So you’re the non-angler who’s desperately trying to find the right gift for the avid fly fisher in your life … and you’re struggling with a bit of sticker shock? There’s a voice in your head that constantly whispers, “Who in their right mind pays $900 for a fishing pole?”
I get it. And, here’s the good news. So does your angling spouse or partner. And, to be honest, we really don’t want you to buy our next fly rod for us. Or, for that matter, our waders, wading boots, our next sling pack or backpack or even our next fly reel. These are the “big” things that we’d really like to handle ourselves. We all have our preferences when it comes to things like this … fast rods vs. slow rods, slings vs. hip packs, bar-stock reels vs. resin or graphite. You, being the non-angler, face a learning curve that’s just too steep to try to climb in one holiday season. Let us handle these (and we’ll spare you from the blood-draining price tags of the items we know we need, but might need to … finesse … when the time is right).
One caveat: if your angler comes to you with a very specific suggestion, say, a new Scott Centric 8.5-foot 4-weight and offers up the model number (C854/4), and you’re OK with the $945 price tag, by all means, put the tube under the tree.
Generally speaking, though, we’d love it if you focused on the little things that every angler needs. And there are lots of little things. Below, I’ve given you the easiest roadmap to your angler’s holiday heart — great little stocking stuffers that can make the holiday wonderful for the angler in your life and show that you really do value the fact that they have a passion for fly fishing — even if you don’t really understand it.
Here’s the list you can take with you to the local fly shop (or to your keyboard):
Every fly fisher needs a dependable set of nippers (yes, they’re just simplified nail cutters), and just about every fishing vest, set of waders, rain jacket, backpack and sling pack I own has a set of nippers attached to it. They’re cheap. For $10, you should be able to raid the little nipper bin at the local fly shop and get three or four. Or, you can spend just a tad more and get a pair that works a little better and lasts a lot longer, like this one. And, no, you can’t buy too many.
And how are those nippers attached to just about every piece of outerwear or pack I own? With zingers. Zingers attach to fabric or to dedicated D-loops or hooks with a pin, and the nippers (or hemostats, thermometer, hook sharpener, etc.) attach to the zinger. It’s a spring-loaded chord that gives us ready access to our tools without having to dig for them. You can go “fancy” and pick up a single zinger from Orvis, or you can get a set of three at the fly shop or online for about the same price. Again, you can’t buy too many.
Tippets and leaders
My kingdom for a dozen three-packs of 3x trout leaders. Like, if I found a lamp in the desert, and got three wishes from the Genie, my first wish might be, “I wish that I could never run out of leaders.” OK. That’s a little dramatic. But you get the idea. The leader is what attaches to the fly line and, eventually, the tippet, which is where we tie on our flies. One leader is usually good for a few solid days on the water, but we’re constantly cutting it back as we change flies or go from dries to streamers or nymphs.
That’s where tippet comes in. Often, to extend our leaders, we’ll tie in a length of tippet ranging in size from 0x to 5x or so. And as much as I love having a vest pocket burgeoning with leaders, I love having full spools of tippet, too. Both products are inexpensive, unless you insist on buying the really high-end stuff. Generally, a set of three perfectly serviceable leaders will set you back $15 or so. Four spools of tippet from 1x to 5x should cost about the same, maybe a bit more. Want to make your life really easy? Pick up this pre-loaded (with 5 spools of Scientific Angler’s excellent Absolute Trout tippet) and super-handy tippet spool holder.
This is the oily little “ointment” we put on our dry flies that makes them a bit more impervious to water. It usually comes in small tubes with a flip-up cap. It’s also one of the things I often find on the creekbank while fishing, which means it’s something we inadvertently lose every now and then. There are lots of choices and some are better than others. The good news? Even the best brands, like Gink, for instance, are still affordable.
This is powdery silicon that comes in a small bottle, and it’s what we use to dry out a fly that’s become too waterlogged. Rarely do we call it “desiccant,” though. Most of us just call it “dry shake” — we put our wet flies in the bottle, reattach the lid and give it a good shake. The silicon mixture dries out the fly and we’re ready to fish again. Like the floatant, buying a few bottles is a good idea, because it, too, is something we often misplace. I use Loon Top Ride, but other brands are likely just as effective and comparable when it comes to price (don’t spend more than $10).
I’m of the mind that the day for simple hemostats is over. Certainly, some anglers will continue to use cheap hemos that might work for a season and then become so fatigued that they give up the ghost. Mitten clamps (even if you don’t wear mittens) are more durable, more dependable and they’ll work for years if you take care of them. My favorite Loon Outdoors Rogue Quickdraw Mitten Clamps are damn near bomb-proof. In addition to having the clamp feature that the flimsy hemostats provide, they also double as a pair of cutters — mine will cut light wire with no issues whatsoever. Also, they’re great for larger hands and fingers, and they are more effective at removing flies in tough spots. Their durable construction also makes them ideal barb pinchers. Yes, this is getting into the too-expensive-for-the-stocking category, so feel free to wrap this one up and put it under the tree.
Fly line cleaner
Every fly fisher you know needs this, even if they don’t think they need this. Fly line cleaner extends the life of expensive fly lines — it’s just that simple. It’s so much easier to spend $12 for a cleaning kit once a year rather than having to buy a new $80 fly line every season. I like the RIO AgentX line cleaning kit. It’s easy to use, and it’ll fit in the vest or pack without a problem.
This might seem a little weird, but when wet-wading season comes around, I love my neoprene socks. They help my wading boots fit snuggly, and, if rolled over the tops of my wading boots, they can double as gravel guards. Their best asset? When you get off the water, just slip them off, hang them up and slip on your flipflops. Neosocks are my go-to brand.
Water temperature thermometer
This may not be an obvious accessory for the fly fisher in your life, but these days, this is important. For less than $20, any fly fisher can take a temperature reading on the stream and learn enough to know where the fish might be holding, if they’re likely to be active or sluggish … or if the water’s too damn warm to fish at all. Orvis makes a nice one for less than $12.
Not every angler uses one, but, honestly, every angler should. Flies can dull and rust once they’re used and put back into the fly box. A simple hook sharpener can remove the rust and put a nice point on any old hook. I keep one on the same zinger as my nippers. Here’s a good one at a good price.
Fly tying tools
If your angler also ties flies, you’re in luck. There is a literal smorgasbord of items you can offer up, from bobbins and whip finishers, to hair stackers and UV lights. I really love the Ergo tools that Loon offers up, and its Core Fly Tying Kit is reasonably priced ($60), particularly when you consider the quality of the tools. If your angler doesn’t tie flies, but has been thinking about taking up the craft, this Orvis fly tying starter kit is a great way to kick it off.
The honorable mention list
A good face gaiter, a small flask (preferably pre-filled with your angler’s favorite spirit), a small bottle of good sunscreen, insect repellent, a good hat that’ll keep the sun off the face and ears, a small headlamp, a wader repair kit, hand warmers, a new can of bear spray, snack/protein bars, sun gloves, stripping guards for the fingers, a good water bottle, new fly boxes, a couple packages of strike indicators and, last, but not least, for the minimalist, a lanyard with room for the basics.
These are just a few ideas that will endear you to the angler in your life. Most aren’t going to break the bank, and all of them will be appreciated — you really can’t go wrong with a stocking full of these seemingly little things.
But, as an avid angler, I can attest. It’s the little things that often matter most.