I hope everyone has great Thanksgiving plans!
This is our annual holiday gift guide. The blog team has pulled together items that we think have been particularly awesome. Some are old items, but most are new to our list. Feel free to forward to friends and family!
As you know, we donate 100% of our profits to charity. In past years, we’ve given to Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery. Part of our revenue comes from Amazon affiliate links, some of which are highlighted below. Clicking the links and buying the products will support this blog and two awesome charities.
Thanks for thinking of our men and women who have served the nation and those conquering cancer!
Fulling Mill Tactical MAX Fly Box. This bad boy fits 960 flies. Ashu and his friend, Carter, are huge fans. As an aside, Joel think it is the perfect box for Euro-nymphs, as you can organize the flies by weight.
Alpha Grillers Instant Thermometer. Great for getting water temps. It’s waterproof, gives instant readings, and is backlit.
Bob Mallard’s Squaretail. A must-read for anyone who enjoys targeting these wild, native fish. Covers everything from biology to fishing to conservation, and spotlights some great waters that local anglers might be familiar with.
Dr. Slick Scissor Clamp. This is the perfect fishing tool. The jaws are ribbed for gripping and long enough to remove hooks from chain pickerel or a rainbow trout that has eaten two flies. The scissors are sharp enough to cut mono, fluorocarbon, and braided line forever (I have yet to wear a pair out).
As a bonus there is a hook eye cleaner, which I use more often than you’d think to clear cement out of fly eyes. In a pinch they also work as a flat head screwdriver.
The clamp aspect is key as you can grab just the tool and keep it handy whenever you need it by clamping it onto your shirt, vest, or pack.
Boomerang Gear Tether. How many fishing tool “zingers” have you busted? I got frustrated with the cheap, unreliable fishing tool retractors and went searching for a real option. This sturdy option from Boomerang tool company has a Kevlar cord and is made in the USA. It is not marketed as a fishing tool, which means it is half the price you would pay for a similar quality item from a fishing catalog.
In two years of retracting I have had no issues even when I have inadvertently yanked on it with full strength. Once my current netkeeper busts I will replace it with a boomerang upgrade.
Orvis Ultralight Fishing Vest. I got permission from my wife to promptly replace my old fly fishing vest after an unfortunate incident where a hardboiled egg went uneaten and forgotten in the back vest pocket after a Farmington fishing trip. File that one away if you have any gear you’d like to upgrade.
That was two years ago, and this vest has served me well since. It has a good amount of pockets, is not bulky, and dries fast after getting wet. The only drawback I have found is that the front pockets with vertical zipper will disgorge your fly box if left unzipped. After a few times I learned to make sure to zip after retrieving a box. It really is ultralight, but in full disclosure it has enough pockets that I ramp up the overall weight with gear.
Patagonia Shelled Insulator Pants. I have been looking for a while for a pair of pants to wear under waders in the winter. What I ended up with was my new favorite pair of pants. I wear them kayaking, hiking, under waders, in the cold and cool weather. The waffle patterned fleece underside is warm and comfortable, and the shell seems bombproof.
They don’t seem to stain and they can go right from working outside in the dirt to a parent teacher conference. The cuffs at the bottom are discreet and keep the legs down low when wading in cold water. The stretchy waistband is comfortable and works well. The only real shame here is the cost, as they are a splurge item. Wait until they go on sale, or check the Wornwear site or ebay to try to pick up a used pair.
Black Diamond Headlamp. Seeing in the dark is crucial, and this one is really good. Have used it for field work all summer and through massive summer thunderstorms in the A-S forest when fishing for Apache Trout. Was a boss.
Moonlit Lunar S-Glass Fiberglass Fly Fishing Rod. Still rocking this fly rod as a three-weight for small streams and loving how much it shields light tippets on the occasional large fish.
MSR WhisperLite International Compact Multi-fuel Camping and Backpacking Stove. I swear by MSR stoves for my backcountry cooking needs and have been using this one for two-plus decades. With simple maintenance, it is still as good as when I bought it.
MSR PocketRocket and PocketRocket 2. These are great for fast, dehydrated meals and instant coffee. Best instant coffee goes to Starschmucks, even though I am loath to say it (someone send me good alternatives please!). Patagonia Provisions has been a surprising instant meal, but I also love a can of Progresso chowda after a day on the river when you get back late and don’t want to cook and just want to have a beer.
My favorite flies this year included Woolly Bugger variants, such as the Tungsten Jig Bugger and Moto’s Minnow. If you are tying yourself, make sure to use a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of these black-and-red or black-and-purple Simi Seal instead of saddle feathers, which is what I do for my most-used Black Bugger variant (here and here).
SunStrip Magnetic Rod Holder. Don’t break your rod in a window or door. Leans against the car. Love this thing.
Smith Creek Rig Keeper – Dropper Rig System. Great, inexpensive fishing gift. Perfect for hopper droppers or nymph dropper rigs (especially in winter when you can’t feel your fingers). You can pre-tie enough dropper rigs for a day of fishing with different combinations of larger/anchor and smaller flies. Saves time and frustration on the river!
Orvis Hydros Bank Shot Sink Tip. I switched to this line back in October, and it really has blown me away! On top of what the specs say about it, my favorite quality is the fact that the running line never tangles or wraps on itself. Very high quality running line. That’s a huge plus when casting streamers long distances. I also love the way the textured line casts. On top of that, the shooting head on this line is second to none. Perfect grain weight and balance for casting any size streamer, weighted or unweighted.
Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon Tippet. Hands-down, the strongest tippet out there. For Euronymphing, the combination of light tippet and a flexible rod is key to dupe and land large fish. This product really upped my catch rate. I have this in 4x to 8x. My go-to is the 6x.
Ed Engle’s Tying Small Flies. Still a classic. 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.
George Daniel’s Dynamic Nymphing. 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.
Brightech LightView Fly Tying Light and Magnifier. 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. 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.
Thomas and Thomas Avantt. As I wrote here, I’ve been throwing their nine-foot five-weight a fair amount this year. It’s a sweet stick. Great action, and you can really load it to handle dries, bobbers, and streamers.
It feels amazingly light but simultaneously has heft. It’s a joy to cast. And, the company is local, in Greenfield, MA.
Our best wishes to all for a great holiday season. Tight lines!