishing the Farmington, Millers, Nissitissit, Swift, Squannacook, etc. I didn’t need a guide as a rookie. I still refer to it regularly as I search for new waters.
Frabill Net 3672 (link)
$20. This is a rubber net that is extremely durable. The rubber is easier on a fish’s gills, and nymphs don’t easily get tangled in the net. It’s very light, too. My old rubber net came with a wood handle; it looked sharp. This net is much lighter.
The 3672 is 13″ x 18″ and is big enough to hold larger fish. I like an ample net. After I catch a big one, I keep the fish in the net and water. I wedge the net among some rocks and let the trout recover at its own pace.
Jason Randall’s Feeding Time (link)
$25. Reading this book a few years ago really changed how I fly fished. Randall gives a very clear view as to what drives trout behavior, namely, two instincts: resting and feeding.
You’ll see why trout are incredible “calorie capitalists.” You’ll understand better why trout at certain times want only small flies and why, at other times, they’ll take something large.
Rio Leader Wallet (link)
$25. This is always in my chest pack, as it is small and light and lets me hold multiple leaders (different sizes, but different styles, too, for dries, Euro-nymphing, streamers and regular indicator nymphing), Euro sighters and spare materials.
I like being organized on the water because it lets me find things fast so that I can maximize my time fishing vs. sorting and fiddling.
George Daniel’s Dynamic Nymphing (link)
$30. This book really is the source, whether you tightline or throw indicators.
As a two-time national champion, George has a world’s worth of knowledge; but, he also has the ability to share his insights in a very understandable manner. From rigging to trade-offs to favorite gear to flies, this must-have book is really a reference manual, given the plethora of information it offers.
Stonfo Elite Rotodubbing Twister (link)
$50. This ingenious tool makes for a very handy way to make dubbed bodies for nymphs and streamers. It helps me save a ton of time.
Fly Tying Light and Magnifier (link)
$60. People often ask me how I can make flies down to size 30. Here’s the answer! The quality of my fly tying went up dramatically after I started using a light and magnification lens.
I think investing in good lighting and magnification is the one item that has dramatically increased the quality of my flies. If you can’t see ’em, you can’t make ’em.
Montana Mongoose Vise (link)
$189. You won’t need to buy multiple vise tips. This one handles big streamer hooks and small hooks down to size 30. Full rotary, feather-size gauge, materials clip and bobbin holder, too. And, it comes with a light-weight clamp and travel case for trips.
Orvis Silver Sonic Guide Waders (link)
$425. I love these. I’ve had waders from Simms, LL Bean and other Orvis ones, and these are my favorite. They’re the most durable waders that Orvis makes, and they’re meant for fishing guides and regular anglers who fish a lot. They are up to 300% more abrasion resistant and 40% more puncture resistant than other Orvis waders. It is breathable and features a Kangaroo-style handwarmer pocket for cold days, a flip-out interior pocket and a removable waterproof pocket. Comes with attached gravel guards.
I like the length for longer casting and the ability to guide nymphs down multiple current seams without moving your feet. And, the rod is very accurate. Target a soft seam from afar, and the rod does a great job.
This fly rod can do everything very well, from dries to indicator nymphing to all types of Euro techniques. It feels amazingly light, but, has a strong back end that lets you quickly bring in a fish. This is an All-Star stick and could be a gift to which multiple family members and friends contribute. And, the company is local, in Greenfield, MA.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!