This year has been one for the record books in terms of weird. I had several long planned trips put off and hopefully (fingers crossed) will happen next year. However, it hasn’t been all bad. Due to Covid-distancing, I had more than plenty of my fair share of excuses to slink into the woods and streams.
If your year has been anything like mine, there have been struggles. Purchases of new gear may have had to be put off this year, either because the shop was back-ordered or the budget just could not fit it. Yet, there are always the tiny new things that make fly-fishing life that much better. As well, I wanted to share some of my favorite pieces of kit I was able to rely on for yet another season.
If you are looking for some stocking stuffers or just needing a bit of kit, all of the following have proven tried and true (and if you don’t find something to peak your interest, check out our list of Best Fly Fishing Gifts 2020). I’ve broken it down by being on the stream, being in the truck, or being behind the vise, as well as if I picked it up this season or if I have had it for more moons than that.
On the Stream
Yah know, even though a piece of string woven through a plastic straw works pretty darn well as a tippet holder, sometimes you want to upgrade. I really like the Orvis Tippet Tool for that upgrade. It’s a little overkill for what it does, but I accidentally ran over it over when I left some kit on my roof driving away from the river and it survived (even though the spools of tippet didn’t). It holds seven different spools, meaning you are good from the salt to the Swift.
I have really been digging on the Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon Tippet. I found that the 6x is plenty good for fine presentations but, if you must, they do go down to 8x (weirdos). Their 5x and 4x have amazing tensile strength at 5.7 lbs and 8.4 lbs respectively. That’s pretty amazing at those diameters. And it holds knots pretty darn well too. This helped me land some serious bows on the Lower Swift this year.
I bought a couple of cheap fly boxes online a while ago. I kept passing them up for filling for having an eye on nicer boxes. Eventually, however, I couldn’t justify buying another box and starting filling those cheap ones during January and February earlier this year. After using them for a while, I have been duly satisfied. I enjoyed this tiny fly box with lanyard. Perfect for attacking a thin blue line, it is just enough space for a tactical strike or a but has space enough for a collection of small-stream flies. It’s small enough to stick in the glove box or back pack to be ready for any outing. And these surprisingly good cheap fly boxes were good as a waterproof midge and nymph box.
Tried and True
I have to say, this has been one of my favorite rods for years and I have thrashed it and bashed it and it still casts like a champ: Cabela’s CGR Fiberglass Rod. I have this rod as a two-weight, which is 6’2”, perfect for small streams and delicate presentations. Plus, I can literally bend the tip of this rod to its butt. Paired with the Orvis Battenkill Reel (Size 1), and you have a lean mean brookie fighting machine. And I landed my personal best bow (20″+) on this setup, too.
On the Road
Snacks! I love snacks. I know licorice is a polarizing subject. But if you haven’t tried Allsorts-style black licorice, you’re missing out. A lot of folks’ distaste for licorice in the States has to do with a lot of anise flavoring being a part of the recipe. A lot of British and European black licorice doesn’t have a bunch of anise in it. Try this variety of Licorice Allsorts next time you need to sate your sweet tooth.
If pure sugary chocolatey stuff is more your scene, my fieldwork in Scotland made me fall in love with the Double Decker. I loved to hate on it, and the number of puns that could be produced are high, but they are also darn tasty. Don’t forget, though, there is always Takis Fuego and a seltzer.
Tried and True
If you haven’t read any John McPhee I highly suggest you start with The Founding Fish. Sometimes it’s worth having a book when you have to wait for a companion to show you your way to the fishing hole or if you are out camping.
I have been using the no-kink reel cases from Vedavoo for a while now. They kept stuff well-protected whether sneaking out to fish while traveling to conferences when I have little room to spare or when it’s kicking around in the back of my truck. Absolutely bomb-proof, just like everything Vedavoo makes.
I really like coffee. From burnt gas station stuff to organically-sourced, hand-poured hipster brews, I will drink it all. So when I am fishing I almost always have a thermos of coffee at hand. I am still using a Stanley thermos my uncle Stanley (no, seriously, that’s his name) gave me almost a decade ago. Still keeps coffee warm for hours.
And also in the back of my truck is a another way to brew more coffee. I keep my MSR Whisperlite International and whichever pot, percolator, or kettle that is currently clean(ish) in my truck kit too. I could write a 10K word essay on my love of, and use for, this backpacking stove. I am still using the one my parents bought me for my 15th birthday for use on trips when I was a Boy Scout. I have had to replace a piece on the pump but that’s because I didn’t take care of it. Anyways, think about that, it’s designed to be repaired or maintained. Ain’t that a rarity.
One of the things I always keep in my truck is a cardboard box for stepping on when putting on/taking off waders. You could always just send a gift to a buddy and then tell them the box you sent it in is the other gift for exactly that. So thoughtful!
Behind the Vise
I have really enjoyed watching the growth of the Spawn Fly Fish Company. Some of their products are a bit gimmicky but I still love them. Case in point, their fly heads, maybe unnecessary, but I think they are super cool.
I found the 60 degree micro jig shanks really useful for making some elevated bugger, crayfish, and minnow patterns that don’t get hung up on the bottom but move nice. I also really like some of the colors they have put together for materials. Developed for some coastal sea run stuff on the west coast, they actually do a good job around here, too.
I highly suggest the Southern Fluorescent Peach Blood Quills and Schlappen. As well, their Ghost Shrimp/UV Orange Semi Seal Dubbing blend is dope. From collars to buggers to big beefy bodies, I have found it to be a new standard in my kit. Speaking of beefcakes, for those that like the salt and need to get deep, their twitch shanks are cool as well as their series of fish heads, I particularly am found of the calamari head. I had planned to spend more time on the coast this year fishing with them, but well…. pandemic :/
Tried and True
I’ve not had a lot of extra to drop on new kit for tying this year, but thanks to purchasing these hook I haven’t needed too. For nearly the same cost as 25 hooks of other brands, the J. Stockard brand hooks have proven fantastic from streamers to dries their bulk hooks are a well made steal.
I know I have suggested these before, but these medical nippers are STILL the best fly tying scissors I have ever used.
Don’t want to tie any yourself? Get a batch of custom-made flies for whatever water and prey you need locally with my buddy Jay Aylward of Handmade Angler.
I hope you find something here that can fill a stocking or bring a little joy into your holidays. If you have any I want to ask that while we do use any gains from referrals for donations to good causes (e.g. Casting for Recovery and Project Healing Waters), but if possible I highly suggest shopping locally if you can. Many of our local shops have been hit hard but they are the lifeblood of our sport. Please support them. If you have any questions about any piece I recommended, hit me up in the comments and I’ll explain further!