There are any number of people who start thinking about Christmas in August, who have their shopping all done by Halloween, and who have their homes decorated with plastic candy canes and fake Santas before Thanksgiving even rolls around. I am not one of those people. In fact, I’m not a big fan of Christmas as a celebration of consumerism, or of turning on the holiday lights in mid-November. If that’s your deal, so be it ... but don’t be surprised if you hear the occasional “Bah, humbug” from the peanut gallery.
Still, if you are a fly fisher and you’re planning to give, or receive, gifts this Christmas, you might as well focus on gear that will put a huge smile on someone’s face. With that in mind, here are a few last second suggestions for the 2017 holiday season.
Scientific Anglers Amplitude MPX Fly Line ($129)
I’ve been fishing one of these outstanding SA lines since back in February and I remain extremely impressed. It casts beautifully - especially with today’s modern graphite rods - it floats well, it mends like a champ, and it’s held up to almost an entire year of heavy use here in Montana. While this particular line is a bit spendy compared to some of the competition, the old maxim remains true: quality doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking for that one fly line you can really depend on, look no further.
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody ($299)
The ‘Holy Grail’ for fly fishers is a lightweight but warm jacket that’s extremely comfortable, sheds precipitation, allows unrestricted movement and packs down small enough to fit in your vest or sling pack. This new Patagonia hoody checks every single one of those boxes. When you need it, you’re cozy and comfy. When you don’t, you simply throw it in your pack until the weather deteriorates. The great thing about this particular piece is that it’s as light as a down jacket or sweater, but it features the incredible new PlumaFill insulation that resists clumping and stays warm when wet. Oh, and Patagonia gets serious bonus points for working hard to protect our public lands. Bottom line, this is one sweetheart of a Christmas gift.
Fenix TK20R Rechargeable LED Tactical Flashlight ($99)
I’ve been a huge Fenix fan for years now, and I think it all goes back to the fact that I used to carry a massive flashlight in my pack when I first started fishing and hunting. Those huge lights weighed a ton, and ate batteries for breakfast, but they still had a hard time illuminating the trail along the river, or lighting up those annoying mountain lions I kept running across at night. Now, though, Fenix gives me ten times the illumination in a light that’s approximately one tenth as large. It’s the difference between a rotary dial phone and an iPhone X. Seriously, if you ever find yourself out and about after dark—and especially if you have grizzlies in your yard, like I do - the TK20R, which, on turbo mode, rivals the headlights on my truck, can be a life saver. It’s also fits perfectly in a fishing pack or a Christmas stocking.
Loon Stoic Insulated Barrel Mug ($18)
Beer, coffee, tea, hot chocolate ... whatever floats your boat, this insulated Loon Outdoors stainless steel mug will handle your beverage of choice with aplomb while also flashing some serious style. Loon’s “Stoic” mug is the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who drinks beer or coffee, and the price is extremely reasonable for such a handsome, well-executed design.
Costa Rincon Sunglasses ($249)
My new Rincon sunglasses with the blue mirror polarized glass lenses do two things equally well. First, they cut glare and brightness and allow me an eagle-eye view of what’s actually going on beneath the water’s surface. Second, they make me look good ... or at least as good as someone like yours truly can possibly look. On top of which, they’re lightweight and extremely comfortable. Costa has been making truly exceptional sunglasses for years now, and the Rincon, named for a point break on the California coast, carries on that tradition with style and flair. You can’t go wrong with these stellar shades.
Redington Sonic Pro HDZ Waders ($499)
I’ve been wearing Redington’s stellar zippered waders for the last few years and after checking out the latest version, I’m happy to announce that nothing much has changed. They’re still comfortable, and they’re still well-designed and well-executed, and they’re still tough enough to stand up to rip-rap and bank-side vegetation and jumping dogs who haven’t had their nails trimmed in a while. Oh, they might look a little more attractive than they used to, and the materials and design may have received a bit of an upgrade, but the long and short of it is that these are still really, really good waders at a very reasonable price. If you find them under your tree in a couple weeks, consider yourself exceptionally lucky.
Leatherman Skeletool Damascus ($175)
My sling pack has a dangler; a Leatherman Skeletool that has gone every single place I’ve fished for many, many, many months. Whenever I need a knife, or a pair of pliers, or wire cutters, or a screwdriver, or a bottle opener, it’s right there. Honestly, I’d feel naked on the river without it. And now, for a limited time, Leatherman is offering that same outstanding Skeletool with a gorgeous, Swedish-made, Damascus-patterned blade. Do you really need something that cool? No, probably not. You could probably settle for the regular Skeletool and be almost as happy. But guess what? It’s Christmas. If you’re giving someone a gift, why not make it extra special?
Vedavoo Beast Sling Pack ($160)
I’ve wanted to fish with a Vedavoo pack for a while now, but I’ve never had the opportunity. Fortunately, one arrived in the mail just the other day and I now find myself in a position where I can actually confirm the rumors. This thing truly is a beast—and not in name only. The materials are bomb-proof, the craftsmanship—yes, that’s the right word for what went into this hand-cut, hand-sewn and hand-assembled pack—is excellent, and the design confirms that the folks who put this together actually know how to fish. I can’t tell you what I’ll say after I have a chance to get it on the water, but my initial impressions are extremely positive. In fact, I’d be surprised if I didn’t agree with Paul Snyder’s glowing Vedavoo review.
Yeti Rambler 20 oz. Tumbler ($29)
A couple years ago, I filled a 20 oz. Yeti Tumbler with boiling water from atop a remote BC wood stove, threw in a tea bag, and then put on the lid. A few hours later, after packing my fishing gear, catching a helicopter ride to my raft and then floating downstream a couple miles, I took a sip—and damn near scalded my tongue. Yeti makes hardcore products for hardcore sportsmen, and if you’re the kind of person who wants your drinks to stay hot, or cold, for incredibly long periods of time, then you should hope that the Rambler Tumbler, or Yeti’s new Rambler Mug—both of which come in a half a dozen different colors—find their way into Santa’s bag of gifts this Christmas. I have both the tumbler and the mug here at the house, and either one would make a tremendous stocking stuffer.
Orvis Helios 3 Fly Rod ($849) and Mirage Reel ($575)
Okay, so you’ve been good this year. Not naughty, and not just nice ... but really, really, really nice. And in your mind, you feel like you deserve the top of the line rod and reel from one of America’s most respected fly fishing brands. Heck, who am I to argue? So here’s what I can tell you. I’ve been fishing the new Helios 3 rod and the new Mirage reel for months now and they’re a match made in heaven. I took the rod and reel down to Montana’s Missouri River and put them through their paces. Dry flies. Nymphs. Streamers. Short casts. Medium casts. Long casts. Wind. No wind. Light tippets. Heavy tippets. Big fish. Bigger fish. Huge fish. Long story short, I fished the H3 and the Mirage under some awfully challenging conditions and they just shined. Let me repeat that. They just shined. So while I’m not going to go into detail here, I can tell you that both the rod and the reel are as good as advertised. Maybe even better. And Orvis, of course, is not only building some truly exceptional gear right now, but they’re continuing their longstanding support for vital conservation causes. If you wake up to a H3 and a Mirage on Christmas morning, you’re not only going to be one happy angler but you’re also supporting Orvis and its ongoing conservation efforts. From where I sit, that’s a serious win/win.